On Leaving for Sabbatical
In 1966 John Denver wrote ‘I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane’, a song made popular by Peter, Paul & Mary. The lyrics begin: “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standing here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye…”
In a few weeks I will pack my bags and head off for my Ireland pilgrimage to Celtic holy sites—but they aren’t packed yet. I’m still standing outside the Fellowship door, wanting to come inside but clearly having said ‘goodbye’ during the last Sunday service of February. I’m looking backwards and forwards at the same time.
As I said during that February service, it is difficult to say goodbye to a community I am thoroughly a part of, even if my parting is only temporary. Like the interdependent web we affirm in our Seventh Principle, you and I are woven into a web of interconnection. It’s challenging to climb aboard that jet without you.
My own sense of connection to a UU community makes me realize that many people miss out on what we have—a caring community that’s passionate about celebrating their shared values and committed to living them in all aspects of their lives.
We’re not a perfect community. We fall down when we say an unkind word about someone else who may not live up to our expectations. We fall down when we don’t open ourselves to meet new people. And sometimes we hear from people who have drifted away that no one ever called them to ask if they were okay or to find out why they weren’t participating any more.
I feel caught in a bind about this. On one hand, we’re reluctant to call people and press them on why they aren’t attending anymore. We avoid heavy pressure tactics and figure they must have a good reason they didn’t want to share with us. On the other hand, those who drift away are equally reluctant to call or meet with me or someone else to say why they’re leaving. It’s easier for both of us just to be quiet and not reach out. But being silent means that those remaining behind never know if there’s something we might be able to improve.
Some people leave to explore more traditional faith communities. Some people leave because they never became connected. Some people leave because they disagree with a decision or practice. Some people leave because they find something better to do. If the reason for leaving is one of these latter reasons, we might be able to address them.
Let’s Change the Culture of Connection
To be a truly caring community, let’s step up! We can reach out to an absent person, rather than leave it up to the Membership Committee or me, because neither of us may know someone has drifted away. When someone in your Small Group or a committee is absent a short while, give that person a call. Let them know you miss them. Ask if there’s something we might do to help them connect better. Ask if they wish to share a concern.
Each and every one of us should notice someone’s absence, and if we don’t, it puts a lie to our being a caring community. Let’s improve our connections by following up on people we no longer see. And if you’re feeling dissatisfied with something, share it with the appropriate person—for governance issues go to the Board of Trustees and for ministry or program concerns, go to a Lay Minister, a staff member, or me when I return in August. Let’s stay connected!
Blessings, Rev. Alison