Hi I am Bruce Blumberg, and I want to take a couple of minutes to talk about what First Parish means to me. Wasn’t last week’s service great? And it revealed an essential truth: being part of First Parish has the potential to fundamentally change people’s lives. In Anna’s case, it was her visit to Transylvania, and in my case, it started with the pivotal influence that Jennie Rankin had on me many years ago for which I will always be grateful. And that is enough to justify my continued giving to FP. If you have gotten an email from me over the years, you may have noticed that below my signature is a saying from Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race set out for us”. However, from my children, I learned this year that it is possible to find joy in even the hardest race, and so my 2020 take on the saying is “let us run with perseverance the race set out for us, and take joy from the race”. Running with perseverance is hard enough sometimes, but finding the joy in the race takes real discipline.
This is what First Parish has done so well this year. Churches are about gathering, sharing, connection and showing up. Pretty everything to which COVID said: “not so much”. My goodness what a challenge for all of us in so many aspects of our lives. And, yet, First Parish has done a remarkable job in persevering and even finding joy the moment. Let me give a couple of examples…
When we suffered a family tragedy last March, we were lifted up and held by members of the First Parish community who came forward to share their journeys with us so we might begin to find our way. Indeed, this is the true measure of a community, when those whom you don’t know well “show up” for you to share a mile or two with you. We will be forever grateful.
The Immigrant Justice Task Force has always been a model of “rolling up one’s sleeves, and showing up”, whether as sanctuary volunteers, standing vigil outside of the local ICE office, bearing witness on the border, or bringing professional expertise to bear in order to support immigrants in need. When COVID came, direct action was no longer possible, the members of IJTF simply found new and powerful ways to show up. The next time you see one of the IJTF members, ask them what they have been up to and you will be amazed. Perseverance is showing up for the day that faces you, and not the day as you’d like it to be.
And a shout out to all those who in the time of COVID wrote letters and postcards urging people to vote. Sitting down to write letters and postcards may not have the visceral satisfaction of attending a rally, but don’t tell me after Georgia that letters and postcards can’t change the course of history. And to all of those members of FP who wrote letters, let me express my gratitude.
Even Zoom which many of us initially thought we’d loath has opened up new opportunities, and I love how the FP staff has embraced the new technology with humor, grace and creativity, and modeled for all of us that if your heart is in the right place, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect. And that in itself is a great lesson for all of us.
Howard’s bible study classes (is that ok to say to a group of Unitarians?) have been a rich addition to those of us who have participated in them. First, of all, I love hearing Howard riff on the New Testament. I always come away with a fresh perspective or a new thought to chase down. But, they are a really wonderful opportunity to spend 90 minutes with fellow parish members, making new friends, learning from each other, feel ok admitting confusion, or sharing our moments of clarity, and more generally connecting not only with them, but also with the countless other generations who have wrestled with the same words well. For me, it has been a true gift because I feel drawn to the material, and I can imagine that this will be an important focus of my life going forward
All of which is to say that this past year, the FP church and parish has run with perseverance the race that COVID set out for all us, and not only persevered but helped us all find joy and meaning that we could in this segment of our collective race. And for that I am grateful, and I am sure you share my sense of gratitude.