Reflections 12/2/2012

All through the Thanksgiving holiday, I felt barraged by the blaring noise and glaring light of the ads for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Black Friday started at midnight sharp, giving people little time to digest their turkey before entering into the fray for toys and appliances. I felt as if the whole message of Thanksgiving—gratitude—had become lost, and that the messages of the winter holidays—hope, love, peace, freedom—are even more at risk.

One thing I love about the celebrations of this season, whether Christian, Jewish, or pagan, is their quiet and meditative spirit. Yes, there is joy and singing and good food. But each tells a story of a light that breaks the darkness—small at first, but growing, with each night of Hanukah, with each step closer of the wise men and shepherds to the stable, with each day growing a little longer as the earth tilts toward spring. The darkness allows for these lights to shine, and for the sacred hush that surrounds them. It forces us to focus on what can so easily get lost in the harsh brightness and activity of the day.

I love the fun activities of singing, baking, gift-giving and decorating. But I try not to lose sight of the season’s stories with their sacred hush, their spirit of peace, hope, freedom, and joy embodied in candles and stars, in birth and new life, in Love made flesh.

In faith, Ellen

Reflections 11/4/12

 Tumultuous Times

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for our country with Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 election sweeping through, creating much confusion and costing more money than any of us can comprehend. I am writing this before the results of the election are known, and with lawyers poised at the ready to challenge any close results, we may still not know by the time you read this. I hope otherwise, and that we are ready to move on.
Sandy and the election have some things in common: T.V. personalities with a tendency toward hype and drama; a high price tag in the billions of dollars; and consequences that will be with us for many years to come. The differences are significant too: Sandy brought people together and united the country in helping their fellow citizens. She cost much in lives and property, and revealed how fragile our lives can be in the face of Mother Nature. So powerful, she gave us a brief respite from election wrangling while our leaders attended to the business of helping their people get back on their feet.
Right now, attention and resources are focused on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast shoreline. Already, New Jersey and New York are ahead of where New Orleans, St. Bernard's Parish, and Plaqueman's Parish found themselves after Katrina, as their public officials did a much better job of preparing their people, evacuating the areas of impact, while the federal government did a much better job of responding immediately and fully. I hope that this is because of lessons learned from Katrina.
I know from my trips to New Orleans and St. Bernard's Parish to help with the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that the work of restoring what was destroyed by Sandy may take years. I suspect that the rebuilding efforts from Sandy will not rely quite so much on volunteers, and therefore may move faster, but we will see.
We will also need a rebuilding effort after the election, as politics has deeply divided this nation. Unlike Hurricane Sandy, the election has not brought us together as a people to work for what is best for the common good. Much of the election rhetoric has focused on creating fear and mistrust around what divides us: money, race, gender. Struggles for racial and gender equality that I thought were long over are being fought again. However the election turns out, I hope that the President elected focuses on helping our country move forward together, but I am not sure that politics will allow it. The consequences of this election will also be felt for years to come, in ways that we may not yet realize.
There are some things we can do to contribute to moving forward in both these events. Obviously, for the election, we can vote. And we can keep fighting for the right of all our eligible fellow citizens to vote and have their vote counted. For Sandy, we can give something of our treasure now, and maybe our time and talent in the future (yes, Joan Coyne and I are already thinking about rebuilding work in New Jersey...). This coming Sunday, November 11th, we will take up a special collection for the Central East Regional Group of the UUA Disaster Relief Fund, a Unitarian Universalist group focused on both relief efforts, and preparing for the clean up and rebuilding work to come. If you want to donate on your own, you can visit the website, http://www.cerguua.org/news/398-sandyrelief.html or send a check to CERG-UUA

100 W. 10th Street

Suite 1008

Wilmington, DE 19801. Please make the check out to CERG with "Disaster Relief Fund" on the memo line.
While Sandy has drawn our attention to the plight of those left homeless by the storm, hunger and homelessness are a daily reality for many of our fellow citizens. As is our tradition on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we will hold our Intergenerational Ingathering Service on November 18th where we will collect food and monetary donations for the Greater Lowell Food Pantry. Please bring your donations with you to the service (morning or evening) as we prepare to "gather in" a harvest for others as part of our worship.
Thank you in advance for your generosity in these areas, and in so many others, and for your gifts of time and talent, as well as treasure. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

In faith, Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133