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Insights: “Our Sabbatical”

Posted by on Jan 4, 2019 in General News, Minister's Column

By the time that you read this article I will be on sabbatical and please believe me when I tell you that I will miss you and my ministry at First Parish more than I can say. A Sabbatical is a time when a settled minister steps back from the day-to-day of their parish to refresh and reflect in order to move forward into, what some might consider, the next phase of one’s ministry. A sabbatical is not just about the minister… it is a time for the members and friends of First Parish to take your relationships, your commitment to Unitarian Universalism and your goal of growing the congregation to the next level. A sabbatical is not just about holding down the fort while the minister is away, it is about being fortified by one another as you engage deeply in your shared ministry.

This is a time to invite friends and neighbors to Sunday services and other events that you will envision and manifest. It is a time to support one another during times of joy and sorrow. It is a time to go deeper into your understanding of what it means to be a member of First Parish and for those of you who have been on the fence about joining… what is holding you back? Join, First Parish needs you! Over the next few months, with the help of the Board of Trustees, you will envision how First Parish might evolve and what role you may want to fill in this process. First Parish is what you make of it because it is yours. It is up to you and your representatives on the Board to be self governing. This is nothing new. We do this governing each and every day and at our annual meeting. The Unitarian Universalist Association, I affectionally refer to our national organizing body as the “mother ship,” explains a bit about the goal of our governance.

Governance is spelled out in the fifth Principle, which calls for “the use of the democratic process within our congregations.” Just as Unitarian Universalists emphasize-in our theology and history-the independence of each congregation rather than our interdependence through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), we emphasize the independence of each person more than our interdependence as members of a congregation. Under congregational polity each congregation is self-governing, choosing its own leadership, handling its own finances, and choosing its own delegates to the (UUA) General Assembly… How we relate to each other as individuals within a congregation mirrors the interrelations among congregations, entailing the same issue: balancing independence with interdependence. Difficult decisions such as actions for social justice, balancing the annual budget or a new location for the congregation spark (ie: new minister) bring the need for congregational polity and the democratic process to the forefront. Too often members of congregations believe that the only model for democratic process is for everyone to gather in one place and make all decisions by consensus. Although consensus may be appropriate for a small fellowship, it restricts both the size and development of the congregation. Rabbi and psychotherapist Edwin Friedman states the case: “[Consensus] tends to value peace over progress and personal relationships over ideas. . . . Emphasis on consensus gives strength to the extremists.” (https://www.uua.org/leadership/learning-center/governance/polity/47009.shtml)

As your settled minister I offer recommendations to the Board of Trustees and to the various committees that I meet with, but ultimately your direction, your goals, your hopes and dreams are yours, together. I am sure that you will learn so much independently and interdependently as you take your shared ministry to new places.

Over the next couple of months my hope is to rest, reflect and begin writing a book that studies the intersection of adoption, DNA and identity. These are all complicated issues taken one at a time, but the complexities and interconnections between these concepts together will be fascinating to unpack. As part of this very personal work I have committed to writing every day as well as journaling. I will hopefully be traveling to France and England at some point over the next few months to do some hands on research. I expect to be delightfully busy working on this passion that I have been only able to spend spare moments on over the last few of years.

I encourage you to reflect over this time as well, work on your credo that we talked about in October, which we will share in June, and endeavor to find your rhythm. You are each amazing people that have so much to share with one another.

Remember that I love you, be safe and I will miss you until we see one another again!

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: “Peace”

Posted by on Dec 5, 2018 in General News, Minister's Column

How do we find and cultivate peace? Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor also known as the Philosopher explained that, “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the world.” Building upon this teaching Thich Nhat Hahn shared that, “Nonviolence and compassion are the foundations of a peace movement. If you don’t have enough peace and understanding and loving-kindness within yourself, your actions will not truly be for peace. Everyone knows that peace has to begin with oneself, but not many people know how to do it.” The roots of peace are anchored within us… The Buddha explained that love, compassion, kindness, enlightenment, fear, greed, anger are all small seeds that reside within each one of us, the seeds that we water and feed are the ones that will grow. He encouraged humankind to focus on the seeds that we want to sprout and ignore the seeds that we want to wither.

When I think of peace, this months theme, I envision the Peace sign created in 1958. This symbol was created to support the movement of denuclearization in Europe, but ultimately was adopted by those who sought peace against war and violence around the world. Throughout history there has been constant unrest and war with a few periods when there was notable peace. The first acknowledged peace movement began in 989 ce. It was a movement that endeavored to restrict violence towards monasteries. This early movement had the foresight to understand that peace in general was difficult to achieve so they proposed to restrict the use of violence by the nobility to a certain number of days per year. Humankind has not stopped seeking the means to create peace ever since.

I am not sure about your life but in mine I truly seek peace and especially during this time of year. During the dark times we cloister and look for ways to create inner peace for oneself and our loved ones. What energy and commitment might we put towards creating peace in our lives? Thich Nhat Hahn explains that, “The practice of peace should address suffering: the suffering within yourself and the suffering around you. They are linked to each other. When you go to the mountain and practice alone, you don’t have the chance to recognize the anger, jealousy and despair that’s in you. That’s why it’s good that you encounter people—so you know these emotions. So that you can recognize them and try to look into their nature. If you don’t know the roots of these afflictions, you cannot see the path leading to their cessation. That’s why suffering is very important for our practice.”

I believe that during this time of year when we face challenges, anxiety, frustration, and suffering we receive an opportunity to look within and realize what seeds we are feeding. If we want a life of peace and happiness we cultivate within and then we spread the seeds of peace and happiness out into the world. To reduce the suffering of others we must be able to listen to one another to better understand how we can help/commiserate and to create peace within and with one another.

‘Tis the season my friends to let the ground rest and become fertile once again, it is a time to pick and choose what we will seed and grow together. It is a time to listen and give generously from our hearts to one another.

May the peace of the season be with you!

Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Formation and Sabbatical

Posted by on Oct 3, 2018 in General News, Minister's Column

How much of who we are and have become throughout our lives has been carefully cultivated? On the other hand how much of who we are has just happened around us and to us? Life in so many ways can seem serendipitous, opportunities landing in timely or an untimely fashion changing the direction that we may have had in mind. How many times have you caught yourself saying, “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry”? This saying, written by Robert Burns in his poem, “To A Mouse” laments on how, as humans beings, we do not necessarily stay, like the mouse, in this moment but instead struggle with the past as well as the future. Rarely present in the now we wander, backing into the future uncertain of our direction.

Formation is a process of assimilating our experiences in a mindful way where we step into these opportunities daring them to form who we are becoming. The act of forming who we are changes our very identity, specifically the parts of us that one would consider to be primary to one’s Self.

The key to mindful formation is taking the time for reflection. With this in mind I am taking a sabbatical from January returning the first week in June for reflection and formation. It will be a time of travel, research and writing. This is an amazing opportunity for growth and I invite you to carve out time in your life as well to reflect on your journey and the seminal moments that have led you to this place. Take the time to realize the ways that your identity is continuing to evolve and dare to stay present in the moment. Over the next few months let us gather, imagine and prepare for that next unknown chapter in our lives and the life of First Parish.

Peace, Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Powerful Beyond Measure

Posted by on Sep 4, 2018 in General News, Minister's Column

 

by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty

We are powerful beyond measure, humankind, each one of us has a capacity for a range of personal skills. Gifts that we have spent a lifetime cultivating through times of joy, hours at work and play, as well as times where we have faced life challenges. Within us we hold knowledge, skills and the motivation to reach beyond. We are powerful beyond measure.

Courage, love, Compassion, fierceness, commitment, acceptance, communication (listening), adaptability, self-reflection, being open to feedback, learning and growing, a constant moral compass, just to name a few.

There are many skills that one can develop throughout their lives and at times we rank them in importance. Being innovative is usually highly prized, as we interact, work and play we pull each skill forward as it is needed. We multi-thread skills weaving them around situations, interactions or experiences; very rarely do we use just a single skill. Maybe in a given situation we require the skill of patience, compassion and love, and add to that our curious nature and a spark of inspiration, roll it all up in a wrapping of motivation and commitment, toss in a dash of fierceness and we are powerful beyond measure.

I think of skills as the ingredients of our life. If we pull together a palatable concoction we create a recipe for success or happiness or whatever our minds/hearts desire. If we are not willing or able to gather what is needed what we need/desire may not manifest in the way that we had hoped for. If we each have a different recipe in mind how, one may wonder, can we cultivate a menu that is simpatico?

As we arrive at First Parish’s Homecoming Sunday, hopefully rested from this summer, let us gather our skills and recipes for an amazing and enlightening church year. Let our ingenuity, creativeness and commitment bring us to new and exciting places. There is an important reason that we gather in comm-unity… because it is far more fulfilling to do this work of living a life, developing our skills, learning and growing when we do it together.

We have everything that we need if we dare to invite, welcome, imagine and unite as the community of First Parish!

Much love and see you soon,

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Beloved Community

Posted by on May 2, 2018 in General News, Minister's Column

by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty
Beloved Community, our theme for May, is what I believe that Rumi, the Sufi poet, had in mind when he called all of humankind into relationship with, “Come, come, whoever you are.” The ideal for beloved community that we are all welcome has been sought for millennia, certainly within the earliest Christian communities, way before the use of the “beloved community” phrase was coined at the beginning of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian, Josiah Royce.

I yearn for the beloved community of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have been struggling with the saber rattling that has occurred on the political stage over this last year. The threat of “pushing the button” and whose button is bigger than another’s … I would just disregard it as pure idiocy but these dangerous boys with these toys literally have buttons to push and are unstable enough to use them. That is why this week I watched with hope in my heart as the leaders of North and South Korea stepped across a boundary that has existed for over 6 decades to discuss peace and unification. I wondered if it is possible that old disputes and suspicion of one another could resolve the conflicts that divides them? In the same right I wondered, skeptically, what the real endgame is for Korean politics and how it will affect global politics. I am skeptically hopeful.

My hope is that maybe this example of small steps made across literal boundaries is real and that it could inspire us all, to face the ancient disputes that exist in this world, helping us to move towards a kinder and gentler way of being? Then I think of all of the resources that so many folks around this world are desperate to get their greedy hands on, like oil, or the missile defense systems that North Korea would love to disassemble and I pause… I am not naive… I just want to choose to be a hopeful Unitarian Universalist – with a healthy dose of skepticism and maybe some distrust thrown in for good measure.

Friends, I call us to be founding members of the beloved community because it is not just a nice notion, it is an imperative. If we are not all in, and only we can know this in our heart, I invite us to each get all in; because if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. As a religious/spiritual community at the dawning of the twenty-first century we face, in many ways, a reality that is devoid of ethical underpinnings. It has become commonplace in our society to lie, to cheat, to steal, to oppress and take advantage of one another. Let me say that none of this is ok nor should it be tolerated. We have free will in this human condition, we may not face hell, but there is evil and there certainly is sin in this world and believe me when I say that there needs to be repercussions at all levels for wrong doing.

What I now realize is that the cure for what ails our world will not be found in politics, it will not be sorted out and patented by for profit corporations in a system based on greed. The cure will come from communities just like ours who band together with ethical intentions to watchdog and heal the world’s ills. My friends, we truly need one another, to be part of this beloved community, and we truly need one another to understand, to commiserate and to carry on because we are and need to be all in this together.

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“Insights: Evolution of a Community” by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in General News, Minister's Column

By Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty, February 7, 2018

For those of you in our worship service last week I shared about my time away at the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Institute (UUMI)–a time for learning, sharing and pushing the edge of how ministers understand and do ministry. There were 400-500 other UU ministers at the conference and it was a mind- and heart-opening experience for me. I attended different worship services, I learned about different types of ministry, realized important insights, met new people and together we collectively imagined what a just world might look like. I had the privilege to see one of my ministry friends from my Association days who is now running for US Congress, Rev. Carlton Smith. Carlton still works for the UUA and he is called to and believes that he can find ways to “tell new stories about his home state of Mississippi: a scenic, overwhelmingly rural state where many of his constituents are ready to move beyond the divisions of the past. He wants to be among those legislators in our nation’s capital advocating for affordable healthcare, well-paying jobs, quality education for children, and equal treatment under the law.” I saw the courage burning brightly in Carlton’s eyes and his deep conviction that he will be elected to Congress and that he will help lead Mississippi to important change. He believes that with commitment and hard work that we—together–all of us, can swing that arc of history back towards justice.

I want to believe, in my heart of hearts, that we can turn the tide, encouraging political and corporate leaders to work, vote and act based on their conscience. I know some corporate execs who are doing just that–changing the world one decision at a time from the inside and I applaud you! I am able to sometimes imagine all of the companies that are consistently making good and important decisions that help to lead our world towards a time of positive and ethical change. Of course, Forbes magazine has a list of the most ethical companies of 2017.

I came back from the Institute wondering what our place, as the First Parish of Sudbury and as the Meetinghouse in Sudbury, might be as our world continues to evolve. In this global and in large part secular story I wonder if we are needed and have a place. Are we leaders or are we troops, do we “watch-dog”, protest, bandage the broken, shore up the infrastructure or finance the “revolution of change?” For certain we each have a roll and only you know yours. I asked this question last Sunday:”What are you called to do, what is your passion, what is your idea or your story that you feel called to share?” As I have said many times, we are each a piece of a larger puzzle, our journeys intersect as we co create, evolve our community, but more than ever, confirmed by my colleagues, this is the time to figure out how we all fit together. During a month that is about love, deeper connection and the celebration of membership here at FPS I invite us to engage deeply these questions of call, purpose and place.

The first step and each successive step is all about each one of us as individuals, each takes courage, and we can find courage in abundance within this dedicated community of journeyers on a weekly basis.

I love this community, I love each one of you as my own, Happy Valentine’s Day and if you ever need me I am here.

Rev. Marjorie

 

 

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