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

Reflections 01/04/2015

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2015! I hope that everyone had a good holiday. After a month of specials services and special events, things are returning to as normal as they get at First Parish.

I have a couple of different things to share in my reflections for this month. First, a warm welcome and enthusiastic congratulations to Steve Zocchi, who is now our permanent music director! Many thanks to the Music Director Search Team (Will Reiter, Carlene Merrill, Dave Kaffine, Sam Morse, Dee Halzack and Jane Collins) for a thoughtful survey and leading of cottage meetings that led to their recommendation that the Standing Committee hire Steve. We have a lot to look forward to with music in worship. It is always nice when things turn out to be quicker and easier than planned!

Second, I have been thinking a lot about the discourse and discord on race and racism in our country, after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the "Black Lives Matter" protests that followed. The political landscape has become even more charged, as other black youth and men died due to police violence and two police officers (neither of them white) were shot in cold blood by a black man in apparent response to the other deaths. I am receiving a steady stream of invitations to attend protest rallies, workshops, and other events. A couple of you have already committed to attending the workshop series on Race, Violence and Peace sponsored by the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. Others of you have attended rallies in support of "Black Lives Matter". Here are two more, hosted by fellow Unitarian Universalist congregations: On Wednesday, January 21st, from 7 pm to 8:30, the First Church Unitarian of Littleton is sponsoring a panel discussion with police chiefs from area towns (hopefully, Littleton, Acton, Groton, Ayer, and Westford)about their thinking and responses to what is happening nationally. We are all invited. Also, Andrea Long passed on an invitation to all of us from her friend, Nancy Kates, from the First Parish Church of Groton to attend a meeting of their Justice Working Group on Sunday, January 25th at 11:30. Several of you attended a vigil for "Black Lives Matter" on Christmas Eve afternoon with me at First Parish in Groton. This is their follow up to that vigil. This is the text of their invitation: As a part of a newly forming Justice Working Group at FPCOG of interested people, we are intent on learning the best way to use our talents, strengths and passion to effect change and protect all human life. Our goals are developing a dialog with other churches, helping each other with program ideas, and in general working together to make sure we use our privileged status to be a positive influence only... please pass this on to a like-minded group in Chelmsford or invite interested people to join our group. I would like to offer an invitation of my own for those of you who are interested in brainstorming with me what we can do to connect with the larger UU responses to the realities of institutional racism in our country, to learn more about intercultural competency as a practice to live in our increasingly multicultural, multiracial society, and to share questions or concerns about the growing polarization around whose lives matter. This is the work of years and not one meeting, but we need to begin somewhere. So, join me if you can, Sunday, January 18th after the morning service. More details to follow as I figure them out!

Finally, I am planning to take a three-month sabbatical, beginning in mid-January 2016. Sabbatical time is part of my letter of call with the congregation, offered to me as a way to support the health and energy of my continued ministry with you by giving me an intentional time for rest, renewal, and reflection. This will be my second sabbatical, so we have been through the experience before. The time to start preparing is now. I have been talking with the Committee on Ministry and the Standing Committee, and will be putting together a sabbatical committee, to plan coverage in my absence and discuss how both I and the congregation can use this time. If you are interested in this, please let me know. Also, feel free to ask me any questions or share any concerns you have.
Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824