Dear First Parishers,

I hope that everyone has had a lovely summer, or at least a chance to take a breath! My summer was very full. I attended two writers’ workshops where I learned a lot and made some wonderful new friends. I also took a two-week family vacation up in Vermont, which is always a restorative place for me.

Each time I have returned from one of these trips and dropped by our church, I have been awed by the progress made with our building renovation project. It is definitely taking shape and it will be great to finally be back in. I have been surprised by how unmoored I feel by not having my office. Given my summer schedule, I did not expect to miss it all that much. It is a touchstone that obviously gives me a sense of place and purpose, a sense of home. It will be good to have it back.

Speaking of which, it is time to start thinking about the new church year. I am very much looking forward to seeing us all gathered together again. It’s funny, the rhythm of the seasons. In June, I look forward to the slower pace and lighter schedule of summer. But by August, I find that I am ready for the return to congregational life. I miss everyone and I miss the weekly work of preparing for and leading worship. Larry Peers, who is my clergy coach and who has led several retreats with us, including one last fall, always asks me to reflect on what season of ministry I am in, that the congregation is in. As we near the end of the renovation project, I feel we are in a season of autumn and harvest. We are seeing the results of our hard work and labor of love. I hope that we will take time to pause and celebrate what we have accomplished. We have made our building accessible to all as we can. It will be more reflective and less of an obstacle to our practice of hospitality and nurturing of all souls.

Autumn is also a season of letting go—the new configuration of the building means that things will not always be where they once were. It will take time to figure what belongs where and where to meet for this or that. The building as it was had been home for many of us for a long time. There is comfort in familiarity. And I imagine that very soon, it will feel like home again. While the building serves as a touchstone for our home, its true center is all of us, the people who gather in covenantal community for worship, mutual care, and service to the common good. While our building would not be First Parish without us, we learned this summer that we can be First Parish even without our building—meeting at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, at the Java Room, at Blake Funeral Home, at the Senior Center, or in our backyard, to worship, to offer or receive care, and to serve our congregation and our larger community.

I would like to thank the Worship Committee: Jayne Boissonneault, Ellen Ford, Ami Hughes, Colleen Leary, Donna Mitchelson, Edith Murphy, and Bonnie Rankin, for facilitating the summer services, and helping our lay worship leaders and musicians negotiate our ever changing space. It was more challenging than usual, and I am grateful to them and to all the folks who led worship, provided music, and attended these services.

Last spring, the Worship Committee and I discussed coming up with our own monthly themes for worship, instead of relying on journals like Touchstones or Soul Matters. We had a great time last June brainstorming themes and their accompanying practices. This is an experiment, another new thing to try out, and we will see how it goes. So, for the month of September, we have chosen the theme of Home. It seemed very appropriate as we re-gather together after a summer apart; as we come back to a new building; and as we prepare to welcome new and returning individuals and families.

So, we will start our exploration and reflection on the theme of Home in the sanctuary at our Intergenerational Ingathering Service and Water Communion on September 9th, at 10 am. If you would like to participate in the communion, please bring a little bit of water to pour into the common bowl. As we are gathering in our home made new, I invite you to think about what make First Parish home, what connects you to this community and what we offer to those seeking a home.

I am so looking forward to seeing you all on September 9, if not before!

In faith,
Rev. Ellen