Reflections 6/2/12

My younger son, Henry, will turn ten years old this month. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. I remember during my second or third month here as your new minister nervously standing before you to share the news of my (unexpected) pregnancy, and the warmth and joy with which you received it, as well as the care and love you have since shared with me and my family.

If Henry is turning ten, then it must mean that I am finishing up my tenth year as your parish minister. In the same way, I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. I continue to be grateful and honored to serve my call here at First Parish.

Larry Peers, my clergy coach, asked me at our meeting this past week what now, ten years in, is the “generative work” of my ministry. When I first came, my main work was listening: listening to your hopes and dreams; listening to where we needed to do work of healing and work of celebrating. Then, we worked together on articulating a congregational covenant: naming the ways we wanted to walk together as a Unitarian Universalist community of faith: honoring and celebrating, nurturing, caring and being present, bearing witness through service, and being good stewards. Now I see the generative work of my ministry as walking with you in discerning what it means to intentionally be Unitarian Universalist: as individuals and as a congregation. To embrace, to celebrate, and to take seriously Unitarian Universalism not only as a religion that can and does make a difference for good in our world but as a religious identity that we can deepen and grow into in meaningful and powerful ways. This theme has underlay much of what I have witnessed this year: conversations in various committees about their work, particularly in the Standing Committee, the RE Council and the Membership Committee; conversations about our building and how it serves us and hinders us in living out our UU covenants; reflections from folks on their experiences in New Orleans, the Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace, the Pride Parade, and other moments of bearing witness; deep caring for one another in a year of many pastoral crises—embodied by the rides given, the visits made, the meals delivered, the cards sent, the prayer shawls woven, blessed and given out; in your generous response to the pledge canvass and the dedication of the canvass team; and the piloting of the “Intentional UU” program, offering new members mentoring by long term ones.

As we prepare to close out our “regular” church year and begin our summer worship schedule, I look forward to continuing to listen and engage with you about being intentional about our Unitarian Universalist faith; how we can live it more deeply and meaningfully. With plenty of fun and joy, as well as thought and commitment. And I thank you again for another wonderful year, with gratitude for the last ten, and hope and anticipation for the ones to come.

In faith,

Ellen

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

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133