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
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 Sullivan, MSW, MDIV
First Parish Chelmsford
* - Leap of Faith Chalice, from Peg’s Artworks website