Sabbatical Information

Sabbatical - Winter 2016

In the spirit of rest, reflection, and renewal, our minister Reverend Ellen Rowse Spero will be on  Sabbatical from January 1 through March 31, 2016.  As Unitarian Universalists we have adopted the practice of granting our ministers sabbaticals. This paid leave of absence allows our minister a period of rest, renewal and an opportunity for continuing education after serving the congregation for a period of time. This period of rest and introspection benefits both the minister and the congregation, bringing creative and new perspectives to all. Ellen has worked with the Sabbatical Committee to insure that all of her duties will be covered in her absence. 

 This is an exciting time in our Parish community. We ask for your support and help as we embark on this journey of rest and renewal. Please contact anyone on the sabbatical committee with any questions or concerns.  Our Sabbatical Committee Chair is Leslie Yauckoes. 


Sabbatical Information

  • Sabbatical Worship Schedule
  • Sabbatical Reflections
  • Ministry and Ministerial Coverage
  • Rites of Passage
  • Sabbatical Contacts


Below is the Worship Schedule during Rev. Ellen’s sabbatical.  

Jan 3 Justine Sullivan
Jan 10 Sabbatical Committee
Jan 17 Neil Harmon
Jan 24 Matt Meyer
Jan 31 Justine Sullivan
Feb 7 Justine Sullivan
Feb 14 RE & Steve Zocchi
Feb 21 Rev. Anita Farber-Robertson
Feb 28 Guest Minister
Mar 6 Joan Coyne/CFAM
Mar 13 Patience Stoddard
Mar 20 Canvass
Mar 24 (Thursday) Tenebrae - Justine Sullivan
Mar 27 Easter - Justine Sullivan
Apr 3 Rev. Ellen!

First, I would like to offer my gratitude and appreciation to this congregation for encouraging and supporting me in taking a sabbatical, my second one. Since I first started serving as your minister in August of 2002, I have been working with the Reverend Dr. Larry Peers as my clergy coach. His constant question to me is “What season of ministry are you and your congregation in?” Over the years, I have walked with you to plant new ideas, new ministries, and a new covenant; to tend to the growth and health within our congregation and to the ministries and programs already planted; to gather in and celebrate the fruit that has been brought forth. And I have stepped back, to rest and renew before beginning again. While we are doing all of these things all the time, usually one season or the other predominates. Sabbatical is a time for this fourth season—of stepping back, of rest and renewal, so you and I can come back to this ministry with new energy and new eyes, perhaps to plant something new, perhaps with a better idea of what needs attention and nurture, or a clearer vision of what fruits and gifts we have gathered and can celebrate. 

I will be on sabbatical from January 1 through March 31st, 2016. During that time, I will be resting, and catching up with family and friends. I will be renewing—taking time to do the reading, writing, and imagining of ministry that I do not often have time to engage in during the day-to-day busyness of church. I will also prepare the soil for what I believe is next. I will be taking a three-day seminar on “Intercultural Competence”, developing the skills to help us engage in conversations and ministry in a multicultural world. I hope to attend a retreat series through the Center for Courage and Renewal entitled, “The Courage to Lead: Living and Leading from Within.” It actually begins before and continues during and after my sabbatical time, but I hope to use the sabbatical to really process what I am learning and discern how to bring it back both to my ministry and the ministries and leadership of the congregation.

 Ministry is a sacred trust, a trust that I take very seriously. It is an honor and a privilege to be called to serve as your minister, to be entrusted with all the ways you share your individual and congregational struggles and hopes, losses and celebrations. Part of deepening this trust is taking the time and the risk to grow. I thank you for giving me the time to do this. And I have full confidence in you to benefit from the fruit of what you tended so well, your care for one another and this church as a whole. 

I look forward to seeing you in worship on April 3rd, 2016!

In Faith,

 Rev Ellen Spero

This is the third time our congregation will experience a ministerial sabbatical. The first time, during the Reverend Karen Foley’s sabbatical, the Sabbatical Committee provided most of the coverage, with support from the intern minister and area ministers. The second time, we had a sabbatical minister. This time, we will return to the coverage model of the first sabbatical. We are delighted to have an intern minister this year, Justine Sullivan, who comes to us with many skills already. As a social worker and hospital chaplain, she is well trained in the area of pastoral care and counseling. The Pastoral Care Team will also be available to offer pastoral care and referrals as needed, with Justine’s support. The Sabbatical Committee has been working to provide coverage for all the worship services, with Justine, congregational members, and outside speakers.  We also have area ministers and the New England Region UUA staff as resources.

Dedications of Children

Child dedications are one of the particular delights of Ellen’s ministry. If you can, please postpone any dedications until after her return. 


Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. for a list of Unitarian Universalist ministers who are qualified to perform weddings at First Parish for both members and non-members.

 Funeral and Memorial Services 

Our intern minister, Justine Sullivan, will perform funerals and memorial services in Ellen’s absence. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who will help make the arrangements. 

 Pastoral Care

Pastoral care and support will be provided by our intern minister, Justine Sullivan and the pastoral care team who will be on call for pastoral emergencies. You may call 978-256-5555 for emergency contact information.  The pastoral care team will also visit or keep in touch as necessary with individuals in need of ongoing pastoral attention or care. The pastoral care team will also work with the Caring Connection to provide other assistance as needed. We will continue to make phone calls and visits to people who are housebound, as well as assist with errands and rides to doctor appointments. If you are in need of some assistance, please contact Justine Sullivan at (978) 256-5555 or a Pastoral Care Team member, who will provide you with the help you need while maintaining confidentiality. The Pastoral Care team consists of Erica Boucher, Gail Burati, Carla Corey, Linda Newhard, Liz Peterson, and Elizabeth Valentine.

Parish Operations

The Sabbatical Committee, Ellen, and the staff have been working together to assure that Parish operations will continue to function smoothly in her absence. Questions about the Parish office or operations should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or any member of the Standing Committee.

Who do I contact about ....

Announcements Cindy Gist
Budget Rebecca Gore
Building Hours Leila Pelosi
Caring Connection Suzanne Wilson
Church Calendar Leila Pelosi
Collector Erica Boucher
Leadership & Governance Sarah Manning
Custodial Services Office/Cindy
Membership Jim Curley
Music Steve Zocchi
Newsletter Office/Cindy Gist
Pastoral Care Concerns Justine Sullivan/Carla Corey
Religious Education Dolores Heredia-Wood, Jill Hayes
Sabbatical Concerns Leslie Yauckoes
Stewardship Jim Curley

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824