At its October meeting, the Heritage UU Church Board of Trustees adopted the following outline and guidelines for the upcoming sabbatical of our Senior Minister, Rev. Bill Gupton, to begin February 1 and conclude August 1, 2020.
2020 Senior Minister Sabbatical
Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church
As we prepare for Rev. Bill Gupton’s next sabbatical, which will take place in the first part of 2020, we want to enter this period of development and discernment with “20-20” vision for what he, and the congregation, will be doing during this liminal time. Thus, the Senior Minister, the Assistant Minister for Religious Education, the Board of Trustees, and the Committee on Ministry have prepared the following outline to guide our shared work and ministry during the sabbatical period, which will begin on February 1, 2020, and continue through July 31, 2020.
It is important to note that this sabbatical will be unlike previous sabbaticals, in that Rev. Bill will have some degree of ongoing interaction with a few members of the church through his continuing work as founder and president of Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary. Due to this reality, we have decided to call this a “hybrid sabbatical.” It will include traditional elements of a sabbatical (he will be free of church responsibilities, and will be away from the congregation and the life of the church during these six months), as well as non-traditional elements that will involve the loosening of normal sabbatical boundaries in some cases (e.g., his work with Heritage Acres will continue). In some ways, this hybrid sabbatical can be thought of as a “leave of absence” that will allow Rev. Bill to focus on getting Heritage Acres up and running after it opens to the public.
Of course, Rev. Bill will also take time during these six months for travel, renewal, rest and family (not in that order!). The Committee on Ministry, in particular, will encourage him to devote appropriate attention to these renewing and spiritual aspects of the sabbatical.
- The Board and the Committee on Ministry will partner in leading a worship service both at the beginning and at the end of the sabbatical. The former will set the tone for the congregation at the start of its own six-month period of reflection and renewal, and the latter will welcome Rev. Bill back into church life, and let him know what he has missed by summarizing the time period (both for his benefit, and for the congregation’s). These services are scheduled for February 2 and August 2, respectively.
- Throughout the sabbatical, the Committee on Ministry will keep its “finger on the pulse” of church life and provide an avenue for conflict resolution as needed. The Committee on Ministry will also reach out to any church members whom it deems have been “missing” or inactive for some time, to offer any assistance it can to those persons, and to let them know that the church community misses them and is thinking about them.
- The Committee on Ministry will continue to meet at least monthly with Rev. Leslie Woodward throughout the sabbatical. She will keep them apprised of actions taken and discussions held by the Board.
- At least one joint meeting of the Committee on Ministry and the Board should be held.
- Due to Rev. Bill’s professional sabbatical focus – which will be getting Heritage Acres Memorial Sanctuary up and running – there will be occasional interaction between Rev. Bill and certain members of the congregation (e.g., those who are on the Heritage Acres Board, those who are doing volunteer work for Heritage Acres, those who are seeking to make pre-burial arrangements at Heritage Acres, etc.). This is understood to be part of the sabbatical, and to not break sabbatical boundaries.
- In the case of an emergency in the church community, one of the following shall contact Rev. Bill to advise him of the situation, and together determine whether or not he should become involved: Rev. Leslie Woodward, or the Board President (Jim Nolan), or the Church Administrator (Denise Martinez). They are to use their best judgment if a situation is serious enough to break the spirit of sabbatical and contact him; examples could include the death of a church member, a staff member resignation, crises related to the church building (e.g., fire, vandalism, etc.), or a national or societal emergency. Rev. Bill also may contact any of these three persons if he has concerns that he feels would require his re-involvement in the life of the church.
- The Executive Committee of the Board (consisting of the President, Vice-President and Past President) will make any necessary executive decisions, and will represent the supervisory function for staff in regard to decision-making.
- The Board of Trustees as a whole will be ultimately responsible for staff, including making compensation recommendations during the budgeting process.
- Rev. Leslie will lead worship several Sunday mornings during the February-to-July time frame, including once early in the sabbatical.
- It is recognized that there are two potential categories of pastoral care needs – medical situations and personal situations.
- In the case of a medical pastoral care situation involving someone in the congregation, all three of the following persons should be notified, in this order: Rev. Leslie Woodward; one of the co-chairs the Caring Circle (Julie Kane or Michelle Kelly); and the Board President (Jim Nolan). Rev. Leslie will determine what level of pastoral care is needed (e.g., a hospital visit, etc.). She may elect to respond personally, or delegate the response to an appropriate entity (e.g., the Caring Circle or the “on call” minister as outlined in item #14 below), or another individual or group she may designate.
- In the case of a personal pastoral care situation (e.g., someone would like to discuss a marital difficulty, family issue, career concern, etc., with a caring person in the church), Rev. Leslie will be contacted and she will determine how to proceed.
- The Board and the congregation should be mindful that Rev. Leslie’s professional responsibility at Heritage Church is Religious Exploration Ministry, and that she is compensated only for 30 hours per week for that ministry. We are grateful that she is willing to use her skills and experience in other aspects of ministry during this sabbatical, in the true spirit of shared ministry within our church.
- Rev. Bill will arrange with local Unitarian Universalist ministers, as has been the case during previous sabbaticals, to be “on call” if needed throughout the sabbatical. They will serve as a backup to, and support system for, Rev. Leslie, and may become involved in any Heritage pastoral situation that Rev. Leslie chooses – but only at the invitation of Rev. Leslie. They are not to be contacted by church lay leaders unless Rev. Leslie is unavailable, and the situation is quite serious.
- The Board President and Vice-President shall maintain close and regular communication with the Church Administrator to assure that the office and all administrative aspects of church life continue to function smoothly. This will also keep channels of communication open so that the Church Administrator remains apprised of all that is happening in the church, while giving her an avenue for providing feedback to the Board.
- Anyone who wishes to join the church and become a member of Heritage during the sabbatical should indicate that desire, in writing, to the Board President. He or his designee will arrange for a New Member Ceremony, in coordination with the Worship Committee, at an appropriate Sunday service.
- Rev. Bill may, at his discretion, be available to perform wedding or funeral ceremonies for church members during the sabbatical.
- The Worship Committee shall have complete and final responsibility for any and all worship services conducted at or by HUUC during the sabbatical. The Co-Chairs of the Worship Committee are Regina Pugh and Kathy Wade. Sunday service speakers are being arranged to cover all 26 Sundays of the sabbatical, with an outstanding mix of ministerial and lay-led services being planned.
- Rev. Leslie will attend and actively participate in monthly meetings of the Worship Committee, as she is available, in the absence of Rev. Bill.
- Rev. Bill’s contract states that “the congregation agrees to take no action on ministerial tenure during sabbatical leave” except in cases of gross misconduct.
- Similarly, no action shall be taken regarding termination of employment of any Heritage staff member during the sabbatical, except in the case of gross misconduct. In such an instance, Rev. Bill will be contacted in the manner outlined in item #6 above, and shall be involved in the decision-making process.
- Any of these items that affect or apply to specific staff members or church committees should be brought directly to the attention of these individuals or groups well prior to the beginning of the sabbatical.
Jim Nolan, President
Tamilyn Thompson, Vice-President
Bob Rush, Secretary
Jaime Castle, Past President
Committee on Ministry
Ann Roberts, Chair
Regina Pugh, Co-Chair
Kathy Wade, Co-Chair