A Cuppa Joe: What will Rev Joe be doing on his sabbatical?

I’m not going to just be putting my feet up for three months.  I mean, I’ll put my feet up sometimes, and I hope you do, too!  But I am setting some goals and projects for myself for my sabbatical time.  There are three things that I am going to focus on.

The first is about self-care.  I have fallen out of my regular workout habit and one of my goals is to re-establish that routine for myself.  I’ll also be setting a regular meditation time and routine for myself.  The last emphasis of this project is reducing screen time.  I’ll be staying away from social media all three months I’m away and I no longer subscribe to any online streaming service—other than PBS which is more of a donation, right?  (I think maybe my last sermon on attention got to me!)

When I first started thinking about this sabbatical, I started thinking of doing an exploration of sacred space.  I would visit some UU congregations who had done some building or remodeling project, and then also visit some Frank Lloyd Wright sites, including the two UU sanctuaries that Frank Lloyd Wright designed.  However, I’ve thought better of trying to do a lot of driving around during these winter months.  So this second project will be greatly simplified to a few phone conversations with ministers or lay leaders who have done a building or remodeling project.

The third project I’ve imagined has become the main focus of my sabbatical study time.  When I was in seminary, I studied in some detail quite a number of different Christian theological perspectives: process theology, liberation theology, social gospel, etc.  But when I lead services, I find myself using language and ideas that are more like a perspective called religious naturalism.  

I’ve never had the time to study religious naturalism in a systematic way.  There wasn’t a place for it at my seminary and since I’ve been out doing ministry, that kind of study has had to make way for other priorities. The theological language of religious naturalism, a perspective rooted in earth-centered science and art, is a sort of common language that a community of diverse theological beliefs can speak together.  But rather than a lowest common denominator theology, I want to really explore what religious naturalism has to offer in thinking of god or the sacred, thinking of ethics and justice—perhaps especially in a time of climate chaos for our world.  I have a few books I’m going to start with that have been on my to-read shelf for a while, and I’ll also be in conversation with Michael Hogue who is Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Religion at Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Religious naturalism is one of his areas of expertise.  

Since I’m not going to be doing much traveling, if at all, I’ve started calling the sabbatical my “stay-bbatical.”  So you will probably see me around town now and then at concerts, at the gym, at the grocery store or library.  Please don’t feel that you need to go out of your way and avoid me.  I certainly won’t avoid you!  I am really going to miss being with you all.  I am certain it is going to feel strange staying away.  You all are, each of you is, very important to me.  I look forward to sharing what I learn with the congregation when I get back, refreshed and excited to be with you all again!
Blessings, Rev Joe