Message:“Awakening Wisdom to Sabbatical Living”

What if there was nothing wrong with this moment?

What if this congregation-wide, 

community-wide, state-wide, 

nation-wide, world-wide 

physical isolation was our choice.

True, in the part of the world where we reside,

it is our choice whether or not we abide the CDC recommendations of physical isolation.

Thankfully, most are abiding and choosing to keep themselves and others safe with their choice of Sheltering in Place.

Even so, most if not all of us, 

wish we did not have to choose to do so.

Many wish life could just go on as usual. 

That we could come and go as we please,

 to the places of business and places of worship 

we are accustomed to. 

That we could visit or travel to where

 and with whom we wish, 

at a moment’s notice or as previously scheduled.

And many if not most, have expressed 

that there is no way this will be 

the permanent “new normal.”

But, what if 

even without there being a pandemic

without there being a reason 

to be fearful of being in close 

physical proximity to our friends, 

our congregation members, 

our neighbors and co-workers

What if we chose this period of time 

all on our own 

with the express intention 

of not just physical isolation, 

but of Intentional Being.

Being in solitude.

Being in the company 

of only those we wish to share a home with.

What if every year 

we determined that we would 

rest in place.  

What if every year we chose 

to take a sabbatical 

from the constructs of the material 

and materialistic world 

and how it functions.

What if we selected a period of time 

each year where we opted to 

not go shopping, or meet for lattes,

 or attend in-person public gatherings and events? 

What if we could work part of the year instead of all of it 

and still have financial security? 

What if much if not most

or even all of the time 

we could work from home 

with out having to extend resources on commuting?  

What if our lives included 

a season where we turn inward. 

A contemplative time. 

A season where we focus on the nurturing our souls 

and of our closest relationships.


What if we decided to spend our time 

exclusive, dedicated, intentional extended time 

Sheltered in Place 

Being in the company of only those dearest to us.

What if we had time to prepare for that.

What if  

as we went about the work of everyday life  

 throughout most of the year, 

we were also planning and looking forward to 

such a sabbatical time. 

A few weeks ago such mode of living, 

such a lifestyle would have perhaps been more 

difficult to imagine.

Maybe even impossible to imagine.

Yet, now, with so many of us separated from family we love, 

and with much stress about resources being depleted, 

how much easier addressing the concerns of the virus 

would have been, had we been already of the mindset of incorporating a sabbatical lifestyle.

That’s not say the whole world would shut down at once. 

But rather, if enough of us were to determine 

this kind of     Season of Sabbatical    

was important to include in our Wheel of the Year, 

even necessary to include for our own wellbeing, 

we could and would collaboratively

calendar in such time through out the year 

in such a way where Essential Services were maintained, 

and where Essential Personnel 

seamlessly rotated into and out of 

their work time and sabbatical time.

We would not be the first human tribe 

to establish a time of rest into our schedule. 

To varying degrees our ancestors and cultures each 

assigned periods of rest. 

And, to some extent still do.

For millennia Christian and Jewish traditions, 

for example, kept and still keep the Sabbath, 

a day of rest – every 7th day. 

The concept of an extended sabbatical 

dates back to Ancient agricultural peoples 

who minded instructions to rest from working their fields

 every seven years – for a whole year they rested.

To nurture the fields, and to nurture 

their bodies, minds, and spirits.

They rested their fields;

They rested themselves.

Nowadays sabbaticals have become institutionalized 

for the tenured and the elite. 

Our professors, 

our clergy. 

Yet not, for the most part, the rest of the work force 

who get at best two weeks vacation each year 

if they take it. 

By the time they are beginning to unwind, 

just when their bodies are adjusting 

to a more relaxed setting, 

they are due to return to their hectic work schedules. 

Some sophisticated modern-day companies 

have researched and affirmed 

the importance of extended time off from work 

to ensure employees creativity and health. 

Medical studies – and common sense – align with this. 

Telling us that extended periods  

of rest from work and from stress 

and from…”doing”

result in lower blood pressure 

and longevity of life.

And how much happier and healthier 

we would be if we simplified 

our lives in this way.

In her book, 

“Reviving Our Indigenous Souls, How to Practice the Ancient to Bring in the New,” Unitarian Universalist Minister Rev. Cathie Stivers 

explains the word “simplify” 

– from its original root words and context – 

literally means to put things together as one, 

in a braided, folded way. 

That to simplify 

is to weave together similar things 

into a fabric of one.

If in the fabric of our human lives 

we built our organizations, 

our communities, 

our nations, 

with the sentiment that we are indeed One, 

we would begin to weave together lifestyles, 

and cultures,

and ways of being that support, 

and lift up, 

nurture and nourish such Oneness. 

