March 2018

As I announced in the last issue, the congregation and the Vestry have granted me sabbatical time. Accordingly, I plan to exit the church year early, as the precursor to my usual summer worship break. I will preach Easter Sunday, April 1, and then be on sabbatical leave April 2 – June 30. I will resume work on July 2 during the usual summer slow-down.

A sabbatical, a common practice in academia and ministry, is not merely time off, but time set aside for reflection and renewal. I do not mind acknowledging that the past few years have been eventful, and in some instances, complicated. We’ve experienced and addressed security concerns, both in the community and on our property. We’ve had transitions in membership and staffing, that while inevitable, can still be demanding. And through it all, we’ve tried to honorably live the message and mission of our beloved and historic church.

So I’m hopping off the train for a few weeks so that I might soon resume our journey with renewed focus and perspective. I expect the time to be fulfilling but also to pass quickly. A few details are still coming together, and I’m sure I’ll have something to add to the April Gateway.

In the meantime, I hear good things about our Stewardship Campaign, and I hope this year’s intentionally relaxed approach is noticed and appreciated. Our need for funding is a constant in our congregation. Without becoming preoccupied with money, we must still be attentive to our institutional needs and ensure that adequate resources exist to maintain all we treasure at church. This means we look first to our shared generosity. Remember that unlike other denominations, our funding is “bottom-up,” not “top-down.” We send money to the Unitarian Universalist Association; we receive no funding from the UUA.

This arrangement provides us significant freedom and emphasizes our independence. Because there is no adjudicatory body overseeing our decisions, we are responsible for our programming and also our finances. Consequently, we see the fruition of our stewardship each time we gather—when our children receive responsible care and stimulating religious education; when we hear uplifting music and see the beauty of our Sanctuary; when we see a dedicated staff team coordinate events and manage our endeavor with frugality and creativity. For most of us, the church is not likely our only recipient of voluntary giving. But I hope it’s our first and receives our highest, because I know of no other institution where the results may be witnessed so directly, so immediately.

Pledging is a personal decision and a corporate responsibility that benefits us all. So I’m asking you, I’m asking us, to consider the ways the Unitarian Church in Charleston enhances our lives and helps us find meaning in our unpredictable times, and then to give in grateful measure.


Thank you ,