Reflections May 2017

We seem to have two “busy seasons” at First Parish: the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and the now through June 18th, our last regular service before we go on our summer schedule. During both, we have lots of special services and special events. For our spring season, we will have celebrations of our children and youth, the musical life of our congregation and close our church year with a flower communion. We also have our traditional events like the May Breakfast on May 6th (please come to volunteer and/or eat!) and the Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace on May 14th (  if you wish to register to walk or donate, you can do so at the Mother's Day Walk for Peace site).

 The busyness of this particular spring is increased as we prepare for the installation of a new elevator and bathrooms and reconfiguring of offices and classrooms in the RE wing. The Building Accessibility Task Force and members of the Department of the Interior have been meeting with lay leaders and staff to help prepare us for the upcoming renovations. This summer and fall will be steeped in practices of adaptability, patience, and lots of deep breaths. It will be amazing when it is all done to see what our discernment about our building and our UU values and covenant have created.

 It was about ten years ago that we held an all-congregational retreat facilitated by the Rev. Larry Peers. At this retreat, we reflected on our congregation’s story and helped bring new people (like me!) into our shared narrative. From it, we also developed our First Parish covenant, which played a role in discerning the decision to go ahead with renovations to make our building more handicapped accessible. As we prepare to finish this particular chapter in our congregational story, it seems a good time to pause and reflect—on what we have accomplished and where we go from here. The Standing Committee, the Committee on Ministry and I are planning another all-congregational retreat with Larry in the fall to do this reflecting, to invite our new members and friends to listen and contribute to our congregational story and touch base with our covenant. We have scheduled it for all-day Saturday, September 30th. Please hold the date, with details to come.

 In the coming weeks, we will also be preparing to say farewell to Justine, our intern minister. I cannot begin to thank Justine for all she has shared with us. It has been an honor for me to be her teaching pastor. I learned so much from her that “teaching pastor” feels like a misnomer. She has been my colleague in ministry these past two  years, and I will miss sharing the ministry of this congregation I love so much with her.


In faith,
Rev. Ellen

Reflections June 2017

This past Sunday, I reflected on the meaning of thresholds: stepping out of one way of doing or being into another, and how thresholds give us time to pause—to look back at what has been, to imagine what is in front of us, and to discern what to take with us and what to let go.

We are always at threshold moments, but now is a particularly “threshold-y” moment, if there was such a word. We just celebrated the Coming of Age service for seven of our young people: Dan, Bill, Emily, Isabella, Olivia, Artem, and Devin. Each of them presented a thoughtful and powerful credo that reflected their unique personalities and experiences, authentic and heart-felt expressions of themselves. Yet, underneath, they expressed common themes of the values and practices they learned growing up here: welcome; compassion; generosity; accompaniment; an open mind; questioning; and community. Their credos offer feedback for us about our religious education and faith formation program, our congregation and our living of UUism. This is what we are giving our kids to bring with them for living the world. It gives me hope. Dolores and I also met with our graduating seniors who will present their bridging speeches at the Flower Communion service on June 18th. Again, we will have an opportunity to hear from our young people, at the threshold of the next stage of their lives, share their perspectives.

We will be celebrating Justine’s threshold moment, as she ends her internship with us on June 18th and is ordained by her home congregation on June 11th. She will officially step from being a “student minister” to being an ordained one, although we all know she has been a minister already for quite awhile. Rituals like Coming of Age, Bridging and Ordination are ways to acknowledge truths we already know—that our young people are growing up, that one among us is ready to take on their call—but to name them as sacred as well as true.

Of course, we have been standing at the edge of a literal threshold for awhile now: renovating our building to make it more accessible. We are so close, we can see through the doorway.

About ten years ago, we had an all-church retreat, led by Larry Peers, which became the foundation for our current First Parish covenant. It was a threshold moment. I have asked Larry to come back to facilitate another all-church retreat next September 30th . As we stand at a threshold moment again, with all that is going on with our building, with Unitarian Universalism, and our country, it is a good time to revisit our congregational story, our congregational covenant. It is important that our covenant not just to be something we say but something that belongs to us, and to which we belong, something that guides and inspires us. It is time to bring new members and friends into the story and the covenant as a living thing, and to weave their stories and experiences in. Perhaps we will change the words, perhaps we will not. But there is value in pausing, to look back and see what is precious and important to bring with us, before we look forward again.


In faith,

Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824