Last Outlook…For Now

This will be my last Outlook article serving as your settled minister as I will retire at the end of June. And I hope this will not be the last time I’ll be writing for Windows.  It likely will be for a while until a new minister is settled and established in this congregation.  The Unitarian Universalist Association has strong recommendations for ministers and congregations when they separate from each other, even if it is a friendly parting, such as my retirement.  Any newly settled minister will need to be the one offering support and guidance for our congregation, not me.  I commit to supporting that minister as I surrender the baton to them.  The congregation will need to look to them for leadership.

People have been asking me what my plans for retirement are.  I answer, I know what I’ll be doing through December but 2024 and beyond is an open book.  I plan to relax a bit in July.  In August, Philomena and I will travel to see her brother and family in Ireland.  Then we will spend some time exploring Scotland.  Then we will spend a little time in Copenhagen before flying home. 

September 12 through December 6 I will be doing a 12-week meditation retreat at Insight Meditation Center in Barre, Massachusetts.  Doing this three-month retreat has been on my bucket list for almost 40 years.  It isn’t easy to take such a large chunk of time out of one’s life and go into seclusion from the world in silence.  The beginning of my retirement, when my health and stamina are good, seems like an optimal time to empty out my previous life to make rom for a new life.

What might that life include?  Here are a few of the options I’m considering:

  • Interim ministry.  The shortage of interims isn’t likely to get better.  I feel almost an obligation to do a couple for the benefit of Unitarian Universalism.  I don’t want another congregation to go through what we are going through right now.  There are also options for short term ministries for 3-6 months that might be attractive to serve after a congregation has lost a minister or a minister is on sabbatical.
  • Develop a software application – I’ve been sitting on an idea for a computer program for 30 years that right now is looking quite viable given advances in technology.  It would require pulling together a team of people to develop and market it as well as solicit funding and promote it.  I’d enjoy being a job creator for the Capital Region.  I’d also like to link health awareness to mindfulness practice in a way that will transform lives for the better.
  • Write a book – I’ve got several ideas circulating in my head for book projects.  I’d love to do the research for those books, talk to experts in health and meditation fields linking them together.  I’m very interested in the application of mindfulness meditation to healthy living.
  • Take UU Buddhism on the Road – Some have taken my Friday night and Saturday meditation workshop.  I’ve considered taking that on the road around the country doing weekend workshops combined with a Sunday Service on the many connections between UU and Buddhism.

And if none of those things pan out, here is my backup list:

  • Guest preaching, weddings, memorial services in the community
  • Advocate at the New York Capital for many good causes
  • Work on a political campaign for a Democrat (2024!)
  • Travel (especially in January and February)
  • Road trips on my bicycle on rail trails
  • Take lots of pictures and share them on social media
  • Join a choir
  • Write poetry
  • Learn to do digital art with my Wacom™ Tablet
  • Improve the landscaping around our house
  • Turn an area in our basement into a library (for the books in my office)
  • Go to Dyad and NonViolent Communication retreats with Philomena
  • Exercise, meditate, eat well, stay healthy
  • Read more good books

I have no shortage of interesting ideas for activities.  What I don’t know is what is the one that I want to do next.  I’m hoping three months of silence will help me return to the world with greater clarity about priorities.  And something may come up that isn’t on this list.  We’ll see.

No matter what I do next, I’ll continue to be grateful for the honor and privilege of serving here in Albany as your minister.  We’ve both grown and developed a great deal over the years.  These have been good years even in tough times. (I will have more to say about this June 4th)  While your staff team is quite new, they are all great folks who can be a source of continuity during the changes ahead.

We don’t know what will come next for the congregation, but it has weathered challenging situations before.  I have confidence in our leadership that they will help you find the way forward.

My dearest hope is the next minister will exceed what I have done.  If so, I will consider myself fortunate to have been helpful in preparing the way for their success.  I’m grateful for the ministers and interim ministers who prepared the way for my ministry.

We are all part of the stream of Unitarian Universalism.  We have a lifesaving, transformational message for the world that far exceeds any individual’s or congregation’s work.  May we all continue to keep the great work of which we are a part before us as we move forward separately and together.

Thank you for the opportunity to have done that work here among you.

Rev. Sam