Just a few pieces of “News and Notes” from me as we progress more fully into the summer here at SCC (alas, I can’t share any reflections on the UCC General Synod since, even though you’ll be reading this after I get back, I’m writing it before departure).
The biggest bit of news at the moment concerns plans for Pastor Nancy’s sabbatical. Perhaps it’s hard to believe—time flies when you’re having fun, after all—but this past December 2018 was the 6 year mark from when Nancy began serving as one of our congregation’s called pastors. (Some will remember that she actually worked for us for another year prior to that in a non-called program staff position). This means that she became eligible for a 4-month sabbatical leave back in December.
Following discussion and approval by the Governing Board at the June meeting, it has been decided that Nancy will take one-half of this sabbatical leave (that is, 2 months) this year, from August 5th through October 7th, and then hold on to the remaining two months for use in the 2021 calendar year. Nancy is hoping to apply for the same sabbatical grant program that I used to fund my 2017 sabbatical activities in order to fund travel and projects involving Palestine and other destinations, but the next grant funding cycle for which she can apply at this point wouldn’t make that possible until 2021. Given that length of delay from the time at which Nancy became eligible for sabbatical, and given Nancy’s own felt need for some plain ol’ Sabbath-rest time sooner than that, we mutually devised this approach of having her take some of the sabbatical time now and holding the rest for later.
Given the shortened nature of her time away this year—only 2 months—we are not intending on hiring additional staff for “coverage” while Nancy is away. We have good plans in place for much of the programming that Nancy supports, and I myself can be available to handle some of the things that Nancy might normally need to be doing. We’ll probably make use of a little bit of the funding we’d normally spend on substitute staff coverage to allow for some additional guest preaching during the time, to make my own schedule and work load sufficiently flexible during that period.
Speaking of sabbaticals, our Director
of Music Ministry, Trisha Snyder, also recently became eligible for her next
sabbatical. This past January
brought us to the 6 year anniversary of her return from her last
sabbatical. As of the time of writing
this, Trisha is beginning to make plans to take that sabbatical period in the
winter term 2020 (beginning right at the first of the year).
And while we’re on the topic of time away, tis the season for vacations, isn’t it? I’ll be on vacation July 14th through July 28th—mostly doing a bit of a road trip in Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, central Ontario), but also looking forward on Sunday, July 14th, to be spending the day in NYC hearing the Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, in two worship services and a recital that day as a part of their summer tour. (Yes, that’s the choir I sang with on sabbatical; no, I won’t be singing with them.) As of the time of writing, Trisha Snyder also plans to be on vacation during approximately the same period. Antonio also has some vacation coming up in August (and is/was away June 27 – July 3).
And finally, just a little something to pique your interest… Did you realize it’s now been 24 years since the arrival of the so-called “new” hymnal, The New Century Hymnal? Or that the “old” hymnal, the Pilgrim Hymnal, is now in its 61st year? Of course, neither volume has certain beloved favorites like “How Great Thou Art,” “Here I Am, Lord,” and “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love”. And, as many of us who’ve been around a while know, both volumes have certain ‘problems’ with their wording choices—one arguably having ‘messed up’ too many of the texts of familiar selections and the other not having done enough to address certain kinds of linguistic usage that no longer reflect our understandings and values as a congregation. Of course, like the vast majority of congregations these days, we sing plenty of hymns and other music that isn’t in our pew hymnals anyway. In some places, they do it by projection on screens; for us, like many of our sister churches, it’s by printing music in our bulletin. As it turns out, a significant majority of what we’ve printed in the bulletin here at SCC over the last five or six years is sourced from Glory to God: Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs, published in 2013 by Westminster John Knox Press. In the last 18 months, over 75% of what we’ve printed in-bulletin has been from Glory to God. And this doesn’t only apply to the “new” pieces we sing; these reprints from Glory to God have included many “old favorites”, too, including the “traditional” or ”familiar” versions of the songs we sing on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday.
Is it perhaps time for us to consider putting this volume, Glory to God, into our pews? It’s widely acclaimed as the best hymnal available on the market today for a mainline Protestant congregation. Our sister UCC congregations in both Tolland and Bolton already have it in their pews. In most denominations, the generational life span of a hymnal is considered to be about 20 to 25 years… is it time for us, too, to consider something newer, like Glory to God?
Yours in the journey,Matt