Sabbatical 2022: A Time of Recharging

October 3, 2022 - January 3, 2023
“Therefore, there must still be a rest reserved for God’s people—the Sabbath rest. 
For all those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          – Hebrews 4:9-10 

What is a Sabbatical?

Our pastor, Rev. Tom O’Brien, will be taking a three-month sabbatical from October 3, 2022 to January 3, 2023.
The word “sabbatical” has its roots in the biblical concept of Sabbath. Sabbath keeping is setting aside time that God consecrates and makes holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Sabbatical leave is a time for our pastor to shift gears in order to rest, disengage, study, reflect, and travel in order to return to minister among us refreshed and renewed in body, mind, and spirit. This special time will also be a season of reflection for the entire congregation.
All church business will be handled by the office, staff, lay leadership, and the Sabbatical Pastor, Rev. Lee Atherton.

A Note from Pastor Tom

I’m so grateful to once again have a sabbatical – seven years after my first. In 2015, my family and I were able to travel to many different places thanks to a grant from the Lilly Foundation. Since that grant is awarded only once in a lifetime, this year’s sabbatical will be a bit different.

Working with my clergy coach, I plan to focus the time on self-care, renewal, and learning. I’ll explore ways to care for my body, mind, and spirit through meditation, creative writing, and worshipping with other communities.

One major highlight will be my trip to the Holy Land for a tour focused on the Women in Jesus’ Life. The sites will form the foundation of a sermon series that I’ll share when I return.

My hope is to develop practices that will continue to inspire and sustain me and our ministry together at MCC.

Thank you once again for this opportunity for rest and renewal!

What to do if you have a pastoral need

If you have someone in the hospital, experience a loss, need assistance, need healing prayer, would like a pastoral visit, require ministerial advice, would like to get married, would like to baptize a child, or have any other pastoral need please call one of the Sabbatical Planning Team (SPT) members listed below. They will forward your concerns to Rev. Lee Atherton. Your needs will be met.
Contact the SPT :
OCT     Sharon Colombo
NOV    Bobbi Fisher 
DEC     Gail Wright        
In order to ensure a period of renewal it is necessary for Pastor Tom to completely disconnect from the church. Please respect Tom’s sabbatical time of quiet and rest by not contacting him.
Our Mission during this
time of Sabbatical:
Reflecting on and ACCEPTING that
our church and we, as individuals,
have changed;
Re-CONNECTING with each other
and our faith;
Re-discovering our MEANING
as individuals and as a congregation;
Re-embarking on living out

Rev. Lee Atherton, Sabbatical Pastor

We are excited that Rev. Lee Atherton will be joining us as Sabbatical Pastor! Her positive energy level matches MCC’s ensuring that her time with us will continue to make our church a special place for all.
Lee possesses a calm and confident presence. She identifies her strengths as pastoral care and collaborative leadership. She particularly enjoys pulling together all of the pieces of the liturgy to blend into a meaningful and relevant worship service.
Greetings Friends in Christ!
“It is only when there is chaos within that you can give birth to a shining star.”    ~Friedrich Nietzsche
I am surrounded by beauty like that of a bright shining star as I write to you. The sun is shining in a beautiful blue sky peppered with clouds slowly floating by in the gentle breeze. The unbearable heat and humidity have disappeared. I hear the windchimes outside, the lazy snore from my Shadow, the calming flow of my koi pond’s waterfall, and an occasional, “Hey Hun?” from Rick. I couldn’t ask for a better way to begin Labor Day weekend. I am truly blessed, and I pray you are also sensing God’s blessings surrounding you.
Yet, chaos abounds, yes? Parents and children have been scurrying to get ready for a new school year. Busses are late or missed, or, if you’re an Orange Liner, they’ve disappeared. Our lazy days of summer have suddenly been filled with new schedules full of sports, church meetings, project planning, kickoffs, and welcome-backs. We’ve swung into high gear and things usually don’t go as smoothly as we wish.

