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Moving Toward the Voice of Water
November 2007

The Sabbatical Committee is happy to announce that the Boards of Trustees and Deacons have found our Sabbatical Minister! She is the Rev. Sue Phillips. Rev. Phillips will be joining the staff of First Parish from mid-January through mid-May on a part-time basis during the period of Elea’s sabbatical. Rev. Phillips has recently completed a very successful four-year, full-time ministry at the Unitarian Universalist church in Keene, NH. This summer she moved back to her hometown of Westhampton to be closer to her family. The Keene church is a growing congregation like our own so Rev. Phillips has experience with the complexities and challenges of a burgeoning church community. Rev. Phillips will take part in Elea’s last Sunday service before the sabbatical period begins on January 6, and will begin office hours the following week. She will be available to the church for 10 hours a week and will preach four Sundays during the sabbatical period.

The interviewing panel of two Trustees and two Deacons were looking for three key qualities in our fill-in minister. First, we wanted a pastoral minister who would work closely with our Caring Committee to ensure that our community will feel cared for during Elea’s sabbatical period. Second, we wanted someone with parish ministry experience, including an ability to communicate with staff, prepare and oversee the weekly email newsletter and the monthly paper newsletter, and generally, keep the office working smoothly. Third, we wanted an excellent preacher. We believe we have found all these qualities in Sue Phillips.

Rev. Phillips understands that the focus of her ministry with us will be to work collaboratively with the church leadership and congregation to make this sabbatical period a rich and engaging time in all our spiritual journeys. Her professional references all praised her ability to work with church groups in Keene to smooth the rough spots while making sure that everyone participates and is heard. Her special interest is social justice and she was the recipient of the UUA’s Skinner Sermon award in 2005 for the best social justice sermon which she presented at General Assembly that year. She also said that while she takes sermon writing and Sunday services seriously, she likes to add some whimsy to the experience.

Rev. Phillips was very impressed with the work the Sabbatical Committee has done in planning and is looking forward to exploring the theme “Moving Toward the Voice of Water” with us. She has done some research already on the social justice implications of who has clean water and who does not and may use some of her pulpit time to reflect on this issue.

Recognizing that Elea’s absence may cause some of us to feel a bit less anchored, the Sabbatical Committee invited members of the Caring Committee to join in the sabbatical planning and to take an extra hard look at what we might do to minimize concern among the congregation. At the same time, the Caring Committee plans to use the sabbatical as a time to deepen what for many is a personal ministry of caring. The Caring Committee has extended its mission by creating a new group to be called the Pastoral Care Team. The Caring Committee will continue to do its good work of preparing meals, offering transportation, and sending out cards. The new Pastoral Care Team will work closely with our Sabbatical minister to help church members and friends in times of bereavement and serious illness.

Our Sabbatical Coach, David Rynick, led a well-attended workshop on Saturday morning, Sept. 29 with about 30 members of the congregation. The theme of the workshop was the spiritual practice of welcoming. We talked about the power of deep listening and curiosity and how these traits help us to be more open to and welcoming of everyone in our lives, not just strangers, but people we already think we know well. David is a member of the UU church in Worcester and a practicing Zen Buddhist. Those who attended on Sept. 29 and who shared their experiences with us found the workshop extremely engaging, personally challenging and very interesting.

David Rynick returns to First Parish on Sunday, November 11. He and Elea will share the service that day and David will lead a “pre-Sabbatical Workshop” beginning at 11:45 AM. The theme of this workshop will be to help us clarify our intentions both as individuals and as a congregation for our own sabbatical journeys.

As your Sabbatical Committee, we have been steeped in the exciting plans for this time. But we know that for many of you, the whole idea of the sabbatical may be on a back burner. We strongly encourage and invite you to attend the service and workshop on November 11. We think this could be a wonderful first step in thinking about this special time and how each of us can best use it to deepen our spiritual lives.

We hope that the sabbatical theme of “Moving Toward the Voice of Water” will act as a touchstone to shape our ideas during this period. Here is another piece of poetry that may help to explain where we are going and what we hope to find there:

What we call a beginning is often an end
and to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time. (T.S. Eliot )

From the Sabbatical Planning Committee

Becky Pine, Chair, and Worship Committee liaison
Deborah Johnson, Board of Trustees liaison
Melinda Green, RE Committee and Board of Deacons liaison
Steve Lieman, Renewal of Giving and Leadership Development liaison
Karen Goudey, Welcoming Congregation liaison
Alice Van Ormer, former Deacon, current RE teacher
Susan Randazzo, Caring Committee liaison, former Deacon
Diane Hewitt, Caring Committee liaison
Elea Kemler, Minister


1 Powderhouse Road … Groton, MA 01450-0457 … 978-448-6307 …   …  

Most recently updated 2007-10-25