This is the letter I shared with my congregation when I returned from sabbatical in November 2016.
The first two months of sabbatical, I found myself processing a lot of grief. I have been present to quite a bit of suffering and death in my first few years here at Chalice, and it was good to have some spaciousness for remembering.
As I sat in my study at home one morning, I thought, “To take care of my body, I am eating well and exercising. To take care of my mind, I am reading interesting books. But how do I care for my broken heart?” And the thought came to me quite clearly: beauty is the antidote to brokenness.
From then, sabbatical became about finding and experiencing beauty. I bought a couple of art books to keep at home, to open and sit with when I feel like it. I started writing poetry, which is something I’ve done periodically, but never regularly. Visiting art museums became a regular activity; I’ve lived in San Diego almost my whole life but had never been to the Museum of Contemporary Art! I made a trip to the Huntington Library and Art Collection. Of course, I spent a day at Balboa Park.
Moving at a slower pace has been an incredible gift. I learned that the challenge for me is not really time management, which I do well, but energy management. I am interested in everything! But if I let myself pursue all the thoughts and ideas that interest me, then I lose the focus and depth that is needed to minister well.
I have returned from sabbatical hoping to do fewer things in general, and to leave myself mental space to go deeper with the activities and interests that benefit from my full attention (worship and pastoral care being foremost of these).
It is clear in the short time I’ve been back that people are finding me “quiet.” I have essentially been on retreat for four months, with minimal contact with other people. Transitioning from that quiet and contemplative space back into the fullness of church community takes time, and, of course, I am hoping to maintain some of the stillness and centeredness I feel. Please know that if I am quiet, it is because I feel calm and peaceful.
When I left for sabbatical, I had planned that my November 6 sermon would share what I learned and experienced during my sabbatical time. Returning just before the election, it has felt more pressing to me to share my thoughts on the state of the nation. Look for my “Beauty if the Antidote Brokenness” service sometime in the next few months.
I’m glad to be back with you.
Bright blessings, Sharon