Minister’s Message: November 2019

Dear Friends,

As twilight comes earlier and the trees glow with red and gold against these rainy days, my thoughts turn to All Saints and All Souls and this time of the year when the ancient Celts believed that the veil between the spiritual and the physical world grew very thin. John O’Donahue talks about growing up on the west coast of Ireland and the barren limestone landscape of the Burren. It was a magical, enchanted place he said, and he had a sense of the sacred as always intertwined with his physical everyday life. The holy was not something far away but immanent. Touchable. Real.

I love this time of year even though I know the days are growing shorter. It encourages me to learn from Scandinavian traditions which elevate the “cozy” (Meredith and Margit will be giving a workshop on this, stay tuned!), to light candles in the kitchen, and pick up my crochet hook or needle for cozy craft projects that are good indoors on a chilly night, and gather together with friends and family.

At church, we honor our ancestors at this time of year, All Saints and All Souls and remember that in our Universalist tradition, every soul was cherished by a God who was neither punitive nor judging but the embodiment of Love beyond love.

This fall, I’ve enjoyed digging into your “roots.” We’ve explored your earliest origins as well as the UCC and UUA traditions out of which this congregation was born in 1942. Soon, we’ll move on to conversations about your spiritual identity (individual and collective), core values and where you want to go next. There will be a “spiritual identity survey” you can take (on paper or online).

Next spring, when you elect a search committee, they will take all this good work you are doing and show it to ministerial candidates who will be delighted, let me assure you, to see how intentional and reflective you have been about articulating your identity, mission and purpose. In order for them to consider moving here and settling down, they really want to dig in to who you are, what you care about, what you hold most dear, what troubles you, what gets your energy stirring. They will be attracted to a congregation with vitality, one that is not sitting around “waiting for a new minister” but active and engaged in the world, and inviting others to join them in this revitalizing, world-building work.

As always, I hope you’ll drop me a line to let me know what’s on your mind. Invite me to your place or come and see me here at the office!

In faith,

Jenny Rankin

Minister’s Message: October 2019

Dear Friends,

As twilight comes earlier and the trees glow with red and gold against these rainy days, my thoughts turn to All Saints and All Souls and this time of the year when the ancient Celts believed that the veil between the spiritual and the physical world grew very thin. John O’Donahue talks about growing up on the west coast of Ireland and the barren limestone landscape of the Burren. It was a magical, enchanted place he said, and he had a sense of the sacred as always intertwined with his physical everyday life. The holy was not something far away but immanent. Touchable. Real.

I love this time of year even though I know the days are growing shorter. It encourages me to learn from Scandinavian traditions which elevate the “cozy” (Meredith and Margit will be giving a workshop on this, stay tuned!), to light candles in the kitchen, and pick up my crochet hook or needle for cozy craft projects that are good indoors on a chilly night, and gather together with friends and family.

At church, we honor our ancestors at this time of year, All Saints and All Souls and remember that in our Universalist tradition, every soul was cherished by a God who was neither punitive nor judging but the embodiment of Love beyond love.

This fall, I’ve enjoyed digging into your “roots.” We’ve explored your earliest origins as well as the UCC and UUA traditions out of which this congregation was born in 1942. Soon, we’ll move on to conversations about your spiritual identity (individual and collective), core values and where you want to go next. There will be a “spiritual identity survey” you can take (on paper or online).

Next spring, when you elect a search committee, they will take all this good work you are doing and show it to ministerial candidates who will be delighted, let me assure you, to see how intentional and reflective you have been about articulating your identity, mission and purpose. In order for them to consider moving here and settling down, they really want to dig in to who you are, what you care about, what you hold most dear, what troubles you, what gets your energy stirring. They will be attracted to a congregation with vitality, one that is not sitting around “waiting for a new minister” but active and engaged in the world, and inviting others to join them in this revitalizing, world-building work.

As always, I hope you’ll drop me a line to let me know what’s on your mind. Invite me to your place or come and see me here at the office!

In faith,

Jenny Rankin

Minister’s Message: September 2019

Dear Friends,
The sunflowers have grown tall in my garden, the sky is a deeper blue, and a hurricane is making its way towards landfall in Florida—it must be September once again! I’ve walked many different paths since last we met, and I imagine you have as well. I’m eager to see you again when we gather in church this coming Sunday September 8th for our Ingathering Sunday!

This fall, we welcome two new staff members to our team at First Parish in Lincoln and I know you’ll join me in extending them a warm welcome.

One is a brand-new staff position, created by the Parish Committee in order to fulfill the recommendations of the Shared Ministry Review. I remember reading the SMR when I arrived a year ago and being so impressed with this good, thorough piece of work. You took a long hard look at yourselves and made some recommendations. This new job is one of the results.

The job title is Community Engagement/Adult Programming Coordinator. We welcome Sarah Klockowski, a new graduate of Union Theological School in NYC.

We also welcome Meredith Jeremiah as our student minister; she graduates from Harvard Divinity School next spring and will be with us half-time this year.

Last year, as I was getting to know you, I heard many stories and perspectives about your experiences here; we tried to do some frank and open talking and listening and we tried to do some healing. This year, we’ll be looking to the future as you articulate your identity (who you are now) and vision (where you want to go from here). This will be important for candidates to hear when they consider serving as your next settled minister.

I love to meet with you in my office or your home so get in touch! The best way to reach me is probably email: jenny@fplincoln.org. It is good to be back and I’m excited to be serving alongside you again this year!

Jenny

Minister’s Message: June 2019

Dear Friends:

It is hard to believe I am writing the last newsletter column of the year! I want to thank you for welcoming me this year and being willing to engage, even a little, in the reflective work of intentional interim ministry. It is not always easy to take a look at ourselves! As individuals in our own private lives or as a community. But we try to do this in an effort to grow and change and become better people and communities.

I see you showing up for one another and for this community you love. I see you actively engaged in the work of trying to repair hurts, establish open lines of dialogue (even on “touchy” topics), share your different “spiritual languages” with one another, seek to understand the roots and history of the community as well as begin to dream about possibilities, yet unseen, that may lie in your future.

This year, you have made progress in beginning to implement the terrific work of the Shared Ministry Review (SMR): you formed a Personnel Committee, a Governance Task Force, an Adult Programs Committee, and brought in an outside consulting group to help you learn how to better engage in difficult dialogues. Next year, I know you will continue to make strides in making the SMR a reality, especially in its recommendations around membership.

You only have to look at the Pew Research Center’s data on religious life in America to know that First Parish in Lincoln is far from alone in confronting shrinking membership on Sundays. (see https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/). Interestingly, many people who do NOT attend church say it is for practical reasons, not for lack of faith (https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/).

No doubt about it, it’s a challenging time for the “institutional church;” I am no seer but I’d guess that communities that can be agile, creative and entrepreneurial as they reimagine themselves and their mission will have a better chance of survival than those less adaptive to our changing culture.

This summer, I will be leading a retreat on Iona, walking St. Cuthbert’s Way in southern Scotland, returning to the Outer Hebrides and enjoying family time in Rhode Island. Rev. John Nichols will be on call for pastoral emergencies June 14-July 14. I will be on call July 14 to August 14 and back from vacation on August 15th.

I will be eager to hear where your feet take you in the months to come and eager to resume our work together in the fall!

All best wishes,

Jenny