Sabbatical Updates (Postcards from the E-Ls)  Note: the postcards are on the public Emerson website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the ministers’ sabbatical

What is a sabbatical?  
The sabbatical is a tradition for Unitarian Universalist clergy as it is in universities.  It offers an extended time for study, reflection, rest and renewal. The word sabbatical comes from the word sabbath, the Hebrew term for a day of rest.  The sabbatical will benefit both our Co-Ministers, Becky and Mark Edmiston-Lange, and the congregation because Becky and Mark will return with new ideas and rekindled energy for their ongoing ministry at Emerson.

Why are they taking a sabbatical now?
A sabbatical leave is part of the congregation’s agreement with Mark and Becky.  The agreement provides for one month of sabbatical leave for every year of service, which is typical at Unitarian Universalist congregations.  Becky and Mark have been at Emerson sixteen and a half years and have taken only three months sabbatical leave during that time.  They both work a six day week and are, in effect, always on call.  The Board recognized that it was time for them to have another extended break and, with the church in a positive spot with operations running smoothly , the Board urged them to take advantage of the sabbatical arrangement and began planning for this sabbatical over a year ago.

How long will they be away?
Mark and Becky will be away from the church from March 28 until August 16.  This period of time, which begins after Easter and incorporates the summer months, was chosen to have the least impact on Emerson’s programs.

Who will be running the church while they are gone?
The Co-Ministers have been planning with the Board and the staff to ensure that the church runs smoothly in their absence.  Karen Van Horn, our professional Business Administrator, will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations in consultation with the Board. Katy Carpman, our professional Director of Religious Education will continue her oversight of the Religious Education Program for Children and Youth, as well as work with the Adult Religious Education Committee. Adrian Rodriguez, our professional Music Director, will continue his oversight of the Music Program.  And, Mary Alaniz, will continue in her role as Office Administrator of Communications.  Becky and Mark have every confidence that the staff, together with Emerson’s many dedicated volunteers, are quite capable of carrying on in their absence.

Why can’t they take separate sabbaticals so that one of them is always here?
Mark and Becky work together as a team.  Their co-ministry is an integral part of their life together.  They are each other’s sounding board, “in house” consultant and coach.  If one of them is to truly be “off”, the other would have to be, too.  They need this time together away from the church to enjoy and reconnect with one another apart from church responsibilities.

What will the Co-Ministers be doing while they are on sabbatical?
Becky and Mark will be investigating the intersection of landscape, spirituality and environmental morality through a series of trips and through extensive reading and reflection.  They will also have the opportunity to visit with family members and friends they have not seen for some time.   If you want to know more, they have written several newsletter columns about their plans which can be accessed via the church website.

Can I still email or call them during the sabbatical?
Sorry, but the Co-Ministers’ sabbatical is a time for a break from the normal duties and routines of ministry.  The staff, the Board, and other Emerson volunteers will deal with all routine church matters.

What about Pastoral Care?
Routine Pastoral Care and pastoral support of congregation members will be provided by the Lay Pastoral Ministry Team. which is coordinated by Kay Bergen.  If you have a pastoral concern, please call the church office, 713-782-8250.

What if a member of the church dies while they are on sabbatical?
In that sad event, family members should contact the church office.  Karen Van Horn will contact Becky and Mark so that they, in turn, can contact the family as soon as possible.  Unless the family desires otherwise, either Mark or Becky will try to officiate at a member memorial service.  Even while on sabbatical, they still care about the congregation.  Since Unitarian Universalism prescribes no set interval between a death and a memorial service – and since Mark and Becky will be in Houston for much of the sabbatical period – Becky and Mark, together with the family, will find an appropriate time to schedule the memorial service.

Is the sabbatical a prelude to the Edmiston-Lange’s leaving Emerson?  
Not in any way whatsoever.  We look forward to their return and to their sharing with us the new perspectives and insights they will gain during the sabbatical.  We are glad they will have this time for rest and renewal because we also look forward to them continuing to serve Emerson with their usual enthusiasm and affection for several more years to come.

What happens on Sunday mornings during the sabbatical?
Sunday morning services and education programs will continue as usual. Mark and Becky have lined up a fine slate of Sunday speakers, including other UU ministers/ministerial candidates and respected speakers from the congregation.   For more information about particular Sundays, consult the current newsletter.

If they are going to be in Houston for part of this time, what should I do if I run into them at the grocery store, community center, etc.?
Say hello, ask how’s it going, etc.  In short, be glad to see them as they will be to see you.  Just – please – don’t talk church business!

What is my role in the sabbatical?
This is an opportunity for everyone in the congregation to demonstrate their commitment to Emerson by continuing to attend, volunteer for and support Emerson’s programs so that things do run as smoothly as possible while Mark and Becky are gone.  It is okay to miss them – they will miss us – but it is also okay to enjoy the time they are gone.  We sure hope they enjoy their time away!

What if I still have questions or concerns?
Contact the church office. They will be happy to put you in touch with someone who can help you with your questions.

To download the flyer with the information above,click here: FAQ about the ministers’ sabbatical