Our Sabbatical Journey: A Retrospective

Our Sabbatical Journey:  Renew, Refresh and Build Relationships.

On November 17, 2019, the Sabbatical Planning Team led our Laity Sunday worship service designed to celebrate our congregation’s sabbatical journey, welcome back Pastor Louise by sharing what we have experienced since August, and thank Pastor Linda Anderson for her ministry among us.  Prominently displayed on the communion table was the mosaic representation of our sabbatical logo which in so many ways captured the spirit of our journey.

It is hard to believe that more than two years ago we began planning for a sabbatical experience that would benefit Pastor Louise as well as the entire CCB-UCC family.  Early in the planning process, we became aware of the Clergy Renewal Grant opportunity provided by the Christian Theological Seminary and the Eli Lilly Foundation.  A committee consisting of Marie Hochstein, Pat Parker, Larry Reeve, Bob Maxfield, Pastor Liz and Pastor Louise prepared the application which resulted in a $50,000 grant supporting the Pastor’s renewal plan and related activities involving the congregation.

As we began our deliberations we looked back at our Mission statement adopted by the congregation in 2012: Our mission is to Explore, Empower and Engage in God’s Possibilities. This is Who We Are.  This is What We Stand For.  This is where we are going. We agreed that that is still valid and important.

We then reviewed the four goals that amplified that mission statement. 

•           Spiritual Discovery

•           Nurture and Care

•           Developing Resources

•           Community Connections

We felt that the two goals dealing with developing resources and community connections have been, and are being, addressed.  However, two needing attention dealt with spiritual discovery and nurture and care.

Thus, we established this guiding theme for the sabbatical experience for both the Pastor and the Congregation:  Rest and reflection: Deepening our relationship with God, with ourselves and with each other.

After the grant was submitted the sabbatical planning committee was organized and met monthly to “flesh out” the program described in the grant application.   Members were: Marie Hochstein, Sharon Smith, Galen Fisher, Cynthia Martin, Tom Doherty, Pastor Louise before her journey and Pastor Linda while she was with us.  The committee did outstanding work!

Here is a brief summary of our Sabbatical Journey;

1.         Countdown to the Sabbatical: Beginning in October 18 the congregation’s input was sought in brunch bash discussions and comma conversations, creation of the logo, special Holy Week programs and intergenerational game nights.  During this time, the sabbatical planning team developed a three-phase plan building on our sabbatical theme.

2.         To address our first goal: “deepening our relationship with our own faith community” 53 members of the CCB family journeyed to Camp Tamarack for the all church retreat.  The retreat was an unqualified success due to the enthusiasm of the participants and the creativity, hard work and organization of Marie Hochstein.

3.         The second phase of our journey sought to “deepen our relationship with other faith communities. This featured intergenerational visits to the Wednesday noon time service at Plymouth Church, a special orientation at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community leading up to the evening prayers, joining the Sukkot celebration at Adat Shalom, and participating in the Sabbath to Sabbath service at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace.

Especially significant in deepening our relationship with other faith communities was the wonderful array of guest speakers who stimulated our thinking about our own beliefs and enlightened us with the key tenets of their faiths.  Where else could we hear from a catholic lay pastor, a rabbi, a cantor, an Imam, a V.A. hospital chaplain, the head of Cass Corridor Ministries, the incoming Moderator of the United Church of Christ, the out-going Michigan Conference Minister, and two well respected Detroit pastors. 

4.         Phase 3 called for “deepening our faith through spiritual discovery and learning about our individual faith journeys.” To this end, five cottage meetings were led by Marla Otterbacher and Karen Baird, Cathy and Charlie Rupert, Pat Parker, Margherita and Galen Fisher and Sara and Bob Maxfield.  While these took different forms, it was concluded that there is a need for more small group activities to promote reflection among CCB members.

While from all reports, our sabbatical journey was a success, we now face the challenge of sustaining the productive efforts to build relationships, learn about other faith communities and improve our ability to share our individual faith journeys with each other.  Presumably we don’t want to go back to business as usual as if nothing happened between August and November.  At its last meeting the sabbatical team agreed to recommend to the church leadership that we consider the following:

1.         An annual or biennial intergenerational retreat.   In January we will recruit a working group to explore this possibility.

2.         Continued visits to other faith communities.  Many such opportunities can be found within short driving distance from the church.

3.         Monthly pulpit speakers from other faith communities.  Several speakers have been suggested and Pastor Louise will follow up.

4.         Opportunities for members to participate in small group activities including but not limited to the cottage meeting format.  Pat Parker will arrange an intergenerational service project in late January possibly at Cass Community Social Services.  Others include continued adult education study groups, events planned by the Gen X group and, if there is interest, periodic cottage meetings.

In the weeks and month ahead CCB members and friends will be kept informed or activities and programs designed to build on the success of Our Sabbatical Journey, 2019 and to learn more about Pastor Louise’s sabbatical experiences.  The January 26 Brunch Bash will feature the Sabbatical Travelogue with Pastor Louise and Elaine.

Stay tuned as our CCB Journey continues!l