Reflections 8/29/11


I hope that everyone made it safely through Tropical Storm Irene. I know that several of you live near rivers, so I hope basements and homes weren't too wet nor tree limbs falling. Pastor Ella called me from New Orleans, worried about our well being. She promised she would come up and help us rebuild if necessary. I reassured her that we were mainly just very wet, and that Irene was no Katrina. I know that up north, out west and on the coast, the impact was much greater. Even a weak hurricane is a powerful show of nature, a reminder that we are part of it, and not above it.

Every September brings with it changes. When I step back in the pulpit, I see how our children and youth have grown. I see new faces and new families. I see also who is not there: those who have moved away or moved on. I remember and miss the faces of those who have passed on: Norm, Pat, Hal, Jane, Mark, Shirley, Roy, Aaron...the list grows a little each year. And my heart still clutches at their absence.

This year, we will see something we have not seen for several years: significant transitions in our staff. As she writes in her letter in this newsletter, Sadie has decided to stay home full-time with her family. We have been very blessed by her presence. She and we have grown together in a lot of ways. She came here straight from college. She presented an exciting and invigorating vision for our religious education program. She brought creativity and energy, competence and organization. Together with the Religious Education leaders and volunteers, she helped us create a strong and healthy religious education program for our children and youth. We saw her through personal changes of marriage and family. We also saw her through professional changes, as she became a credentialed Director of Religious Education, and a leader among her DRE peers. Sadie has helped us build a strong foundation for RE. We are in a position to reflect together all we have accomplished in her eight years here, and to support her in her decision to do what is best for her and her family at this time in her life. I have full confidence in the RE Council and leaders, volunteers, and in our children and youth to work together during this transitional time. We are coming from a place of strength and accomplishment.

We also are welcoming Russ Menk as our ministerial intern. While our congregation has mentored interns before, it has been over a decade. And it will be my first experience as a ministerial supervisor. Russ brings a fresh and energizing presence, a new and different voice. He is full of enthusiasm and ideas. He brings a lot of experience of life in UU congregations and in the larger world. I am excited and delighted that he will be joining us for this church year. We will have a special welcome for him and his wife, Jackie, at our social hour after our opening worship on September 11th.

Some notes for our opening Sunday and beyond. Our opening Sunday coincides with the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th. To honor and to remember, I will be holding a service at 9 am in the sanctuary to offer a time of reflection and quiet prayer and meditation. At 10:45, we will hold our traditional opening Sunday worship with the water communion. I invite you to bring a little water to share from something or somewhere special to you to pour into our common bowl. The goal of the common sharing is not to list the places we've been but to offer a brief reflection on what of your spirit is symbolized by it. It may be something of healing, of hope, of starting anew, of accomplishment, of anticipation. of loss, of sorrow, of joy. What of your spirit are you bringing to this new church year?

For those of you who enjoy the evening services, we will begin those again on September 18th, at 5:30 pm. These informal, circle worship services meet in the chapel.

Many thanks to Lynne Cole and the Worship Committee, and those who led services over the summer. Worship matters and I am grateful to all of you who keep it going during the break. And I am really looking forward to seeing all of you soon. I miss us!

In faith,

Reflections 6/19/11


Last Sunday, June 12th, I was invited to speak by the Chelmsford Conservation Land Trust at the anniversary event for Bartlett Park. Ms. Harriet Bartlett, who donated the land to the town of Chelmsford, was a member of First Parish. When trying to decide what to do about this piece of land, she consulted with the Reverend Roland Morin, who advised her about land trusts. And so, the lovely piece of green in the middle of the confusion of Chelmsford center has this connection to First Parish.

At this event, I had the privilege of meeting retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He also has a connection to Bartlett Park, and was the keynote speaker at this event. He shared with me his affection for our steeple. When he was commuting home from Washington, D.C., he could see our steeple from 495 and knew that he was almost home. It was a “welcome home to New England” sign for him. Just something to keep in mind as we go through this restoration project.

We are now shifting to a summer schedule. Worship services will be held at 9 am and will meet in the chapel. Most will be lay-led. I will lead one summer service, on August 28th. By popular request, it will be a PET BLESSING. You can bring your actual pet or a favorite stuffed animal or a picture of your pet, if your pet does not social events. Also, we will have a time to remember pets who have passed away. More on this closer to the day.

I will be attending General Assembly this year in Charlotte, NC, along with several members of the church, as well as Sadie and Jill. I leave Tuesday, June 21, and return Saturday, June 25th. The Reverend Cindy Worthington-Berry from First Parish United in Westford will be on call for me. I will also be available by email and cell phone.

I will be around most July, available as needed for pastoral care, committee meetings, planning sessions, washing dishes, and other church related things.  I will not be keeping regular office hours, but you can reach at home or by email. I will be on vacation July 31 through August 21. I will give out emergency coverage information closer to that time.

Thank you, thank you for another wonderful church year. Eight, nine or whatever number of years it is, my heart still lifts when I stand up at the beginning of a service and see you all in the congregation. You are a blessing to me. And thank you for your generous contributions of time, talent, and treasure of the year. Special thanks for yet another generous special collection. We raised over $1350 to send for tornado relief to our sisters and brothers in the Springfield area. I look forward to the next church in September with all it brings. By then, we will have (at least partially) a restored steeple. We will be welcoming Russ Menck as our ministerial intern. Meanwhile, have a wonderful, restful summer.

-Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824