Reflections 4/1/12

4/1/12

This past Saturday, I co-facilitated a retreat with our Coming of Age youth and their mentors. On top of being great fun, it offered me an opportunity to witness to the wisdom, energy, and inspiration generated when Unitarian Universalist young people and adults work and play together.

As the members of the COA program will be leading the worship service on June 3rd, we spent some time on the meaning and planning of worship. Worship comes from the same root as the word, “worthy” and it means to lift up or celebrate what is of worth to us. In most religions, this means to lift up, celebrate, and honor God. Our faith, with its non-creedal tradition, is a little more diverse in what we lift up, name, celebrate, and honor as worthy of our loyalty, our praise, our commitment. It can be God, and is for some of us. But it is so much more and many different things: the wonder and beauty of nature; the celebration of life itself; the gifts of the human spirit; the practices of gratitude and hospitality; the challenge of bringing healing and justice to a hurting world; the seasons and cycles of our own lives and rites of passages; the facing together as a community of faith the moments of great joy or great sorrow, great celebration or great loss.

So, as we enter this holy week, holy for many of us because of our Jewish or Christian connections, or holy because of the season and its signs of rebirth and renewal, family, friends or even we may ask ourselves, what are we worshiping this week? We are lifting up, naming, and honoring the sacred stories of liberation (Passover), rebirth (the pagan Easter), and resurrection (the Christian Easter): that which brings life to life. In all three stories, life in some way appears to be over: through slavery and captivity; through the cold and darkness of winter; through death and utter hopelessness. And yet, the Spirit of Life bursts through to free a people, to bloom the earth, to bring Love to overcome death and despair.

Have a Holy Week. May it be worshipful for you, full of moments of hope, courage, meaning, and grace. In the words of William Blake may you: “…see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”

In faith,

Ellen

Reflections 03/04/12

3/4/12

Looking up the other day, I saw that the scaffolding is off the steeple! So, while it is not quite done, we are in the home stretch. It does look lovely.

Our building is one of our ministries. We might not think of our building that way, but let me explain, for ministry is service, and our building serves both our own and our larger communities. First, it is a ministry of stewardship. Our meetinghouse is a prominent symbol of the town of Chelmsford and its history. The banners around the common that say, “Welcome to Chelmsford” have pictures of our church. Our congregation’s beginnings and the town’s beginnings are linked all the way back to 1655. And we do take seriously our stewardship of this historic place.

Our building also ministers to the community. We rent or provide space to all kinds of groups that in turn serve others: the Open Door Nursery, the Girl Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, Table of Plenty, 4-H, the Middlesex Singers, the Buddhist Meditation Group to name a few. In the past, we have housed a Muslim community that met here until they were able to build a mosque of their own. Our parking lot serves as a significant part of the annual July 4th Town Fair, the Chelmsford Farmers Market, visitors to the cemetery, and other events on the common.

And our building ministers to us. It gives us a space to gather, to worship, to bear witness to the child namings, weddings, and memorial services, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and struggles we share with one another. It gives us the space to encounter the sacred, to give voice to our Unitarian Universalist faith and values, to find comfort in our times of need and challenge in our times of spiritual growth.

Many of the conversations we have had about our building center on its physical aspects: how to make more space, how to increase parking, how to add office. We have hired architects to look at our building and present us with plans based on our dreams of what we would like our building to be, inside anyway. The steeple has pulled us away from this focus for awhile, but that project is finishing up.

If we do return to conversations about our building, I would like us to consider our building as a ministry. We have been around the block so many times on the technical issues: how to increase parking; putting up dividers on the stage to create another classroom; converting a closet into office space; etc., etc. But what are the ministries of our building? And as currently constituted, how does our building serve us and our larger community effectively and ineffectively? Its history, its location, its beauty and simplicity are all strengths. Its inaccessibility, not just to people with handicaps, but in general, create barriers to welcoming and hospitality. If our building is part of our ministry, what are we and it called to do and be, as Unitarian Universalists? Perhaps this approach can help us discern what questions to ask and how best to answer them in ways that help our building express our ministries more effectively and more faithfully.

In faith,

Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133