Reflections 12/04/11


First, a big congratulations and exhale for another wonderful Holiday Fair. Thank you to each and every one of you who contributed time, talent, and/or treasure to make this such a success. I offer my deepest appreciation to Bonnie Rankin and Ami Hughes, who co-chaired this whole event. The Holiday Fair is much more than a fundraiser. It is a community builder on several levels. It brings together members of the church to make the Fair happen. I saw a wonderful mix of experienced hands and new faces working at the tables. It also brings back people year after year, within and beyond our congregation. The vestry especially was packed all day, and the positive energy was palpable.

I would also like to thank you for your donations to the Greater Lowell Open Pantry and the Table of Plenty at our Thanksgiving service. In addition to a van load of food, we raised $2000, which we split evenly between the two. I would also like to acknowledge Gail Pickering, who has overseen our monthly Open Pantry collections for the last few years. She has stepped down, after doing a marvelous job. We welcome Patience Merullo as the new coordinator for this work.

The Holiday Fair, the sanctuary decorated with greens, preparations for the Pageant on December 18th, our upcoming Christmas Eve Candlelighting services: we are definitely jumping into the holiday season with both feet. But bustling activity and bright lights are not all there is to Christmas. With the cold days and the long, dark nights, this is also a time of vulnerability as well as wonder, fear as well as hope, longing and sadness as well as joy. At our evening service on December 18th, we will hold our annual Longest Night service, to bring some light to the dark night of the soul.

At this time of year and at any time of year, I want to let you know that I am here to listen and to be of support. Our church is growing, with a lot of things going on. But I am not too busy—especially to provide a listening ear. Please, please know that. If it is not silly or small to you, if it is hurting, then it won’t be silly or small to me. It is one of the important reasons you called me to be your minister. We also have a wonderful Pastoral Care Team: Chris Boucher, Erica Boucher, Lynne Cole, Carrie Little and Liz Peterson. They meet regularly with me for training and outreach, and they are also available to listen. And we are blessed to have Russ Menk, our intern minister as well. This is a place where we are asked to care for others, but it is also a place where people care for us.

-Rev. Ellen

Reflections 11/20/11


As far as the retail world is concerned, Thanksgiving is a small distraction between the frenzy of Halloween and Christmas. Each year, less and less attention is paid to this day, except as the day before a major shopping spree (with the exception of the grocery store: getting there requires a helmet, body armor, and a very, very patient and positive attitude). Thanksgiving doesn’t require “stuff” so it becomes the lonely cousin in all the holiday hubbabaloo.

I personally love Thanksgiving, aware as I am of its complicated mythology. I love a holiday that we celebrate as a nation that honors gratitude as sacred across different religions and ethnicities. I would like to reprint here the words by my colleague, Daniel Schatz, minister of the BuxMont UU Fellowship in Warrington, PA. He noted that the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday is not related to the mythologized feast of plenty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Rather, it was President Abraham Lincoln who instituted the holiday in 1863, one of the worst years in our country’s history, when it was rent by the Civil War that had already cost the lives of a half-million people, almost 15% of the U.S. population at the time. It was a time of death, of violence, of scarcity and of suffering. Schatz writes: “The real Thanksgiving has its origins not in plenty but in deprivation; not in peace but in hardship. The real spiritual discipline of thanksgiving is not to ignore suffering but to fully acknowledge it, work to alleviate it, and yet still give thanks. It is to find reason for gratitude even in pain or chaos. It is to look deeper into the fabric of our world and see blessings where we thought none could exist. True thanksgiving is born of hardship as much as of joy, for it is in hardship that we realize and appreciate the foundations of our lives—the community and the spirit that keeps us going, the smallest blessings thrown into relief, the tiniest seeds of hope that unfold in us when we thought all hope to have fled. True thanksgiving looks life in its fullness and finds reason for gratitude.”

Our congregation has been blessed by an influx of young ones. A couple of parents have asked me in passing about having their child dedicated. I would like to invite families to consider having their children dedicated at our early Christmas Eve service. Please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 978 256-5555.


-Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824