Dear First Parishers,

I had hoped that my last newsletter column before summer would be just that—a “have a happy summer” with gratitudes for the last year and information about summer goings-on for when folks are in town. I had hoped that the summer would bring a time for all of us to step back, get outdoors, and breathe a little easier in the face of the pandemic.

 We all knew that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade when the draft opinion was leaked earlier in May. So it was no surprise. And yet, it still felt like a gut punch when the news broke last week. Since then, I have been moving between anger, grief, and resignation. That this decision comes swiftly after the Supreme Court’s undermining of states’ rights to institute gun control only added insult to injury. The decision also sets up the possibility of curtailing women’s rights to access birth control as well equal marriage and even inter-racial marriage. Also concerning is the possibility that this Supreme Court will curtail voting rights and affirmative action. The new right-wing majority seems determined to send us firmly back to the 1950’s. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless.

 Mindfulness practice, prayer practice and grief work have all taught me to remember that emotions are just that: emotions. They are not the full story. I need to give them their due and the space to feel them. But they will pass and if I give myself time to let that happen, I can come to respond in ways that are grounded both spiritually and ethically in my Unitarian Universalist faith. Stepping back, I recognize that it took fifty years for the right-wing political and religious leaders to make this happen. It may take fifty years to work our way back. And there will probably be lots of pendulum swings in between. But it can and it will happen, if we are willing to make the commitment to make it happen. If you are interested in reading the UUA’s response, here is the link to a press release from the Reverend Susan Frederick Gray, the first woman elected President of the Unitarian Universalist Association:

Most helpful to me has been a prayer by Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. I have copied it at the end for those of you who want to read it. What I loved about it is that while she acknowledged we have a long road ahead of us, she began with gratitude for the generations of women before her and in their spirit, she prayed not just for justice but for laughter, for compassion, for singing and, my favorite, for snacks. Prayer, like mindfulness, invites that stepping back to ground in these deeper, healing emotions and practices. Ones that build and sustain beloved community.

This past Sunday, four young people in our congregation shared their Coming-of-Age credos. Four young people who I have watched grow from toddlers to teenagers. Their words gave me hope for our future and also deepened my commitment to the values of our Unitarian Universalist faith and the covenant of our congregation. Given the covenants we made to them and their families at their child dedications and reaffirmed at their comings of age, I realize that despair is not an option. Whatever the political winds of our times, we are committed to the purposes and principles of our faith. Sometimes we are in step with the larger society around us, other times, not so much. That is why it matters that we nurture and sustain our beloved community through the good times and the hard times. We never know when we will have need of it. Or when our larger world will.

So, now to what I wanted to put in this newsletter column: my deepest gratitude to all of you First Parishers who have nurtured and sustained this congregation through another pandemic year, who have adapted again and again to the changing landscape of this liminal time. I will lead this Sunday’s summer service in our chapel at 9 am and then turn the rest over to a great team of lay worship leaders. I will be on vacation from July 23 through August 7 but otherwise, I will be around for pastoral care as well as planning for the fall when, among other things, we will welcome our intern minister, Ken Langer, and hopefully a new music director and office assistant. If you need to reach me, you can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 978 500-2531.

Take good care,
Rev. Ellen

Previous Reflections

Dear First Parishers,

The news from Uvalde, Texas has cast a long shadow over the last week. My heart is broken in the wake of the terrible and preventable killing of nineteen school children and two of their teachers. As I shared on Sunday, it is important to name the horror. It is also important to nurture beauty where we can, as a form of resistance not just to the horror, but to the political cynicism and hypocrisy that come in the wake of such events.

LakeReflections1Our Soul Matters Theme for June is “Celebrating Blessings” and we will certainly be doing a lot of that. We will hold our usual June rites of passage: Bridging, Coming of Age, and Flower Communion services. At our annual meeting on June 12th, we will elect a new slate of officers and say thank you to those lay leaders stepping down from serving our congregation. We will also be transitioning to our summer service schedule, beginning June 26 (which will also be our Coming of Age service).

This month, we are also preparing for major transitions with our staff. Cindy Gist, our congregational administrator of 30 years, will be retiring (although just from her job, not as a member of the congregation) at the end of June. We will honor her at a church picnic on June 11 at NARA Park. Steve Zocchi will also be stepping down at the end of June after eight years as our music director to meet the changing needs of his family and his professional career. Steve and I will lead a worship together this coming Sunday on the blessing of music in worship. The Music Committee will offer a special social hour afterwards in the vestry to honor Steve.

The Human Resources (HR) Committee and the Standing Committee are working hard to find good people to meet our staffing needs. Over her thirty years, Cindy took on more and more responsibilities and the job now looks very different than it did when she was first hired. We have split the job into two. We have already hired Jeff Ellis as our bookkeeper and business manager to handle the financial responsibilities Cindy had taken on and to provide even more support to the treasurer. We have an interview team reviewing resumés from applicants for an office administrator who will be responsible for the newsletter, orders of service, email and phone inquiries and other office related work. The HR Committee is also reviewing the music director’s job description in preparation to post it for applicants and will be putting together an interview team for that position soon.

In addition to these new staff hires, we will also be welcoming Ken Langer as our intern minister. He will be with us for one-year full time, beginning in September. We already have our intern support committee in place. Ken is in seminary at Starr-King School for the Ministry and is very much looking forward to joining us.

These transitions in our staff are significant and it may take some time for our new staff members to discern their jobs and for all of us to get our bearings. But I trust that we will welcome them warmly. Meanwhile, we will honor Cindy and Steve as we close out another church year. Thank you for being such a generous, gracious and flexible congregation as we continue to live through these strange pandemic times.

-Rev. Ellen

Previous Reflections