Reflections 11/6/11


I have this idea of writing a reflection on “Occupy Boston” but keep being “overtaken by events”, in this case an October Nor’easter. So, instead, I have found myself reflecting on “Occupy First Parish.” This is not a protest movement but a search for lights, heat, and internet access. In the aftermath of snow, wind, and downed trees, of power outages that extended one, two, three, four or more days, First Parish became a literal sanctuary. I would come into work to find people dispersed around the building, with laptops and cell phones recharging. A community of sorts began to emerge: pots of coffee were made; a pineapple cake, a loaf of bread, crackers, soup, and soda appeared with notes to please eat; people chatted a bit as they worked in shared quarters; music wafted through the halls.  Tom Coffey and I agreed to leave the building open so people could get in and out. It reminded me of the story “Stone Soup” that Russ shared a couple of Sundays ago.

We will discuss in the Standing Committee how our building can serve intentionally as a sanctuary, should an event like this happen again (which, given the preponderance of weird and bad storms we have had in the last year, seems quite likely.) I know too that those with power opened up their homes for those without for a warm shower and a hot meal. As the week went on, the numbers went down as people got their power back and life began to slowly return to normal. But I was struck about our human capacity to create routines that will get us through difficult or unusual times together, to adapt to the discomfort and disruption. We are truly relational creatures, and our ability to survive depends upon hospitality and a spirit of sharing and abundance.

Speaking of which, Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. We will have our annual intergenerational Ingathering Service on Sunday November 20th. I plan to focus this service on how we help feed our community. We will, as is our tradition, collect food for the Greater Lowell Open Pantry food bank. Please bring non-perishable food donations, which we will bring to the front of the sanctuary as part of our service.  We will also hear about Community Table and have guest speakers from Table of Plenty.

We also have a couple of special evening services coming up. Our evening service is at 5:30 pm and meets in the chapel. Wonderful music is provided by volunteer musicians from the congregation. Generally, the sermon is the same as the morning service, only given in a smaller, circle worship setting. However, we will have some different evening services. This Sunday, November 13th, we will hold a healing service. We welcome anyone who feels they need support, prayer or healing thoughts. On November 20th, we will have a bread communion service. And on December 18th, we will hold our Longest Night Service, to bring some light to this time of cold and darkness. I hope that you join us.

-Rev. Ellen

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

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824