For everyone.

We would install 

extended times of rest and enrichment. 

We would be ready to Shelter in Place

without anxiousness or restlessness. 

We would practice physical isolation 

from the world around us 

as a Holy time, 

a Sacred time. 

A Blessing.


For now, we  are  where  we  are. 

Some of us are blessed to be 

in climate controlled comfortable homes, 

sharing our space with those we love 

and who love us. 

We have plenty of food, fresh water, needed supplies, 

and we have access to replenish these as needed. 

We have connection to the outside world 

via internet audio and video technologies. 

We have cell phones and televisions and radios 

to keep us informed and entertained. 

We have books and art in our homes. 

We have music.

Here in Maine, with the vastness 

and beauty of Nature all around us, 

we have the privilege 

of being able to access the outdoors. 

We can travel down country lanes, 

be still in our yards and parks,

hike in the woods. 

All seasons of the year!

Some are able snowshoe and cross country ski. 

And as Winter’s long season 

catches up to Spring, 

we will have access to 

kayak and boat 

in our lakes and rivers. 

Mindfully so, 

respecting the parameters around 

the spaces of others 

desiring to do the same. 

We are indeed fortunate here.

Yes, some, hopefully many, of us are safe, 

and happy, active, 

socially if not physically connected, 

and even grateful, 

some of us deeply so,

 for this extended time 

of closeness together with those we love. 

For this extended time 

of spaciousness within our own lives.

Others are not in such comfortable, 

loving, or safe environments. 

Many in our region, 

and throughout our country 

and certainly around the world 

are struggling financially, physically and emotionally. 

Hourly workers are being laid off, 

others are being furloughed,

or impacted by alternate 

work schedule structures 

businesses are implementing 

to be able to stay afloat. 

To be able to offer jobs at all.

Individuals and families are stressed 

with little ones at home with them,

full time now.

There is little to no access to 

the mental wellness practitioners and tools 

to help guide them through these challenges. 

Parents with young children 

and those care-giving in their homes 

for the elderly, parents, grandparents 

and others. 

Also those who may have special needs 

or who are caring for those with special needs.

They are not getting sufficient rest 

nor relief from duties.

People are homeless.

Children are confined in abusive homes.

Still others, are seeking to access the things 

that make their daily life more tolerable, manageable, 

that may be essential to them 

but those items may not be on 

the state-mandated “essential” list, 

so access is difficult to access

if not impossible for the foreseeable future.

Increasing the stress.

Increasing the loneliness.

Yes, loneliness. 

Even, and perhaps especially, 

for those “Sheltered” in Place, 

in a space that doesn’t feel like Shelter at all. 

That is not a Haven, 

but their own personal hell. 

There is the face of loneliness. 

There the most vulnerable among us reside.

For those of us who use the language of prayer, 

we pray 

that those who have fallen ill to the virus, 

recover swiftly. 

We pray many will never have this virus at all.

We pray 

that those living in unsafe places 

are kept safe. 

We pray 

that those have lost loved ones 

are able to have measures of peace 

in their hearts and minds 

as they cope with their grief. 

We pray 

that cures are found 

for that which cause suffering. 

For those of us who do not use the language of prayer, 


wish this were simply so. 

We are in this together.

The illnesses that plague humankind, 

the challenges Earth’s residence face. 

These impact us all.

Especially in moments of uncertainty.

Especially now,

When we do not know the extent of the outcome,

nor how long this isolation it will last.

How do we get through it?

As one of my favorite author’s to quote, 

Anne Lamott says, 

“Bird by Bird.”


In her book of the same name, Bird by Bird

Anne tells us the childhood story 

of her brother who decades ago, 

ten years old at the time, 

was trying to complete 

a written school report on birds. 

It was due the next day. 

He had had three months to prepare and write it.  

She recalls they were at their family cabin,

and her brother close to tears, 

sitting at their kitchen table. 

He had his binder, 

paper and pencils and piles of unopened books 

about birds all around him. 

He was immobilized. 

Such a daunting task ahead of him.  

Three months of work to do in a single day.

He wondered how on earth 

he was going to get through it? 

Their father sat down beside him. 

He place his arm around his son’s shoulder, 

and gently said, 

“Bird by bird, buddy. 

Just take it bird by bird.” 

And that is how We are all going 

to get through this moment.

This daunting moment of uncertainty.

Bird by bird;

Step by step;

Task by task;

Day by day;

Moment by moment.


And may it be so.

Photo credit: image of  “Changing Woman”  Sedona, AZ
May 2015 by  Rev. “Twinkle” Marie Porter-Manning

(This service was first delivered to the UU Church of Waterville, Maine on March 29th, 2020 in response to COVID pandemic and sheltering in place)

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