Reflections 10/23/11


Evidence that the moral arc of the universe is long but that it does bend toward justice: I was on a panel with four other clergy at the Sexual Orientation and Religion Conference, sponsored by the Student Pride Alliance at U-Mass Lowell. In addition to me, there was a rabbi, a Lutheran pastor, a UCC seminarian and a Buddhist priest. And I was the only straight person on the panel. I could truly point to our Unitarian Universalist faith as the one that led the way with welcoming and ordaining openly gay and lesbian clergy, beginning in the 1970’s and 80’s. Twenty something years later, the arc has bent a little more to now include the religious traditions of these other clergy.

Thinking about this, I realize that transformation is not necessarily something that happens immediately with a thunderclap. Perhaps transformation, especially transformation in the bend toward justice, is happening all the time, but we only glimpse it in moments of realization that despite it all, things are fundamentally different in ways that we could not have imagined previously.

Some other completely unrelated notes. First, a reminder to those of you attending the Sunday morning Bible class, we are NOT meeting on October 30th. We will resume on November 6th, when we will look at the story of Hagar and Sarah. New folks are welcome. We meet at 9 am upstairs in Room 3.

November 6th will be our All Souls Remembrance Service. Every year, we read the names of those we love who have died in the last year. If you would like me to include a name on the Circle of Remembrance list, please leave it in the box outside my door, or send me an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On November 13th, the Worship Committee and I will be leading a healing service at the 5:30 pm Evening Service. The goal, as I spoke about in my sermon on healing, is not to “fix” or “cure” anyone but to offer a community of listening, prayer, and blessing to those of us who are hurting in mind, body, or soul. This is a way that through worship and ritual, we can live out the line of our covenant of caring and being present to one another. Please join us if you are so moved.

Finally, some of you may have noticed that we have not held “Lunch with the Rev.”, a monthly luncheon that was hosted by the Caring Connection. The Caring Connection can no longer host this, due to its current membership all having week day commitments. If you are interested in working with me to continue this luncheon, please let me know: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 978-256-5555. You would need to be available on the third Tuesdays of the month, from 12:30 to around 1:30 to set up and clean up tables, make a pot of coffee, and to provide a dessert.

-Rev. Ellen

Reflections 10/9/11


Let me begin with a couple of notes. First, Sadie’s resignation is now a reality and she has left. We have a strong religious education program and leadership, and I have full confidence that we will be fine in offering wonderful religious education for our children and youth. That said, I imagine that there may still be feelings and questions about Sadie’s resignation. If you do have questions or feelings you want to share, please feel free to contact me. I may not be able to offer answers, but I can always listen.

Second, I have been asked to be on an interfaith panel for a conference entitled “Sexual Orientation and Religion” this Saturday, October 15th at UMass Lowell. The conference is sponsored by the Pride Alliance at UMass-Lowell. I feel very honored to be asked to represent Unitarian Universalism at this event. The conference runs from 9 am until 1:30 pm and will take place at the UMass-Lowell Inn and Conference Center, 50 Warren Street, in Lowell. The focus will be a film entitled “Because the Bible Tells Me” which examines what the Bible teaches and does not teach about homosexuality.

Third, speaking of the Bible, I am offering a Sunday morning Bible class, 9 am in Room 3. We read and discuss well-known biblical stories, see also how they are portrayed in art, music and literature and explore traditional and alternative interpretations. Adults and youth are all welcome. This Sunday, October 16th, we will be looking at the story of Cain and Abel. This is a drop-in, come when you can class. Bring your coffee and your imagination!

Last weekend ended the holiest week in the Jewish year: the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On October 2nd, I reflected on the meaning of this holy week and teshuvah, the Hebrew word for repentance, for the sermon at the evening service. Here is an excerpt from that sermon:

Arthur Waskow tells this Rosh Hashanah story. He saw an ancient rock from the wall of the old city Jerusalem that had the letters LEG X carved in it. This was the mark of the 10th Roman Legion which had conquered the city and destroyed the temple. Thousands of years later, after the Romans were long gone, this rock was taken and used as the stand for a street lamp in the city. Seeing this, Waskow muses: “This is the eternal task of our people–to keep turning stone back into light. And that is what this Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world comes to tell us. A new year has been born and is waiting to be shaped by us into a season of healing, for ourselves and those we love, but not only for them” (p. 6 in Rosh Hashanah Readings, Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, ed.). I find that image so powerful, this idea of taking what is stone and shaping it into light. If we could understand repentance, teshuvah, the work of a new year, the work of our souls, as taking the stones that weigh us down and pull on us and hold us back and cause us to carry heavy burdens and grudges, if we could take those stones and reshape them and create out of them light, imagine, imagine the lightness of our spirits and beauty and healing of our world. One thing we do share with Judaism is this idea that how we choose to live our lives truly matters. We are given this gift of life, with all its joy and heartbreak, and we choose whether to honor it as a sacred gift or to wear it is a stone around our necks. Life is not easy and there are plenty of times of heaviness and burden. Our task as a religious community is to engage with one another and with the holy and sacred as we each know it to turn those stones into light. It is not a task that we can do on our own, for we are relational creatures, connected to one another and to the creation and to that sacred mystery that we know by so many names. So in this season of turning, I invite you to consider how it is with your soul, and the stones that weigh you down. I invite us all to help one another leave the stones upon the path or to find ways to turn them into light.

-Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824