Reflections 1/1/12


While it is a new calendar year, it is almost half way through the church year. We had a very full first half: major work on the steeple, the resignation of our Director of Religious Education, Sadie Kahn-Greene, and the arrival of our intern, Russ Menk. All this in addition to the normal church activities and events. The Thanksgiving-Christmas season is always special to me with its music, pageantry, and candlelight. It is a thoughtful, gratitude-filled time, both solemn and joyful. But now, we return to “ordinary” time.

Mid-year is a good time to see where we are, to evaluate and perhaps reset our expectations. The steeple work is coming along, but taking longer than originally proposed. Please remember to be careful around the kitchen and front entrances, when the steeplejacks are working.

Progress continues in the search for a new DRE. More information on this can be found elsewhere in the newsletter. But I want to take a moment to honor and thank the work of the Religious Education Council, the RE Youth Council, all the RE volunteers, teachers, and children and youth, and Jill Hayes. You all have done a wonderful job keeping our religious education program spiritually vital.

Russ has brought us his many gifts and new perspective. He is now entering the second and final half of his internship with us. I appreciate how seriously you have taken your role as a teaching congregation. You have much to teach about ministry—not just to Russ but to me.

A quick note: I will begin a religious education class on Jesus, beginning this Sunday, January 8th, after church at 12:15. Our first meeting will be in the chapel. This class is open to adults, youth, college age, anyone who wants to learn more about Jesus, how he is portrayed in the Bible, and who he can be for us as Unitarian Universalists. This class is running in parallel to the Sunday School doing the “Market Place 29 AD”, which examines life in the time of Jesus.

I received the following journal reflection from Heron Dance. Rather than focusing on resolutions, or making commitments we rarely can keep (or at least I can’t seem to—whether it is to lose 10 pounds or keep my office clean), it invites us to consider what we have learned over the past year that we might bring out in the new. I offer it here:

“I think back over the year past. What worked? What didn’t? 

Big plans didn’t work. Small ones did. Going inside worked: seeking the silence.

Expectations of others—having high expectations of others, of myself, didn’t work. Getting emotional didn’t work. I was sometimes successful hiding it, but anger seemed to well up inside me when I encountered uncomfortable truths about myself, my life. Catering to my desires didn’t work. I did some chasing of illusions. 

Doing before thinking didn’t work out very well.

Acceptance worked. Avoiding confrontation, seeking peace worked. Simplicity worked.

Love worked. Anger didn’t. Patience worked. Focusing on the basic structure of my life produced better results than reacting to this or that circumstance. Changing the structure rather than funneling the energy into disputes worked. 

Once again, the deepest, most profound moments of the year were in wild nature, especially paddling a river.”

Happy New Year! -Rev. Ellen

Reflections 12/18/11


First, congratulations to the Religious Education participants for their wonderful pageant: the publicity, the photography, the music, the costumes and props, and the play itself. Many thanks to all who made it happen, especially Peggy Stephens-North and Jill Hayes. Each year, something beautiful is created by our children and youth to tell the stories of the season, and this year was no exception.

A couple of notes about upcoming services and holiday schedules. In addition to our traditional Christmas Candle Lighting Services this Saturday, we will have Sunday morning services on both December 25th and January 1st. There will be no evening services. December 25th, we will meet in the vestry for a “Pancakes and Carols” service. January 1st, we will turn from the old year to the new.

I will restart the Bible classes again, on Sunday January 8th through February 5th.This round we will meet AFTER church, in Room 3, at 12:15. The focus will be on Jesus and the Gospels. Both adults and youth are most welcome. We have a good time!

At our Longest Night Service, Sally Seekings read the following as a chalice lighting. It is by the Reverend Mark Belletini, from his meditation manual, Sonata for Voice and Silence:

Grey skies over my head,
Throw yourselves like quilts over my busy life
And remind me to sit down and rest.
Stars of winter,
Orion’s sash sparkling across the heavens,
Remind me by your distance that,
Compared to the infinity of the universe,
Every single thing I struggle with on earth is small, parochial and hardly universal in scope.
Great music of the season, glowing with angel songs and filigreed with great mysteries,
Remind me that my own birth, like the births of all the people in this room, was no less
mysterious than that ancient and celebrated birth, no less brimming with wonder,
For all children that come into the world have lives as precious to them as Jesus’ life was
precious to him. So now, come, Love greater than my longing,
Silence greater than fatigue of tongues,
And haul my heart away from the undue frenzy of the season,
And bestow it to rest, proportion and the haunting dark beauty of winter’s long nights.

Josh, Sam, Henry, and I wish you all the wonder and mystery, music and grace of this season. Remember to step back from the frenzy to embrace both the light and dark beauty around us.

-Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824