Reflections 5/5/13

Many, many thanks to Tom Coffey and the Canvass Team, for leading our pledge drive. We count on pledges as a way to plan our fiscal commitments to our staff, our operations and physical plant, our committees, and our outreach. As I say each Sunday, we are a free church, no outside body tells us how we have to run our congregation. This also means that we are responsible for funding and running our church. What we are able to accomplish in our ministries to one another, to our community, and to our larger Unitarian Universalist faith is a direct result of what each of us can give of our time, talent and treasure. If you are able but have not made a commitment of your treasure to the pledge campaign, please do. If you have already, I thank you.

Many, many thanks also to Joan Keane and the May Breakfast team. It is always fun to be part of this event, which serves as both a fundraiser and a community builder. Again, I thank each and every one of you who participated, however you joined in, as volunteer or eater or Basket or fudge maker.

As we move toward summer, we have lots of special services and events. This Sunday, May 12th, we are taking our Unitarian Universalist witness on the road, to participate in the Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace. There will be a small service in the chapel for those who cannot go. Please note that there will be no religious education. Also, there will be no evening service. June 2nd will be the Welcoming Congregation’s Pride Sunday, June 9th will be a celebration of the bridging of our high school seniors and the milestones of our RE participants, and June 16th will be our Flower Communion service.

June 9th after the morning service will be our annual meeting. Here, we elect our officers, and vote on the budgets and other congregational business brought before the membership. The Standing Committee and I have been engaged in conversation with Beau Rivers, a UU ministerial student at Andover Newton Seminary. Originally, Beau had reached out to us to serve as her field education site. That would mean she would be here 15 hours a week for the 2013-14 academic year. However she asked if we would consider expanding this to meet the UUA requirement of a two year, 20 hour a week internship. I asked that she come meet with the Standing Committee, which she did. After a good conversation with her, the Standing Committee voted to offer her the two year internship, contingent upon the congregation’s support and willingness to fund a stipend out of the Cell Tower Two monies. The UUA recommends a stipend of $725/month for part-time interns. We voted to $20,000 to fund the full-time internship of Russ Menk who served last year. So, the Standing Committee and I will be asking the congregation to vote for the same amount, except for over two years. Beau is a former social worker and skilled in pastoral care. She has a quiet and thoughtful presence. She received solid recommendations from her references, including her Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor. I had first met Beau when I attended at class at Andover Newton during my sabbatical. She heard much about our congregation from me during the course, and would really like to come serve with us. If you have questions, or want me to share more about her background and journey to ministry, please feel free to contact me. Some of you may have met her when she attended worship with us last month.

Finally, I would like to thank the Mentoring Team: Carla Corey, Carrie Little, John Fisher and Sue Yates-Scott, and all the new members and longer term members, who served as mentors, for the successful pilot of our “Intentional UU” program. Several years ago, we started a conversation about mentoring new members. We want through a couple of different phases and finally put together test course, which paired new members with longer term members, and engaged them in conversations about being intentional and thoughtful about their Unitarian Universalism, exploring everything from the meaning of covenant to spirituality and ethics, to discerning one’s gifts and passions. If you are interested in participating in this program in the future, please let me know. I am also working with another team of lay leaders to pilot a similar program around leadership. We have a lot of exciting things happening at First Parish. I just love being here!

In faith,

Ellen

Reflections 4/7/13

Last month, I facilitated a book group discussion on The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan—an amazing historical and theological study of the last week of Jesus’ life as chronicled in the Gospel of Mark. In one chapter, Borg and Crossan discussed the prophetic tradition, begun by the Hebrew Prophets and embraced by Jesus, that emphasized how worship should reflect and commit us to God’s call for justice, rather than individual piety or salvation. The famous quote by Micah sums this up best:

“Will the HOLY ONE be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 The Holy One has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the HOLY ONE require of you?

To do justice and to love kindness

and to walk humbly (or attentively) with your God.”

Worship invites us through liturgy—song, prayer and meditation, chalice lighting, sermon, offertory—to lift up and name what has ultimate worth and meaning to us, what is worthy of our attention and our commitment. As Unitarian Universalists, our worship hopefully lifts up, names, and reflects our covenants, our Purposes and our Principles. Our worship should connect us deeply to our call to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and communities grounded in peace, liberty and justice for all.

On May 12th, I would like to invite us to hold our Sunday morning service at the Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace. Carla Corey and Jayne Boissonneault are organizing a team from First Parish to participate in the walk, in Dorchester, on Mothers’ Day. The Walk is sponsored by the Louis D. Brown Peace Center, which provides educational programs on peace and nonviolence to local schools, and support to families and communities who have lost loved ones to gun violence. The shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut left many of us reeling, wondering how to respond to such violence and destruction. For many families, the reality of such violence is a regular occurrence, one they live with in their neighborhoods and streets. We can respond by going where such violence and such loss are not aberrations, but part of the daily reality. We can bear witness through worship for justice and peace, by taking our service out of our sanctuary, and walking attentively with our neighbors, as well as the Spirit of Life.

There will be a worship service at First Parish for those who cannot go on the walk, and Dolores will be providing alternative programming for the Religious Education program. But I would encourage as many of us who can go, even if you can only walk a little bit of it, to sign up with Carla and Jayne, so we can walk as a congregation. There will be many other congregations there (including several Unitarian Universalist ones) and an interfaith service at the end, with an interfaith choir. The Director of the Peace Institute, Tina Chery, will be speaking at our worship service here on April 28th, and will have more details on the events of the day.

I am very excited about this opportunity to bend the moral arc of the universe a little bit more toward justice, to give and receive more love, more hope, more peace, and more joy not just somewhere, but where it is needed, where it matters.

In faith,

Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133