Most Unitarian Universalist ministers are granted a month of vacation and a month of study leave each year. Traditionally, these were taken as one large block in the middle of the summer. This can be traced back to the Unitarians in Boston, and other cities, where summers were sweltering and unpleasant. Many of the Unitarian congregations didn’t hold services during the summer as their upper class parishioners (and the clergy) left the cities for the fresh air of the countryside. Over time, that reason was replaced by one of academics. Many of our public schools took the summer off, so our congregation’s did too. There is a favorite joke I’ve heard told on the topic.
Q: Why do Unitarian Universalist congregations take the summers off from worship?
A: The Divine trusts us.
Over the last decade, there has been a slow shift away from this tradition. More and more people are “shopping” for a new religious home in the summer. And more and more people are realizing that spiritual practices and our need for a religious community do not take time off. And so, more and more UU clergy and UU congregations are switching to a year-round model for their ministries. I’ve been practicing this year-round model since I first graduated seminary fifteen years ago. In that model, the UU ministers get 28 days of vacation and 28 days of study leave, but those days are spread out throughout the year– and the clergy-led worship services extend year-round, including the summer months.
As UUC moves forward, you will have to decide which of these models you want to follow. There are advantages and disadvantages to each model. This past year, you have gotten a taste of the year-round model with me.
Which is a long and historical way of letting you know I’ll be on vacation for a couple of days this week– and on study leave for most of next week. I had originally planned to be on vacation for five days this week to attend the UU Minister’s Association Institute for Excellence in Ministry. But…. that was postponed to next year. I was then going to spend the time on vacation with Cheryl, who took the time off, as well. But then– well, things happened– and so I’ve shortened my vacation this week to only Thursday and Friday. Next week, I took study leave to attend my annual reading retreat, Lectio Divina, with my seminary colleagues. But… well, that’s been cancelled as well. So, instead, I’ll be using the time to prepare for the summer and next year— and maybe I’ll get a chance to read and check-in with those colleagues I’d normally be seeing face-to-face.
Vacation – Thursday 2/11 and Friday 2/12
Study Leave – Wednesday 2/17 through Sunday 2/21
I will still be on call for emergencies during these times, but I won’t be checking my email or responding to non-emergency calls or texts. The worship service on the 21st is being prepared and presented by the UUC Care Team– and it looks and sounds fabulous. You won’t want to miss it.