Rev. Ellen's Reflections, June 2019

The Rev. Ellen Rowse Spero

As we enter the month of June, we are preparing for transitions into summer and the next church year. This past year has been an amazing one: we started in the fall in a bit of chaos, working around a newly renovated building that was not quite ready for prime time. But eventually, the pieces all came together: the elevator, the bathrooms, the new entrance, the ramp to the vestry, the moving around of the parlor, offices, and meeting rooms. And in May, we celebrated with our dedication service and open house.

We also experienced the many joys and sorrows in the life of our congregation. We grieved the losses of Larry Willette, Tim O’Hara and Ellen Mellen. We said farewell to those who have moved away: Donna Mitchelson, Peter Mellish and Linda Horn, and in June, Betsy Beach. (Phyllis and Glenn King have moved to Plymouth but intend to keep their membership at First Parish and hope to see us when they can.) And we have welcomed lots of new faces and families to our congregation. I love the energy and fresh perspective that our new folks bring. I encourage all of us to welcome and get to know them and I invite our new folks to feel free to ask questions about how things work around here. I realize how easy it is for those of us who have been around for a while to assume that everyone knows the drill and the language. So, I am using this newsletter column as a way to review and/or introduce the practices and changes that happen over the summer.

June serves as our transition month from our regular worship services in the sanctuary and the religious education/faith formation program to our summer services. June 9th, we celebrate our children and youth and their faith formation milestones. June 16th, we honor our graduating seniors with a bridging ceremony and also hold our flower communion. This service is a celebration of friendship and community. I invite everyone to bring a flower that will go in our common bouquet, which we will then share with one another. I will share the story of this ritual on the 16th. June 23rd is the first of our summer services that run through the Sunday of Labor Day. Summer services are more informal and generally led by members of the congregation. They start at 9 am (to avoid the heat) and we meet in the chapel. We do not have nursery care or specific programs for children and youth, although they are welcome to attend the services.

During the summer, I have four weeks of study leave to prepare for next year’s preaching and faith formation courses that I hope to lead (that is the theory anyway). I will also be on vacation for a couple of weeks in July and August (I haven’t quite nailed down exact dates yet). While I am not leading worship during the summer, I am around for pastoral care, committee and group meetings, and general minister things, except during my vacation time. While I don’t keep regular office hours, I do try to check my office voice mail: 978 256-5555, so you can leave me a message or, if you need to reach me urgently, my cell phone number is on the message, as well as emergency contact information for when I am away. You can also email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will resume our regular worship schedule on Sunday, September 8 at 10 am in the sanctuary for our water communion (more on that in the September newsletter!).

June also marks the transition of our lay leadership. We hold our annual meeting after the service on June 9th, where the members of the congregation will, among other things, vote in the new members who signed the membership book, vote on our operating and cell tower budgets for next year, and vote in the slate of people who will serve in elected positions on the Standing Committee (our Board of Trustees); the Nominating Committee; the Board of Investment (which manages our endowment); our treasurer, assistant treasurer, clerk and collector. I would like to thank everyone who has served in these roles and is stepping down, those who are continuing in their roles, and to welcome those who will be stepping up into elected leadership. I appreciate the commitment of time and talent volunteered by our members that is essential for living into our congregational polity.

I wish everyone a healthy and happy summer.

--Rev Ellen

Rev. Ellen's Reflections, May 2019

The Rev. Ellen Rowse Spero

I had the honor and the joy this past Saturday to work with our Coming of Age youth and their mentors to plan their Coming of Age Service, scheduled for May 19th. As part of that, I got a preview of the wonderful credos the youth have prepared. They are a wonderful group of spiritual thinkers, artists, musicians, singers, poets, filmmakers, thespians, Scouts, athletes and overall wonderful young people, embodying our Unitarian Universalist faith now and for the future. As wonderful are their mentors: a group of adults from this community who volunteered their time and their wisdom to walk with our youth in preparing their credos.

I will be traveling to Portland, Oregon May 7 through May 10 to attend a training for a curriculum called “The Soul of Aging”. It is offered through the Center for Courage and Renewal, and follows the same format as “The Geography of Grace” but with a specific focus on the spirituality involved with growing older (and maybe wiser). As I shared in a sermon several years ago, “Coming of Age” is not something that happens in our lives just once, when we move from childhood to adolescence or adolescence to adulthood. We are “coming of age” all the time—whenever something happens in our lives that shifts the relationship with who we understand ourselves to be in the world. Some of our “Comings of Age” can begin in joy: marriage, parenthood, graduations, vocational and career success. Others in heartbreak and loss: illness, death and divorce. And some can be a mix, like retiring or moving. Our learning and growing as spiritual, ethical and religious persons spans our lifetime, if we are attentive to our souls. I have long been aware of this and it has been one of the joys of working with Dolores to have her as a partner and a teacher in this work. She and I, along with interested leaders and facilitators in the congregation, have been working to offer life span (from our youngest to our elders) faith formation opportunities in a more intentional and organized way. This is a conversation I actually began with Sadie, when she was our DRE and I am excited to see how we have been taking steps toward it each year. Expanding Dolores’ job title and responsibilities this year to include “Life Span” with “Faith Formation” shows our growing awareness that “coming of age” is indeed the work of a lifetime, and not just for our children and youth.

And “Coming of Age” is not just for individuals either. I believe our congregation also has “come of age” in some significant ways, whenever we discern together how to walk more faithfully in our covenant. Certainly, becoming a Welcoming Congregation and renewing that commitment and committing to and completing the building accessibility project are two examples of our congregational comings of age. I realize that several of my sermons this year have revolved around the theme of why people join a religious community like ours and how we meet that why. It often comes down to these two things: finding a community where we are accepted authentically for who we are and have our real gifts affirmed AND where we can connect in a meaningful way with others and with a sacred understanding or presence larger than ourselves. Meaning from within us meeting meaning among and beyond us.

We have lots to celebrate as this church year comes to a close: the Open House for the accessibility project; another concert with Steve and the talented musicians from our congregation; the Coming of Age service, and in June, the Milestones Service, Bridging and Flower Communion. Lots of comings of age!

--Rev Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133