Embracing the Uncertainty, and Seeing the Possibility: More Information on Gretchen’s Sabbatical

By now you probably know that  Gretchen will be taking a sabbatical from from Monday, May 6th to Sunday, August 11th. Her last day on the pulpit was Sunday, April 21st.

The practice of Sabbatical is long established in many religious traditions.  It represents a “time away” for settled ministers and is seen as essential to maintain the overall health of their ministry. Sabbatical is a mechanism to provide both minister and congregation an opportunity to “Water the Tree” through introspection, reflection, and stopping. These past few years have been momentous in the life of the church, with a seemingly unprecedented amount of change. Gretchen, as our Senior Minister, has been at the center of it all. Now is a time for her to step back from her regular duties into a time of refreshment, renewal, and personal growth. As you might imagine, unplugging is difficult. It will take intention on all of our parts to respect and trust the sabbatical process, as well as to lean into the processes and systems that have been set up within Foothills over the past few years.

When we were a smaller church, our minister would go on a holiday, and the staff, lay leaders, and guest speakers would step in and fill in the gaps.  Now that we have grown, both in size and organizational maturity, it is clear that a more professional, thoughtful and intentional approach to sabbatical is appropriate. 

This is an opportunity for all of us in the Foothills community as well.  Naturally, there are responsibilities Gretchen has held, that need to be shouldered. There are logistics to manage, and that calls for courage, trust and stepping up from all of us. We have been together in this journey from being and operating like a small church, to being and operating as a large church. In the past several years we have developed in terms of organizational leadership, policy governance, and staff size and capabilities. In my mind, this sabbatical represents an opportunity to more fully lean into our own leadership, individually and collectively.  

Our ministers have worked together on developing a comprehensive plan to ensure that we maintain momentum during this time, and that our priorities are advanced both in within the church and in the larger world. A key part of that plan is that Sean is stepping into the Chief of Staff role during the sabbatical.

In order to make the most of the opportunity for our congregation to intentionally and thoughtfully learn and grow from this experience, a Sabbatical Team has been assembled.

Our charge is to observe, record, and communicate the impact of the sabbatical. We will be the pulse-takers, listeners, and recorders on behalf of the church. Our intention is to bring about Sabbatical at Foothills as an intentional, thoughtful, and forwarding practice that strengthens us and supports everything we are up to. 

The Sabbatical Team is lead by Bruce Wagner and includes Susan MacQuiddy, Andrea Bazoin, and yours truly (Doug Powell). We have been working closely with Sean and Gretchen throughout this preparation process.

Our team is meeting with staff, the Board, and congregants before, during, and after the sabbatical. The Sabbatical Team holds no authority. Rather, we are available to hear and record comments, concerns, ideas, and experiences of our church members and leadership. We are not the decision-makers, rather we are the ones to receive, distill, and reflect individual and collective experiences back to the church community, leadership and ministry.

This structure enables everyone to be supported through this process, while providing a mechanism for observation and communication.  We are excited about this opportunity for growth for all of us, and enthusiastic about the progress our church community has made. Growth that enables us to stand in this place, looking forward at this time of sabbatical, embracing the uncertainty, and seeing the possibility.


Doug Powell
Sabbatical Team Member  

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