And so, it is REALLY HAPPENING! Our building renovation to make it accessible for people with disabilities and just generally more user friendly. It has taken a lot of effort, a lot of commitment and a lot of time for us to get here. I hope that you are as proud as I am. It is going to be a bit chaotic for the next five or six months. As the staff keeps saying to one another: “Flexibility and patience; flexibility and patience” as our watchwords for months ahead. We are going to have to be creative and adapt around a few obstacles. Two be aware of right off are that our old elevator gave up the ghost, and given the cost to repair it for the short time we would need it, we have decided not. So, we will stream the last couple of regular church services in the vestry for those who cannot or do not want to tackle the stairs. Also, after demolition starts (target date, Monday June 4), we will not have indoor bathrooms. There will be a porta-potty. This is not ideal, we know, but it is only for two Sundays.
We start our summer services, moving the worship time to 9 am, on June 24th. We have been able to rent space at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts across the street for June 24, July 8, July 15 and July 22. July 1, we will be back at First Parish. And we will return here permanently July 29. Hopefully, by then, we will have indoor plumbing back. If you have not already, please sign up for the First Parish events list. Things may change over the summer, and we may have to cancel or move a summer service. If you want to be kept up to date, please, please join this list.
To mark the start of the building renovation, we will hold a groundbreaking service during worship next Sunday. It will be an opportunity to appreciate the people who have led, organized and continue to manage this project; to acknowledge our contractor, Walter, and architect, Jay; and to celebrate what we have accomplished. It should be a lot of fun.
Finally, I want to share excerpts from my sermon this past Sunday, where I talked about the “Geography of Grace.” I chose a reading from a book by Peter Wohlleben called The Hidden Life of Trees: A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.
And here is my reflection on his words: Wohlleben demonstrates how trees live together in community—connecting and communicating through their roots systems, through fungi that grows underground, through their leaves in the wind. When I think of the geography of grace of this place, I think of the forest community he describes. Deeply rooted through the generations in the tenets of our tradition: in covenant with reverence for the sacred ties that bind us to one another, to the creation, to the many names of the holy, the Spirit of Life; gratitude and hospitality; memory and hope; freedom and love, we stand solidly and we grow, helping one another withstand the wind and rain, dry, hot summers and cold winters. Yes, like trees, we lose branches and limbs; and like trees, we die—sometimes too young, sometimes after a long, long time. But still, the forest remains. Together we do what we cannot on our own: create a local climate, an ecosystem to help one another through the generations stay rooted and growing in gratitude and grace, moderating and healing the extremes of pain and loss, harm and cruelty. To expand on the words of Theodore Parker: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” I would add “It bends toward gratitude. It bends toward grace.”