Meet Rev. Michael, Our Sabbatical Minister

***It's Official***

We, the UUFP Policy Board and the Sabbatical Minister Search Team, are thrilled to introduce you to Rev. Michael Burnett, our Sabbatical Minister, while Andrew is away for a well-earned, six-month sabbatical. Rev. Michael will join us in our journey starting Friday, March 1, 2024! That’s two weeks from now, folks! You will meet Michael on Sunday, February 25, when Rev. Andrew introduces and welcomes him to our community.

The Rev. Michael Burnett


Indeed, Andrew is thrilled with our good fortune in finding Michael B. In Andrew’s words: "I'm glad that the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula will be in good spiritual care of Michael Burnett during my sabbatical."

The rainbow colors of Rev. Andrew’s affirmation and the flower on Rev. Michael’s lapel provide just the segue needed.

Social Justice is central in Rev. Michael’s life and lived mission.

He engages in anti-racism work, participates in the RAWTools/Guns to Gardens program, and is active in the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, James River Chapter Planning Team. In his cover letter, Michael wrote, “I admire your dedication to social justice and to helping bend the long arc of justice toward a better future.”

Rev. Michael
"lives our ethic
of inclusion."

Michael is active in LGBTQIA+ rights and regularly attends public meetings at the Newport News and other Hampton Roads school boards in support of Transgender rights. In fact, just this week (2/12/24), in reporting on the Chesapeake School Board meeting addressing Governor Youngkin’s repressive Transgender rules for K-12 students, our local ABC affiliate, 13 News Now, included a clip of Rev. Michael challenging the Governor’s humanly damaging mandates.

Further, within his own family, Michael has two young, neurodivergent children and is keenly aware of—and responsive to—the needs of the least, last and lost.

In the words of Bill Judge, Co-Chair of the Sabbatical Team, Rev. Michael “lives our ethic of inclusion.”

While Michael’s credentials come from a Christian denomination, he comments in his cover letter, “Please note that the Disciples of Christ are, like the Unitarian Universalists, congregationalist and non-creedal/non doctrinal. I suspect that my theology, and certainly my social worldview, align much more closely with your own than with those of the majority Christian denominations.”

Indeed, Rev. Michael has been reading core UU materials, such as A Chosen Faith by John Buehrens and F. Forrester Church, and is explicit about being open to multiple and diverse spiritual traditions. He has even served as guest preacher for “ten different congregations representing six different denominations.” Did I mention he holds an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies from CNU (2011)? Michael is a thinker and doer.

On the doing front, well, all I have to say is, “Thank you, Michael!” He knows we are going through a major move and understands the attendant difficulties. Michael notes that his “ministry has been characterized by encouragement,” and he suspects that “the gift of encouragement will be a valuable asset to a family of faith that may feel weary in this season…” He affirms that he is “happy to put that gift to work for [us].” Thus, in his sample sermon for the Sabbatical Team, Rev. Michael spoke on how to engage the congregation in higher levels of involvement as we transition to a new facility. He is already thinking about where we are and how he might foster and help!

Don’t you feel heard and accompanied already? I do! I am eager to join with him, as we journey forward in the discernment, purchase, and move into our likely new church home. Michael and I have already scheduled a coffee meeting this Saturday for me to begin filling him in on life at UUFP. And throughout his time with UUFP, I will be fully engaged, available, and on call to him as he learns how to minister to and with us.

And so, I say resoundingly, Welcome, Rev. Michael!


Now, before signing off, let us linger in appreciation.

Friends, we are able to welcome Rev. Michael Burnett as Sabbatical Minister because of the jaw-dropping work, discernment, commitment, vision, and follow-through shown by our Sabbatical Minister Search Team. Co-Chairs Bill Judge and Kathryn Ozyurt, and members April Kelsey, Solstice O’Brien, and Michael Henry Richardson, took this effort from 0 to 60 in under a minute, it seems.

Indeed, I, as UUFP President, convened the Search Team in early December, conveying the Policy Board Charge to immediately develop a Sabbatical Minister job description and submit that description to the UUA before Christmas. When Co-Chair Bill Judge asked for a model job description, I replied, “You, the team, must figure this out yourselves. We have no prior models, no established process. I entrust this search to the Team.”

In other words, they were designers, developers, explorers, visionaries, writers, thinkers, testers, implementers, seekers, discerners, collaborators and more. Throughout, the team was graceful, thorough, and professional in their communications with me as they invited and responded to feedback. The sheer TIME the Sabbatical Team has put in is quite beyond belief— untold hours—in both senses of the word “untold”:  a) vast, beyond count, and b) hours not mentioned or noted publicly. This team met twice weekly and sometimes 3x/week, and now, under incredible time pressure, they have finalized a Sabbatical Ministerial Agreement with Rev. Michael Burnett.

In conclusion, I express my most profound gratitude to the Sabbatical Minister Search Team for their sublime contributions to the life and love of UUFP.

In community, in gratitude, and in UU love,

Bek Wheeler
President, UUFP

Grow in Wonder ~ Connect in Love ~ Engage in Service ~ Inspire Generosity

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