“Keep Walking”, by Rumi

“Keep Walking”, by Rumi

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

A Prayer, by Peter Sugar

One of the worst health crises of our times has severely restricted our activities, which at the same time has given us the opportunity to reflect on some issues which have long weighed heavily on our minds.

It is a sad reflection on a number of our leading personages, that their actions and behavior is frequently, and often exclusively, driven by their ego.  We cannot be blind to their sheer arrogance and lack of understanding of people’s sensitivities, as they promulgate their own selfish views on our citizenry:  though many of us try, but with little effect, to resist:  our pleas are falling on deaf ears.  We indeed must acknowledge that our collective wellness is under siege while we attempt to search for an appropriate response.

All human endeavor has to start with the individual, from whence it radiates outward, persuading naysayers and bystanders to work in collaboration toward the common good.  To quote from Ecclesiastes:  “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak”.  Let us pray that we may have the wisdom, the fortitude, and the courage to act:  to overcome and conquer selfishness with selflessness and thereby reaffirm our own true humanity.

Amen                                                          

“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”, by Adam Zagajewski

“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”
by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

From the Safe Congregations Task Force

March 27, 2020

The Safe Congregations Task Force is recommending that the Church remain closed until such time as the Governor’s emergency order extending the closure of schools is lifted. For now, the earliest church services could resume is Sunday, May 3. We recognize that parishoners may be especially disappointed that we will not meet physically for Easter services. Unfortunately, even an outdoor service that might draw a small crowd keeping distance is still unwise. Your health and the health of our community is the most important consideration. We hope you understand and we look forward to seeing everyone at our online worship services. 

Minister’s Message: April 2020

Dear Friends,

Someone told me recently about the time, right after September 11th, when you were able to throw the doors wide and welcome the community in during that time of national shock and mourning.  You opened the doors.  People came.  You gathered as did people all over this heartbroken land, to gather and grieve, to talk and to listen, to begin to put your own selves back together and consider how to help the world around you.

How I wish we could do that now.  For surely we are shocked and heartbroken in our own way, but we cannot do that basic, primitive human thing.  We cannot come together. 

At least physically.  But humans are an inventive lot and I’ve watched you in these days as you’ve made phone calls, brought groceries to a neighbor, put up prayer flags outside the sanctuary, sat in chairs at noon-time (yes, carefully spaced apart, and yes, carefully wiped down before and after!)  You’ve told me about crafting on Zoom, going to a “virtual” tea party/cocktail party/family dinner/you name it.  You’ve talked about play dates on Zoom and bike rides with kids and walking on forest paths. 

We’re figuring out new ways to be “together” in this new landscape we inhabit. I’m wondering what new ways this community will find, as time passes and we begin to adjust to this strange new reality as best we can. I’m wondering what new creativity will grow out of this community, what inspiration, what beauty, what goodness.  Because, yes, I do believe that will all be born out of this terrible time. I don’t know how and I don’t know when. But I have faith in you, in your heart, in your humanity, in your desire to love one another and to serve this beautiful and broken world.

How to be a “giver of light” in this dark time, how to be a gatherer of people when we are supposed to stay apart, how to model moral courage when we’re supposed to stay home.  I don’t know what will emerge but I trust new things will be born out of loss and fear and grief — a beacon, a lighted lantern.

In the morning, I like to start with coffee!  And some quiet time.  I sit in a favorite chair, book shelf nearby.  And recently, I’ve found myself turning to one book of poetry; it’s Garrison Keilor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. I think it came out after September 11th

I found this poem. It was sent to me in those raw days after September 11 by a parishioner who had clipped it out of the New Yorker, and mailed it to me. May it offer you a certain measure of solace now, as it did to me so many years ago.


“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”
by Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


In faith,
Jenny Rankin

March 2020 Pastoral Prayers

Sunday, March 1, 2020
Andy Clark

Lord,
It seems, these days, that  we’re living in uncertain and confusing times.

Our New England winter has lost its conviction, half-heartedly going through the motions of the season it was supposed to be.

Our politics are fractious and disheartening, and our leaders, such as they are, distracted and absorbed.

