Gratitude. In a word, this encapsulates the deep well of thoughts and emotions I feel as I have returned from sabbatical. I have long been a fierce advocate for clergy sabbaticals. However, in 25 years of ordained ministry, I have yet to benefit from one. The stars never seemed to align to make it a reality. And, as you know, as I was preparing for my sabbatical this summer, which I have postponed a year, I didn’t believe it would be possible. Yet, through the tenacious spirit and support of the Executive Committee, the Council Conference, and the Conference staff, I was able to take a six-week leave.
The time away was time away from all work-related activities and responsibilities. It was also time away from technology in emails, phone calls, Zoom meetings, and even social media. Instead, my hours, days, and weeks were filled with reconnecting with God, nature, my loved ones, and myself. The time was a gift that provided me an opportunity for respite, refreshment, and renewal. It proved to be an incredible reset of habits (prioritizing sleep, hydration, exercise, prayer, journaling, reading, and practicing the art of fully being present in the now) which I have discovered help me to show up as the one God has created and intended me to be.
Now that I am back, it feels like I am trying to drink from a fire hose. (What can happen in six weeks? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. For all the fans of the musical Hamilton, you will understand when I say I feel like the song which fits best is “What’d I Miss.” In fact, in my mind I have been hearing the musical interlude of Thomas Jefferson as he comes back from France singing, “So, what’d I miss? What’d I miss?”)
For me, what I missed was all of YOU and OUR ministry together. Therefore, gratitude rings so true and authentically for me at this moment.
I imagine that in the coming weeks, I will share more of my sabbatical learnings, but for now, let me first say THANK YOU to all who made it possible for me to take a leave.
Thank you to the fantastic Executive Committee (Jill Baker, Rev. Christy Eckert, Rev. Steve Boorsma, and Dwight Asselmeier) and Conference Council (which, in addition to the members of the Executive Committee, includes Darryl Collins, Diane Degener, Rev. Kim Magwire, Rev. Patrick Poole, and Rev. Lori Schafer) of the Illinois South Conference, who imagined a Plan B when our first plan fell through.
Thank you to the supportive Personnel Committee (Rev. Lisa Hart, Hank Henderson, Joan Mier, Joan Schuetz, Rose Mary Schultze, and Rev. Don Wagner) of our Conference, who nudged, cajoled, and downright insisted that I needed to take the time this Conference has wisely offered as a benefit for its Conference Ministers.
Thank you to the pastors (Rev. Lori Schafer, Rev. Tim Darmour-Paul, Rev. Jennifer Sowell-Glover, Rev. Jeff Schwab, Rev. Bev Kahle, Rev. Debbie Jo Atkins, Rev. Jeffery McCarn, Rev. Phil Barbier, Rev. Don Wagner, Rev. Joan Mier, and Rev. Chance Beeler) who responded, “Sure, I would love to do that,” when asked to write and submit an article for the Conference Minister’s section of the Conference newsletter, the Weekly Connection. Thank you for sharing your perspective, encouragement, and faith.
Thank you to the marvelous Highland office staff members (Christy Pursell, Lynnette Schuepbach, Julie Riechmann, and Debbie Kesner). They so graciously covered the duties and responsibilities of the role of Conference Minister while I was gone.
Thank you to those on standby for crises (like Rev. Kevin Strope for pastoral emergencies and our Conference lawyer, Mike McKee, for legal troubles). It comforted the staff and the Executive Committee by knowing you were there for additional counsel and support.
Thank you to the resilient DuBois Center staff, counselors, volunteers, and Executive Committee (especially our fabulous Conference Moderator), who weathered many challenges this summer at DuBois.
And thank you to ALL who graciously and patiently respected my time away.
I am grateful for all this and so many more dear friends. Thank you.
I look forward to reconnecting with many of you in the coming days, and hopefully, seeing as many of you as possible at our first in-person Annual Meeting in two years on Saturday, October 15. (Please mark your calendars, friends, and plan to attend.)
With a grateful heart,
Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister