Reflections 5/8/11

I begin with a plethora of thank-yous. First, I would like to thank Joan Keane, chair of the May Breakfast, and Joanna Paulsen and Carlene Merrill, for organizing another successful May Breakfast. I had a great time and I hope that all of you who volunteered or attended did too! Many thanks also to Ellen Mellen, and all the May Basket makers. These are truly works of art, as well as a wonderful tradition. And of course, thanks to the fudge makers, who make the baskets sweet.

Second, I would like to thank everyone who volunteers in our Religious Education program, at every level. I was impressed by the service on Sunday, and by all our children and youth. One of the joys of my ministry is seeing everyone grow up. Watching the sixth graders receive their milestone gifts, I reflected that I had know most of these young people since preschool. And I was amazed by the combined Carol and Junior choirs' singing of "Inch by Inch." It was so beautifully sung, and I know it was not easy, with all the harmonies involved.

Third, my deepest thanks to Bonnie Rankin, Johan MacKenzie, Tom Coffey, Paul Windt, Bob Morse, Chris Sweetnam and anyone I might have missed for all their work and dedication in seeing the CPC grant for the steeple repair come before a vote at town meeting. I am thankful too that a significant majority of the town meeting representatives supported our request, despite the lack of support by both the town Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen. I was reminded that in politics, whether national, town or even church, that small minority voices, if they are vociferous and angry, seem to cast a shadow of fear making it is easy to assume that opposition is much greater than it truly is. I am relieved and glad that the town did the right thing. We now have some work ahead of us to do the right thing on our end, and raise the money to pay our half for the repairs.

Beyond our congregation and our town, it was an eventful week as U.S. Navy Seals attacked a compound in Pakistan, housing Osama bin Laden, and killed him in the ensuing fight. I sent out this message on our church email list in response to this news:

On September 11, 2001, I remember I was driving down Rte 2 when I heard about the first plane crash. By the time I got to work, it was apparent that something both horrifying and deliberate was happening: a terrorist attack on us, as Americans, in our own country. Having recently moved from the Washington, D.C. area, I knew people who had been killed there, and I knew people who were on the ground, responding to the crash at the Pentagon. I knew the exact path the plane there had taken and where it hit. What came to my mind was this passage about Elijah in First Kings:19: "And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

Today, as I heard President Obama announce the success of the operation against Osama bin Laden and his death, I found myself full of mixed emotions. I cannot be jubilant about any death or killing, even if it offers a sense of justice for people I know.  I do believe that evil is real, and also very human. Osama bin Laden masterminded acts of terror that killed many people, here and abroad. But he is not the first, nor the last.  I take my cue from President Obama, who announced this in a solemn fashion and with the comment that this is not the end of terrorism. I also know the dedication of those who serve our country, and I am grateful for their willingness to do what many of us could never have the courage to face. I was moved most deeply by the picture of the New York Firefighters, their heads bowed in prayer, at the site of 9/11. They know first hand the horrifying realities of September 11th, and saw things too terrible for words.

And so, the passage from 1 Kings returns to me again, as I strive to hear that still, small voice of God or the holy, whispering beneath the sounds of fire, wind, and earthquake. I pray for those who have lost loved ones, here and around the world, in acts of terror and the crossfire of war. I pray for healing, I pray for peace. For our country. For our world.


Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824