And now, we’re told, there is a new virus coming, and we keep hearing words such as quarantine, pandemic, and rout.  We’re no longer sure whose company we can safely keep or whose hand we should not touch.

It’s hard to know what to pray for in days like these, when we simply want to shelter in place- physically, emotionally and perhaps spiritually. It would be lovely to be graced with a clarifying vision of some eternal truth, and to hear the trumpets sound our calling, but we’ve little hope left for epiphanies or transformations.

What can we pray for, Lord, when we don’t know what to pray for? Maybe, falling back on some sort of first principles, we could pray to just to love thy neighbor. To be able to  look up and outside of ourselves, to see a need and to respond.  So we pray Lord for nothing grand or glorious, but rather for the opportunity to give something, small though it might be, to another, and to know that to be enough.  


Sunday, March 8, 2020
Peter Sugar

We contemplate and are awed by the mystery around us. Questioning is not a lack of faith but rather something which is endemic to our inner self, as we seek to define the meaning of our very existence:  we recognize that our humanity is a treasure we value and which is the very foundation of our beliefs.

Prayer is humankind’s effort to commune with the unknown – a desire to address that most mysterious power of the universe.  To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, it is a longing of our soul and, at the same time, a daily admission of our fallibility, insignificance and human weakness.

And, yes, it is through prayer, with or without words, that we relate to our community and thus have the ability to focus on our purpose.  Let us not lose sight of our values, let us have the strength to persevere in our love and service for our fellow beings.

Amen


Sunday, March 15, 2020
Andy Clark

Dear Lord,
Wow. We find ourselves at a loss for words.

We don’t know what to think or what to feel or what to make of any of this. When we are still, when we stop planning and talking and strategizing, we find that we are afraid. There are no clear answers, and no one to look to who will provide us with answers.

We want to believe, especially now, that there is some degree of benevolence in the universe.  We want to believe that our struggles matter somehow. Lord, we want to believe that you can share both our joys and our sorrows. But  we are feeling rather on our own right now, trying to be the adults in the room, and making it up as we go along.

And so we pray.  We pray for the presence of your sustaining spirit.  We pray for strength and guidance in the times ahead.  We pray for our loved ones, our communities, and our world.  

We remember, in these times,  those persons who are at home alone, and those who have no home to go to.  We keep in our minds those people who will continue to work out in the world, looking out for and taking care of others.

Help us Lord to find Grace in the midst of all this turmoil, and to embody the spirit of service and compassion in all that we do in the weeks ahead.


Sunday, March 22, 2020
Andy Clark

Spirit of Life,
We are dizzy from the speed by which our worlds have so changed, and disoriented by having lost the familiar structure of our days.  We have put aside so many of our plans and expectations, sometimes with relief, but often with deep disappointment.  Our agendas are in tatters, and our prognostications hollow.
 
And yet.  The buds are on the trees, and the springtime sun warms our backs. People are out walking with an unhurried pace, listening to the birds sing, and chatting with neighbors across the fence.  Things that seemed important just a few weeks ago look trivial today, and we are seeing so much now with fresh eyes.  We are newly grateful for the people in our lives, the opportunities to connect with others, and even the food on our tables.
 
Maybe Lord, we’ve never actually been in control.  Maybe all of our planning and managing and busyness have been distractions from the contingency of our lives.  Maybe each of our days have not in fact been ours to manage, but gifts to embrace. Maybe all that we’ve ever really had are the things that we love, the service we provide, and the openness of our hearts and our minds and our eyes.
 
We ask ourselves, as our lives our upended, what it would be like to live through this extraordinary time in faith? We can’t predict, and we can’t manage, but we do ask for the opportunity and the strength to accept each moment to come, no matter how challenging, as a perfect, precious gift. 

Amen


Sunday, March 29, 2020
Andy Clark

Spirit of Life,
The week has been a long one, as the novelty of perpetual snow days begins to wear thin, and the strain of our circumstances takes its toll.  We have been awfully good sports, cheerfully chatting with friends from six feet away, but we live these days with a steady undertone of worry and fear and loneliness that chips away at our fortitude.   The news is not good, and our immediate prospects not especially heartening.

When we lift our sights a bit beyond, it’s hard to take in the scope of the disruption and loss.  From housecleaners and small business owners to nursing home residents and migrant workers, the stories unfold. Our sense of helplessness is real, and we know that while we may have a civic responsibility to stay home and stream Netflix, that is hardly an adequate response to the situation at hand.
 
We come together as a congregation this morning for virtual shared worship, and it is amazing and heartening to be a part of this. But, to be honest, we miss being in the sanctuary in the flesh, singing and praying and breathing together.
 
And so we ask, Where can we turn when we are tired? How do we find the strength to rise to this occasion, not just to maintain, but to truly embody, to the best of our abilities, a spirit of love? We pray, Oh lord, that as we grow weary, and as we fall short of the person we want to be,  we can find in you a sustenance.  We pray that we can open our hearts and have them filled and thereby carry on.

Amen

Under the RE Tree: 3/23/20

Last week, there were some fun opportunities to get together. Information about all activities will be shared here (the Monday News Brief), in the Thursday News Brief, and in my Friday RE-blast. And, the best way to make sure folks know what is going on, is to reach-out to your FPL friends – and other friends! Our activities can be shared by all! Spread the word!

This coming week…

Parents – please put Tuesdays at 8pm on your calendars! Jenny and I will continue to host a Zoom parent meet-up. Pajamas welcome. Adult beverage optional (but BYOB, of course). Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/701396169  –  Meeting ID: 701 396 169

Weekly Time for All Ages are being offered on Thursdays a 4pm. There is about a half-hour or so of idea sharing, including time for Joys and Concerns. This is a little more robust than Sunday Morning’s “Wonder Box” TfAAs.  Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/394784743  –  Meeting ID: 394 784 743  – One tap mobile: +16465588656,,394784743# US/EST

Did you hear about Lincoln Lights? Folks are re-hanging their holiday lights (of any kind – any reason, any season). This gives folks something to do, it’s fun and joyful, it’s an expression of community solidarity and connection AND it gives us all something to do in the evening. We can drive around and look at each other’s lights!  (Stay tuned – we may be doing an Easter egg hunt in a similar way!)  On Oak Knoll Road, the lights go on around 7pm!

And some people are chalking their walk-ways! And drive-ways! That’s another drive-by activity.

Speaking of chalk, there is a bin of chalk on the wall of the Parish House parking lot. If you missed our gathering – to “Wash our Worries Away” – you can stop by when it’s convenient for you (bring your own water to pour on the drawing and your own chalk, if you like). There are wipes there – please wipe down the bin before and after you select one or two pieces of chalk… and then take the chalk home with you (let me know if we’re getting low, I’ll replenish) POP-UP ACTIVITIES LIKE THIS may happen from time to time… keep checking the News Briefs, my RE-blast on Fridays, your inbox; and check-in with friends to make sure they know what’s going on!

This week’s grace…

  For every cup and plateful,

  God, make me truly grateful.

  Amen

(When this grace becomes familiar, try having every person around your table say one word – see how fast you can say it!)

Peace be upon your heads and in your hearts.
Margit

Parish Committee Meeting: March 2020

March 18, 2020

Members in attendance: Nick Covino (Chair), Chris Andrysiak, Priscilla Damon, Dwight Gertz, Carrie Marotta, Tim Moynihan, R.L. Smith, Ray Shepherd, Jeani Welsh

Ex officio: John Krzywicki (Treasurer), Jenny Rankin (Interim Minister), Peter Watkinson (Clerk)

Staff and Guests: Gert McDermott (Administrator), Sarah Klockowski, Margit Griffith, Meridith Jeremiah

The agenda of the evening covered two important areas:

  • How are we helping and how do we help the parish and the greater Lincoln community to manage this health care crisis?
  • What are the business/organizational issues that require the attention of the governing body? 

Less pressing issues were tabled to concentrate on the above.  With other groups available to meet the pastoral and community engagement issues of FPL, the PC focused first on the business/organizational issues that are its primary responsibility in this dual healthcare and financial crisis.

Staff were first invited into the meeting to let the Parish Committee know how they are doing.

