Reflections 04/04/15

Amazingly, it is Easter Week! I feel like it kind of snuck up on me. Perhaps it is the piles of snow that belie the other signs of spring. But I do hear birds in the morning (they are obviously ready!) and I have seen pictures of people's snowdrops,
blooming in the shelter of melted spots on their lawn. While the siege of winter is very slowly receding, it is receding. The Passover and Easter celebrations of liberation, new life, and resurrection seem especially apropos. We will honor this holy week with our Tenebrae Service on Thursday evening at 7 pm and an intergenerational celebration of Spring, Passover, and Easter on Sunday, with all the choirs!
A couple of notes as we enter what has become an increasingly busy season of celebrations, both at church and in our lives. First, Commit2Respond, a coalition of Unitarian Universalist organizations and congregations and other communities of faith have joined together to educate and advocate for climate justice. Commit2Respond grew out of the desire to do more from the UUs who attended the People's Climate March in September (which several folks from First Parish attended). With the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UUA, and the Unitarian Universalist Ministers' Association, Commit2Respond has declared March 22 to April 22 "Climate Justice Month" and has asked UU congregations to raise awareness not only about climate change but about climate justice—not just focusing on environmentalism but the impact of climate change on vulnerable human and species populations and seeking to build community-based, relationship based solutions and responses that don't just change things on an individual level but contribute to real and meaningful shifts in our relationships with each other and the earth. Commit2Respond offers all kinds of resources for worship, study, and social action. Joan Coyne, chair of our Faith in Action Council, has been sending out information from Commit2Respond to those on the Faith in Action email list and posting on our Twitter account and Facebook page. Dolores and Cori Rose have been working with our children and youth to explore environmental justice in the religious education program, complete with a field trip to area wetlands this past Sunday. And you may have been asked to sign a pledge to lower your carbon footprint in
social hour by one of our RE participants. Dolores, Steve, and I are planning an intergenerational service for Climate Justice Month on April 12th where we will explore with our different senses the four elements and commit ourselves to care for the earth. The UU School of Rock will play. (By the way, this is an example of faith formation—where we as a community are learning together across different ages and groups how to live out our UU faith and principles.) For more information, you can to go www.commit2respond.org or www.uusc.org.
Also, on a totally different subject, I was finally able to gather and meet the group of folks who have volunteered to serve on the Sabbatical Committee for my sabbatical next winter. At our first meeting, we discussed the purpose and work of the committee. Their primary role is communication—preparing materials and information in advance of the sabbatical to let members know who to talk with about what in my absence; to listen to concerns or questions from members of the congregation about the sabbatical; and to be the "go-to" folks for questions while I am on sabbatical. They will also be working with me, the Worship Committee, the Pastoral Care Team and our intern to figure out coverage for worship and pastoral care. I have also asked them to think about what sabbatical time can be for the congregation. Are there ways for all of us to "step back and breathe"? What roles do the sabbatical create for folks in the congregation to step up and try on? Who are other voices in our own and our larger UU communities to bring to the pulpit? Our congregation has been through two ministerial sabbaticals before, including one with me, and we have lots of experience. The Sabbatical Committee has a couple of seasoned veterans from past committees. I imagine everything will be fine. If you do have questions or concerns though, feel free to ask me, or to reach out to members of the Sabbatical Committee: Jayne Boissonneault, Carla Corey, Sandy Johnston, Sarah Manning, Donna Mitchelson, Suzanne Wilson and Leslie Yaukoes

Rumor has it will be 65 degrees on Friday.
–Rev Ellen

Reflection 3/1/15

The month of February has felt very discombobulated to me. I am glad it is March. I hope that the ratio of snow to melting will now turn more towards melting and less towards snow, although for the sake of our homes, I hope that the melt is slow.

Part of my discombobulation was having to cancel worship services two Sundays in a row. As slushy as it was, I was very glad to see everyone who could make it in these last two Sundays for either the morning or evening services. I know many of you were still iced or snowed in and could not risk the drive and I appreciate that you put safety first. I offer my appreciations to Edith Murphy for organizing our parking lot shuttle, to John Schneider and Neil Harmon for being our drivers, and to all of you who gave it a try. Although we did have a front loader and a dump truck come and remove a lot of the snow from our lot, our parking is still constrained so I continue to encourage us to try out the shuttle system.

In the midst of preparing for this past Sunday's evening service, I came across this reflection on Lent by Unitarian Universalist minister Clarke Dewey Wells from his 1975 Lenten manual, The Strangeness of this Business: "I think the liturgical tradition of Lent is a gift, a garment for storm, survival apparel. Our individual dying's and Bea Cummings are given a voice, wisdom, companionship in a story and a heritage larger than the isolation and pain of our unconnected cells. We don't have to be religious or Christian to enter into Lent, only human. Since we're all in the club, I invite you to join me in traversing the season of faith, self-examination, and hope." As I read this, I thought we certainly could use some garments for the storm, apparel for survival. It has been that kind of winter, where a Lenten season has almost beenimposed upon me. The snowstorms have provided me an opportunity to slow down and do a bit more thinking and reflecting that I normally have time for, and in between all the shoveling and having to wear boots and coats and hats and scarves to go outside for even a few minutes, I found the reflective time to be helpful. But it's also been a bit disconnecting. That is why I realize that leading worship and being part of a worshiping community is so important to me. It is in worship, in the celebration of, lifting up, and naming what is worthy of my deepest commitment and loyalty, that I am reconnected with the sacred ties that bind me to the people I love, to the rest of the human community, to the creation, to the larger Love I call God, to the voice and wisdom and companionship of a larger story and a larger heritage. As I told the youth in our coming-of-age program last Sunday, the word religion shares its root with the word ligament, and is about the re-tying and the re-connecting with what matters most, what is most deeply held, worthy of our commitment and loyalty, with what gives us life.

So as I pause in the season of Lent to reflect on what sustains my faith and offers me hope in traversing life and all its storms, I offer my sincere and deepest gratitude to all of you for being our community of worship, for giving me the great privilege of leading with you, creating with you, singing and dancing with you, praying and meditating with you, bearing witness with you to the sacred ties that bind us together.

In faith,
Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133