This year, Memorial Congregational Church is experiencing its own sense of chaos as you welcome Pastor Marcus. Excitement is in the air! You are planning and preparing for Pastor Tom’s Sabbatical. Uncertainty is in the air! And you are readying for another new leader in your midst. Questions abound!
Nietzsche gives us hope in these times of chaos. What shining star will MCC birth in this new year? None of us know, but I sure am excited to find out and honored to be a part of the journey with you.
A little bit about me… My mission in ministry is to “positively impact the lives of at least 100,000 in the next 10 years.” I come to you from Marlborough where I have been a life-long resident and live with my “business partner” Shadow, and my life partner Rick. I have three grown children who live close by, my awesome toddler grandson Isaac who makes me smile every day, and my amazing granddaughter Juliet who is growing up faster than I can keep up with!
My journey to ordained ministry began when I was a church secretary. Little did I know what was in store! I graduated from Andover Newton Theological School almost 20 years ago, was ordained, and spent the first years of my ministry pastoring the local church. A colleague had been telling me for years that I would be a fabulous hospice chaplain. “No way! That is not for me!” had been my response. When she finally talked me into covering for her extended vacation, I discovered how wrong I was. End-of-life and grief have been my ministry ever since. God speaks in many ways. I’m glad I finally listened.
I eventually combined hospice ministry with my life coaching and founded CoachRev @the CrossRoads. I coach those who are dying and grieving, and their loved ones. I lead workshops, classes, and support groups, am writing two books, and am an international speaker. I volunteer on the Greater Lowell Critical Incident Stress Management team where I serve as a First Responder Chaplain. In my downtime, I love to read, tend my garden, and in the wintertime, shovel snow. 🙂 Yes, my neighbors do think I’m crazy!
You can learn more about me and my Shadow and the work we do at
Wishing You All God’s Peace,
Lee & Shadow

The most important aspect of sabbatical leave is allowing Pastor Tom to fully step away from the church. It is important that we don’t contact him via phone, email, including social media and Facebook Messenger. (It’s okay to say “hi” if you see him around town, but please don’t share information about church happenings.)

rainbow battery

Frequently Asked Questions about Pastor Tom’s Sabbatical

  • What is a sabbatical?
    • A sabbatical is an intentional time of rest and/or study.  For pastors, it is a time away from the daily life of leading a congregation.  Pastors who take regular sabbaticals suffer from less burn out and stay longer with the congregation.
  • When is Pastor Tom’s sabbatical?
    • October 3, 2022 – January 3, 2022
  • Why is this a good time for the sabbatical?
    • February 8, 2020 marked Tom’s 10th anniversary as pastor.  The original Pastoral Search Committee, Diaconate, Personnel Committee and Church Council felt that a sabbatical every five years was appropriate. A sabbatical was planned for 2020 (five years after one in 2015) however, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fall 2022 sabbatical will give Tom the opportunity to rest and recharge after a turbulent seven years.
  • What will happen during the sabbatical?
    • Tom will step away from all regular pastoral duties at MCC to spend time focused on rest and renewal.  He will go on personal retreats and spend time in study, prayer, and travel – including a trip to the Holy Land focused on the women in Jesus’ life. 
    • The congregation will continue worshiping, gathering together, and supporting one another.
  • Will the congregation be without leadership?
    • No. Rev. Lee Atherton will join us as part-time Sabbatical Pastor and will lead worship, oversee staff and lay leadership, and handle pastoral care. Congregants will also assist with these responsibilities.
  • What if I need Pastor Tom during his sabbatical?
    • For the sabbatical to be most effective, Tom needs to be removed from all congregation-related activity and news.  Even though it will be difficult for Tom and the church, any pastoral related issues or emergencies, including funerals, will be handled by the Sabbatical Pastor.
  • I have more questions.
    • No problem!  Contact the office or anyone on the Sabbatical Planning Team.
    • Feel free to speak with Pastor Tom at any time before he leaves.
This information has been prepared by the Sabbatical Planning Team for Memorial Congregational Church’s community to share information about Pastor Tom’s experience in the fall of 2022, and our role during his absence.
Your Sabbatical Planning Team
Sharon Colombo, Bobbi Fisher, Gail Wright