“I Am Because We Are: A Journey Toward Belonging”
In recent months, a group has formed to support Pastor Amy Roon as she lives into her vision for the sabbatical our pastoral leadership is eligible for every five years. Her dream, building for years but newly enriched by her recent trip to Malawi, is a two-month journey to Malawi and Ethiopia, where she would explore her African heritage from a place of deep belonging while enabling our congregation to deepen its understandings of the racial justice journey we are taking here at home.
With the blessing of the Church Council and the Leadership Team, Amy and her Sabbatical Committee are working on an application for a grant from the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program. The Lilly Grant—the same that enabled Pastor Catherine to pursue her sheepdog sabbatical in England ten years ago, and which Pastor Todd used to train with Interplay in 2018—seeks to “strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection.” Lilly Grants aren’t vacations, but periods of exploration and reflection for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry. They are for “discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.”
“The strongest reflection from my recent trip, and what I’m most needing now, is to be more grounded in the African ethic of Ubuntu: I am, because we are,” Amy explains. “It speaks to me as a person who had no other lineage but through faith for 16 years of my life; as a bi-racial woman of the diaspora; and as an adopted adult who longs for my adopted child to be rooted in this. This is an ethic that is frustratingly and sadly lacking in our US culture and it makes my heart cry. In Malawi, Benjamin felt free and independent and held, in a way he deeply struggles to be here. There just isn’t the isolation there that a culture built primarily on an ethic of independence and individualism has wrought.”
Lilly grants are as much for the congregation as for the pastor, and Amy’s goal for her sabbatical would be that it inspire the congregation to live more deeply into the Ubuntu ethic of joyful interdependence. “My hope is that you all could reach out more often, lean into the ethic and practice of assuming responsibility and connection to one another,” Amy reflects. “How does living this ethic dismantle racism?”
That’s the question that will be at the heart of our congregation’s work should Amy be awarded the Lilly Grant. In coming weeks, the Sabbatical Committee will be hard at work dreaming the ways that we as Amy’s church family can participate in the Ubuntu ethic alongside her, during her proposed sabbatical period of late summer-fall 2021. If you have ideas and energy for this work, you can become part of this process! Reach out to someone on Amy’s Sabbatical Committee, listed below. And stay tuned for more information to come.
-Amy Roon Sabbatical Committee: Kathryn Robinson, Tom Vasquez, Becca McMullen, Kathy Williams, Toni Higgs, Trent Siegel