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Mary Oliver writes in her poem “Goodbye”

I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,

what I mean, that don’t go looking for the

laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves.  I want to

keep close and use often words like

heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish

the question mark and her bold sister

the dash.

 

I find myself at this moment, wanting to say everything: Thank you, and I’ll miss you, and Goodbye. And yet, all those words seem insufficient. You are the people who first welcomed me as a minister, as one of your ministers. You entrusted me with your joys and your sorrows, your questions, your worries. You listened as I preached. You let me pray with you and for you, sing to you, meet with you. You even let me talk about money and how money – the earning, raising, sharing, spending, and saving of money – can be part of our communal spiritual life. It is the way we demonstrate something’s value to us; our check books, it has been said, are spiritual ledgers, records of what we are willing to spend the fruits of our labor on. You ventured into that scary territory of talking about money with me – such an act of generosity and courage on your parts – to let yourselves be part of my learning and growing as a minister.

 

We talked about other things, too, you and I – about faith and gratitude, justice and renewal, and about the uglier parts of our human community, too – violence, racism, greed, but always, I hope, landing on Love as the only way forward and the only way back – back to community, to forgiveness, to peace.

 

I am grateful to my internship committee. I always knew they were there for me, and there is no greater feeling than to look out from the pulpit, maybe feeling a little nervous, hoping my sermon will make sense, and to see Sally or Cheryl, Edith or Ruth, or Jim or Franklin – listening intently, breathing with me. I felt them there, and when it came to jumping through administrative hoops for my school or for our UUA, they jumped like Olympians. And cheerfully. Thank you.

 

And Dolores, your creativity shone through on my very first visit to First Parish Chelmsford – the colorful artwork in the RE wing made me want to be here, to be where children are cherished and their creativity is encouraged. I so loved watching you and Ellen plan Intergenerational worship together. I was happy to be part of the service, as well, but I especially enjoyed seeing how the two of you work together – the blending of your different ideas and perspectives into one delightful whole, miraculous how it all worked sometimes, and that was part of the joy of watching it take shape. Leila and Cindy, you make this place run. I’m sure you must get stressed at times, but I never saw it. Your love for this community of faith and your sense of humor and perspective keep us all in balance. What a joy to work with you both. Steve, I so loved making music with you and hearing you play; what a knack you have for matching music with mood, reading where we are and taking us further, deeper. Such a gift.

 

And, Ellen. I still cannot believe my good fortune in getting to have you as my teaching pastor. I learn from watching you in every meeting, every encounter, every worship service; and you let me find my own way, my own voice. Your trust in me allowed my own confidence to grow. You will always be a part of my ministry and I know that I will find myself asking, “What would Ellen do?” when I feel stumped. And then I may pick up the phone if I still feel stumped! Thank you for your patience, your good humor, and for your service to our faith – you are a blessing.

 

It has been a wonderful two years, but I know there are things I missed or didn’t get to in my time here, as well. Things I didn’t say, times when I missed the point, misunderstood, or failed to listen. For those instances where I caused you injury I am truly sorry. And if any of you have caused any injury to me, know that I forgive you. We humans hurt each other sometimes, whether intentionally or unintentionally, but as a covenantal community of faith, we commit to begin again in love. May you continue to walk together in love, knowing that I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to walk with you for these two years. You have been a blessing to me, and I know you will continue to be a blessing to our beautiful and aching world.

 

Peace and Love to you,

Justine

 

Justine Sullivan, MSW, MDIV

Intern Minister

First Parish Chelmsford

 

                             * - Leap of Faith Chalice, from Peg’s Artworks website

 

It’s happening. The lingering hugs in the receiving line, the wistful looks, the “We’re gonna miss you”s, followed by “and I’m gonna miss you!” Our two years together are drawing to a close. Freud said, “We grieve because we love,” and he was right. It hurts to say goodbye. One of the things that has been so extraordinary for me (and there have been many such things) in our time together, is that even though you knew it would hurt to say goodbye, you did not hesitate to share yourselves with me, to welcome me fully into the life and work of this congregation. Such an act of generosity of spirit for which I will always be grateful.

So we will say goodbye intentionally, lovingly, and well. I will preach my final sermon in Chelmsford on Sunday, June 4th. Many of you will attend my ordination in Northborough on Sunday, June 11th (at 3PM!), and I will spend my last Sunday with you on June 18th. It is customary for interns to stay out of touch with the congregation for a year after the internship ends. That can seem a bit harsh, unnecessary, even, but I can see the wisdom in it. It lets us acknowledge the ending of our time together as teaching congregation and student minister. It allows us time to regroup and reconstitute our lives – me without you and you without me. It allows you the opportunity to make space for your next intern whenever they might come along, as I do hope you will continue to be a teaching congregation; you are such wonderful teachers. And it allows me to make space in my heart and mind and daily routines for what is next for me.

At this writing, I am uncertain about where I will be called to serve. The competition for interim slots is steep this year, and I may not get one of those in this first time out of the gate. There are, however a number of contract ministry positions, and I am trusting that there will be a job in ministry for me somewhere. If I don’t have that all nailed down by the time I leave you on June 18th, I know that Reverend Ellen will keep you updated.

So let us continue to celebrate the good work we have done together and the connection we have made. Yours is a beautiful ministry and you a beautiful and wondrous people. I am so grateful to know and love you.

In faith,
Justine

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First Parish Covenant

We, the members of First Parish of Chelmsford, covenant together to sustain and strengthen our beloved community by:
Honoring and celebrating the Spirit of Life
Nurturing all souls in our search for truth and the sacred
Caring and being present to one another in our joys and sorrows
Bearing witness through service to justice and peace
And being good stewards of our congregation, our heritage, our Unitarian Universalist Principles, and our earth.

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First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133