Rev. Jenny expressed her gratitude for the staff who have been working around the clock to figure out how to work in a whole new world. Gert is work is working well from home and is managing the business affairs as well as can be expected. Margit said RE without a classroom is challenging, but she can engage children and families to connect and to learn from home. Sarah feels blessed to be working with this congregation and has been busy with providing communication and tech support for the Sunday service and other responsibilities.

Business and Organization

John K (Treasurer) provided a 30-minute outline of our current financial position, the forecast for FYE20 and a brief look forward to the budget planning process. The key elements of his presentation were:

  • FPL will most likely end the fiscal year with a slight surplus.  Magic Garden is closed and there may not be revenue from them, in the near future. Revenue from Sunday Collections will be down due to the move to the online church service, although people are free to contribute electronically. Nonetheless, the church operating budget looks like it will finish positively.
  • The investment accounts of the church, as with the rest of the country, are significantly depleted. This argues strongly that the PC acts to preserve the invested funds.

The PC moved to take every appropriate action to preserve the parish’s financial capital until further notice. Action on this motion means that:         

The Facilities Committee will refrain from projects that are not urgent or that do not have a signed, binding, contract. The rationale for this is both to preserve the value of FPL’s invested funds and to undertake construction when prices will likely be more favorable. The Roof Project is both necessary and under contract, but the Playground and some of the smaller projects will continue to be planned so that we can move to construction when prudent. Mr. Sugar (Facilities Chair) has been consulted and will work accordingly.

Priscilla Damon who is the PC Liaison will be joined by Jeani Welsh to meet with the Outreach Committee to review its plans for distributing financial awards this spring. The aim of this review is to balance any acute need for support with the opportunity to defer awards until the stock market makes a correction.

Even with the need to preserve capital, the PC moved to continue payment to its RE instructors and several Independent Contractors through this crisis. While several of our instructional programs are suspended (e.g., OWL) it was felt to be respectful and right to continue to honor these smaller contracts to dedicated professionals. A small token payment was authorized to thank the Sunday child-care workers, if necessary. The fact that the current year has been managed well and that it is forecast to have a positive balance at year-end allows for this generosity.

The PC moved to create a Document Collection Initiative to gather all relevant FPL governance, organization and business materials into one place. RL Smith has been charged to lead a small team to collect documents and to create a central filing system. PLEASE send what you have on your computer along to him; this is a most important element in preparing for both a new Settled Minister and, especially, a new Parish Administrator.

While not formal votes, the PC agreed to delay the survey to identify the Settled Minister Search Committee for a month to acknowledge the attention needed for COVID-19 work.

Ralph Smith and the Personnel Committee have been proceeding with a plan to hire a temporary administrative person to assist with the May transition of Ms. McDermott.  Ralph and his group are considering whether this person could both become a ‘temp to hire’ and, potentially, begin to work this summer. Gert has offered, if needed, to be available in a contract position to help with some of the bookkeeping functions.

There was a good deal of discussion about whether to lock the doors to the church. Understandable positions on both sides included a desire to keep the church safe from theft and potential infection versus allowing access to someone who may feel a significant need for sanctuary. The PC voted to leave the doors of the church unlocked, even while maintaining the status of the church as “Closed.”  

The PC voted to create a Community Engagement Task Force that will coordinate the efforts of the various groups of First Parish (e.g., Outreach, Deacons, Membership, PC, Staff) to identify and respond to the needs of the people of greater Lincoln, during this time. A significant amount of time was devoted to considering some options for this Task Force’s work. Rev. Jenny and Sarah K will coordinate this effort.

The PC was unanimously grateful to the staff of FPL for their creative response to the parish’s needs at this critical time.

Meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

Nick Covino

For the Parish Committee

From the Safe Congregations Task Force, 3/16/20

In addition to the closing of the sanctuary and parish, The Safe Congregations Task Force strongly discourages in person meetings for church related classes, workshops, committees or small groups for the foreseeable future. The Task Force fully supports the recommendations from public health professionals regarding the importance of social distancing. Please refer to the articles attached below for further information. 

What you need to know about the coronavirus: Plain language from an emergency physician

Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day