By Mark LaPointe, DLRE, Published on May 17, 2017
When we hear the word, “sabbatical,” we inevitably think of our favorite college professor off for a year studying African elephants in the Serengeti or sitting at a lakeside cabin writing their next book of award-winning poems. While a nice little perk, sabbaticals serve an important purpose for academics and academia at large. They allow scholars time to work on special projects, start new areas of research, and grow in their own knowledge and experience. They also provide an important break and a chance to re-energize and return with more energy and enthusiasm for the next class, next project, next committee meeting.
Sabbaticals are not just for professors, though. Many organizations, especially those requiring a great deal of creative and innovative thinking and teaching, offer sabbatical leave for professionals as a way to help them also grow in knowledge and experience, benefiting both employee and employer. In fact 25% of companies on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list offer paid sabbaticals as a way to support employees and encourage longevity. And many religious professionals such as rabbis, ministers and religious educators are also offered sabbatical leave for study, travel and research after years of service to their congregations. If you’ve been here long enough, you’ll remember that our minister, John Buehrens and our DRE, Irene Praeger each took a sabbatical after serving this community for several years.
Next spring, in 2018, it will be my turn to take a few months away from the church (starting sometime in April) for some reflection and research. During this time, I will be traveling the country with my son, gathering first hand accounts of the many ways in which communities deal with death and dying. From celebratory funeral parades in New Orleans to the growing green burial movement out west, there are many beliefs and behaviors around death. The stories and information gathered, along with resources, images and other materials, will be used to rewrite and improve upon our Lessons of Loss curriculum which is outdated and unlikely to be revamped. Key to this will be the contributions of Bryce. As a 5th grader, his perspective will be woven in beside my own as we build a program that speaks to his peers about how to approach death, removing the fears, false information and cultural insensitivities that are too common in our society.
This will be an amazing opportunity and an important project. It will rejuvenate my own energies and provide me with many great resources and tales to bring back to all of you in Needham. AND, we are preparing well in advance for my three month absence. Some funding has been allocated in the budget to provide coverage for some of the programs I oversee and the RE Committee and staff team will be helping out as they can. For my part, I am doing as much spring work in advance as possible and creating an easy to follow task list for these helpers.
I will return to all of you in September of 2018 invigorated and with a lot of important information to share.
Director of Lifespan Religious Exploration