Dear friends and members,
June marks the conclusion of our first church year together. I am honored to have been called as your 16th settled, and first female, minister. So much has happened over the last months, rather than list things in a chronology, I will group them by themes. I hope they capture the essence of how we have spent our time and how we have grown, and will continue to grow, together.
We started using monthly ministry themes this year. The first one was Story. The others were Intention, Balance, Creativity, Spirituality, Service, Covenant, Openness, Rootedness, and Play.
This was a year of getting to know one another. Connection and relationship building take time, and we are off to a good start. We made our connections and built of relationships through chalice circles, Journeys of Faith, and other such activities. Sharing deeply, respecting and celebrating differences, and honoring tradition while being open to the new are just some of what we care about.
Love has been bedrock in this beloved community for hundreds of years, and it continues to guide us. We reaffirm this covenant each Sunday as we say our unison affirmation beginning with the phrase “Love is the doctrine of this church…” With love as our north start, we are growing together in depth and number. This year 34 people made the decision to become members of the First Religious Society.
The epitome of congregational covenant-making was the installation service on March 3rd. What a beautiful celebration that was! It was characterized by both joy and solemnity. How joyful it was to have both of our Emeritus Ministers, Reverend Bert Steeves and Reverend Harold Babcock, join us. It highlighted how worship and shared ministry are at the glowing center of our life together. We have been blessed with the integration of lay Worship Associates into our Sunday services each week. Attendance on Sunday mornings has been consistently high, up 40% from last year.
Our commitment to shared ministry resonates throughout all that we do. We are now working in teams as demonstrated in the installation team, various search teams, pastoral care associates, worship associates, the mission-vison process team, and the teams working on membership and communications including our new-member team and the database team.
All of this demonstrates the deep engagement within and beyond our congregation. We have been strengthening partnerships in the wider community this year by gathering our largest team in recent history for the Jeanne Geiger Annual Walk Against Domestic Violence, hosting a community vigil against gun violence in early December, and having a monthly team at the Habitat for Humanity work site for homes in Salisbury. We are committed to sustaining and deepening our relationship as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, as emphasized by regional and national staff members taking part in the installation.
We celebrated our 93rd Candlelight Service and honored the lives of members Stan Cecil, Marise Fraser, Walter Mott, Nikki Rosen and Deb Shapiro with memorial services.
The staff team has been busy this year and has evolved significantly. We wished Diane Young a happy retirement in November, congratulated Nicole Salemi on her promotion to Director of Community Engagement, and welcomed Mike Baker as our new Sexton and Diane Carroll as our new Office Administrator. We had a joyful, collaborative spring of music as we conducted a search for our new Director of Church Music and look forward to formally welcoming Justin Murphy-Mancini into that role in August.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone—the Parish Board, members, friends, staff and community members—for helping to make this year such a success. I look forward with anticipation and confidence to the important discernment that we will do next year in our mission and vision work.
Have a beautiful summer.
Respectfully submitted, with love and gratitude, Reverend Rebecca