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Mar 9, 2019

In the Interim, March 2019

During an interim ministry there are specific tasks that the interim minister and the congregation are supposed to focus on in order to prepare for the success of future ministries. One of these tasks is strengthening the connection between the congregation and the larger Unitarian Universalist Association. In recent months we have been doing this by bringing outstanding denominational leaders such as UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, President of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, to lead worship for us. They have led inspiring services on what Unitarian Universalist communities are doing to confront humanity’s profound moral, political, and spiritual crisis. As the Rev. Frederick-Gray told us “this is no time for a casual faith.” It is a time to nurture “a fierce sense of purpose that recognizes how much is on the line.”

In the next months we will be nurturing this sense of purpose and strengthening our connection between First Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association through a series of services on the association’s seven principles. The series will conclude with a service on June 16th focusing on the proposed eighth principle. In current form the proposed principle reads: “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

Periods of interim ministry are also times for experimentation. In the next months we will be experimenting with worship by adding, for eight weeks, a 9:00 a.m. contemplative service. The 9:00 a.m. service will feature the same sermon. It will include more space for musical and silent meditation and a little less congregational singing. Nursery care but not religious education will be provided. I am excited about the experiment. Sunday morning attendance has been strong in recent months and adding a second service with a different format will allow us both room to grow and the opportunity imagine the ways that worship can be different.

The theme of my column this month is change. One of the challenges during periods of change is remaining grounded in a sense of self, even as that sense of self shifts. In that light, I offer this selection from Joy Harjo’s “Remember:”

Remember the wind.
Remember her voice.
She knows the origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people are you.
Remember you are this universe and this universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

love,

Colin

CommentsCategories Ministry News Tags Susan Frederick-Gray Mary Katherine Morn Joy Harjo Unitarian Universalist Association First Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston Eighth Principle

Aug 31, 2018

A Final Goodbye to First Parish Church, Ashby

Dear Members and Friends of First Parish Church:

Today is my final day as your minister. I write to say goodbye and offer a few closing reflections on our time together and the congregation. I write with immense gratitude for my year with the First Parish Church of Ashby. We accomplished a lot during our brief period together. We celebrated the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the town and of the congregation. We organized meaningful social justice and service work, including a March for Our Lives event that was attended by over a hundred people and an Earth Day trash pick-up. We held services to deepen our religious life together and reflect on how best to respond, as Unitarian Universalists, to the crises that we face in this country and as a human species. We achieved Welcoming Congregation status with the Unitarian Universalist Association. We brought in new members. We saw an increase in congregational pledging. And most importantly, we sang together, worshipped together, talked together, shared food, were present to each other, and had fun! It is no wonder that I will miss you!

The Parish Committee asked me to offer some final reflections on the future work of the congregation. I have a few pieces of advice. First, remember that First Parish Church is one of the most important institutions in Ashby. It isn’t yours to maintain alone. In the next years, as you consider how best to preserve the historic building, I encourage you to reach out to the rest of the town. If you decide to undertake a capital campaign think about how you can invite people from beyond the congregation to participate. Everyone in Ashby benefits by having a beautiful church on the village green.

Second, recognize that you can accomplish a lot when you focus on what you want to do. One reason why I think we had such a good year was that we set a series of small achievable goals and then we stuck to them. Consider undertaking a similar process every year.

Third, don’t be afraid to think bigger. Sometime in the near future the congregation will be receiving an increase in rent on the cell tower. I know the temptation will be to use most of this money to maintain the building. What if the congregation were to spend it on ministry or programming instead? What could First Parish Church do with a half-time minister? What kind of programs could you provide to Ashby? What kind of difference could you make in the world?

So, that is my final, solicited, advice. It is up to you, as congregation, to decide what you wish to do with it. Whatever you choose, know that I will carry you in my heart always.

Before I go I must write something about the practice of ministerial leave taking. After I cease being your minister the guidelines of Unitarian Universalist Minister Association tell me that I must refrain from contact with members of First Parish Church for two years. This includes contact over social media. This is done so that you will develop a relationship with your next minister without my interference. I know it can feel harsh or unnecessary. It is difficult for me as well. However, long experience within our tradition has taught that it is best to respect this boundary. Doing so is one way to help congregations thrive.

And so, with those words, I leave you with much love and a final poem. It too is a piece of advice. It comes from one of my favorite poets, Joy Harjo.

“Remember”

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

love,

Colin

CommentsCategories Ministry Tags First Parish Church Ashby Joy Harjo

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