We have had three Sundays now of “Zoom Church.” Figuring out how to do congregational life online in the face of a pandemic is more a learning mountain than a learning curve. On the one hand, things change very quickly and we have to adapt accordingly. On the other, we will be in this for the long haul—weeks, not days and maybe even months. We can’t do everything at once. I am trying to pace our congregational work and ministries, adding one or two bricks at a time, as we rebuild them in this new way. I start with the essentials and go from there.

As we say in our welcome each Sunday, we are a covenantal community gathered for worship, mutual care and in service to the common good. This is our basic mission. Steve, Jennifer and I are continuing to learn how to plan and lead worship online. Once I feel more confident in the technology, I hope to bring more voices into worship. Right now, though, the goal is to offer something to bring us together each Sunday morning that I hope inspires and refreshes our souls and reminds us that we are not alone, that we are connected in profoundly sacred ways, and that as overwhelming and terrifying as this pandemic is, it is not the whole story. We can still rely our Unitarian Universalist values and faith to guide our living.

For mutual care, I will continue to hold a couple of virtual Zoom coffee/tea and conversations a week. The Pastoral Care Team, the Caring Connection and I are also working together to communicate support and care for those who might need it. The Membership Committee, Dolores and I are figuring out how to connect with newcomers and visitors in our virtual worship service. The chat during the worship service and the social hour afterwards offer a time to check in and let each other know our joys and sorrows. I know also that formal and informal groups within the congregation have been checking in with one another. The church does provide me with a ministerial discretionary fund, monies which I can use to help with a one-time financial emergency, within the budget of the account. I also have grocery store gift cards that parishioners have donated for those who might need help purchasing food. As we work to get social networks for mutual care up and running, know that I am here. You can reach me through email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by telephone, 978-256-5555.

Serving the common good begins by attending to the health and wellbeing of the congregation as a whole. Reaching out and caring for individuals within and beyond our First Parish community is important. But we also have a responsibility to care for First Parish. Our congregation has been in existence for 365 years. This means that First Parish has witnessed revolution, civil war, and two world wars—just to name a few. It has survived previous pandemics, economic booms and recessions, religious and social upheaval and even schisms. There are times when our community has flourished and grown, and others when it has struggled to get by. But still, we are here, serving our larger world and serving our Unitarian Universalist values and faith, as we have always tried to do, even as our faith and our world have evolved. I have been talking with Brenda Rogers, our Chair, and members of the Standing Committee, with our Canvass team and with other lay leaders about how to nurture and sustain our beloved community for the long run. We have moved our services online, we have made it possible to donate through our website and have re-thought the stewardship drive. These are just a couple of examples of how our lay leaders are responding creatively and thoughtfully to the stewardship of our congregation. I am also meeting with my local UU colleagues, and interfaith colleagues in Chelmsford and Lowell to learn more about how we can share resources and information and work together to serve the common good of our larger Unitarian Universalist and Chelmsford and Lowell communities. We will do our best to share the opportunities to volunteer in our larger community as they arise.

There is a reading in our hymnal by Edward Everett Hale:
I am only one
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
(#457 in Singing the Living Tradition)

We can’t do everything. We cannot save the world. But we can each do our one thing—as individuals and as First Parish of Chelmsford each day, step by step, piece by piece, to gather for worship, offer mutual care, and serve the common good.

I am so grateful for each of you and for this congregation as a whole.

-- Rev. Ellen

 

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