Reflections 3/27/11

Many thanks to my colleague, the Rev. Jon Rehmus and to the Worship Committee for leading the morning service this past Sunday. I was with our Coming of Age youth, mentors, and facilitators for a retreat in Vermont. We talked about worship, credo writing, and bonded over "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and good food. I am so impressed with both our young people and the adults who volunteer to mentor them—their thoughtfulness, insight, good humor, and creativity are amazing. I am looking forward to the COA service on May 22nd.

Next Sunday's service kicks off the pledge drive for the 2011-2012 fiscal church year. As I say every Sunday (almost), we are a free church, a self-sustaining religious community. What we are able to do to live out our Unitarian Universalist faith within and beyond our congregation is a direct result of what each of us is able to give of time, talent, and treasure. We require all three to keep our congregation going and thriving. The Canvass Committee, led by Dennis Gray, will provide more information about pledging next Sunday, and the Fiscal Subcommittee of the Standing Committee has already begun to get feedback on a proposed budget. We will be asking members and friends to pledge what financial donation they think they will be able to offer over the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Based on these pledges, the members of the church will then review and vote on a budget at our annual meeting in June.

Pledging is one way we work with one another to live out our First Parish covenant. Obviously, being good stewards of our congregation falls under this category. However, pledging covers the whole of the covenant. It is a part of nurturing and sustaining our beloved community, bearing witness through service, and welcoming all souls. We couldn't do this work if we didn't take care of the building, pay the staff, and fund the committees and materials make them happen. Another piece is "being present to one another in our joys and sorrows." The economy is still struggling, and as a result, so are several of us. Part of being present in one another's joys and sorrows is taking turns in carrying one another in the best ways we can. Some of us can give more than our financial share, just as some of us can give more than our share of time or gifts or energy. Others of us need right now: need this community's presence and sanctuary. We all take turns with this. So the question I ask you to consider when you pledge is not "what is this community worth to me?" but "what is this Unitarian Universalist community worth to me, to those with whom I worship, and to the larger community?" I thank you for your commitment to First Parish and to Unitarian Universalism. I believe our presence and our voice are much needed in our world today.

My deepest gratitude to Bonnie Rankin, Johan MacKenzie, Laura Monteodorisio, Tom Coffey, Chris Sweetnam, Paul Windt, the Standing Committee, and all of you who contributed your time, talent, and sweets for the open house for our steeple. Getting caught in the middle of town politics is always a tricky business. I appreciate the graciousness and goodwill that all of you have displayed with reporters, town officials and officers, and citizens. It is not easy to have such scrutiny and assumptions of poor or bad intentions directed at our church.

In faith,

Rev. Ellen

Reflections 3/13/11

I would like to thank you for participating in the special collection to send to the Red Cross to help with rescue efforts in Japan. Several families in our church have family and friends there, and are personally affected by the disasters there. So far, everyone they know is safe, but it is still emotionally frightening to hear about loved ones so close to danger. The enormity of the earthquake and the tsunami are frightening and humbling for all of us, a reminder that the earth is capable of such destructive forces, as natural as they may be. There are things for which no amount of preparation can protect us.

When I planned the special collection for this past Sunday, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee had not organized any relief fund. If you are interested in donating to relief efforts through the UUA, here is the information:

Following Friday’s devastating earthquake and resulting tsunamis, the UUA has been in contact with our religious partners in Japan to express our concern and our willingness to partner with them in recovery efforts.  Our partners, including Rissho Kosei-kai, Tsubaki Grand Shrine, the Konko Church of Izuo, the Tokyo Dojin Church, and the Japan Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom are all in discernment about the specific efforts they will be taking to support recovery work, and the UUA will walk with them in the directions that are ultimately chosen.  Please join with UUs throughout the United States by contributing to the UUA’s Japan Relief Fund which will support the work that our Japanese partners pursue.
You can go to their website, to donate.

Meanwhile, I offer the meditation I shared on Sunday morning by Theresa Novak, found in Without or Without Candlelight, a Skinner House meditation manual edited by Victoria Safford. Prayer never hurts.

Pray with me now,
if you will.
I think
we need
to pray.

Pray with me now.
Not out to some great intervener,
a handsome stranger
coming to the rescue.
You don't have to barter your soul,
your mind, your free and restless spirit.
Pray with me now.

We need to pray loudly sometimes,
giving voice in word or gesture
to the urgent fires within our hearts.

Screaming out, "Why this?"
"How long?"
Screaming out for help, for courage.
Outrage rumbles through our veins
and the pulse of our prayer is ragged.

Pray with me now,
if you will,
I think
we need

We need to pray softly sometimes,
our silent bodies held still,
a quiet hope, rising in the wind,
blowing about the world in wonder.

Pray with me now.
Pray silently or out loud.

Our very prayers are an answer,
the pulse of life, of hope,
in our oh so human hearts.
May our prayers be heard.
to pray.

p.s The latest Table of Plenty newsletter offers thanks to individuals from First Parish and our congregation as a whole, information about an upcoming fundraising concert by the Tervos, and a guest column written by yours truly. If you are interested, you can read it on their website,

In faith,
Rev. Ellen

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824