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Message from the Minister

Saying goodbye is uncomfortable for many of us

June 2024

Saying goodbye is uncomfortable for many of us.

So we make it quick, or avoid it. We pretend it’s no big deal or we leave angry.

All of these make leaving seem easier to do.

What were your childhood experiences of saying goodbye, of letting go?

Often as children we were not given time to say goodbye, nor taught how to – especially if goodbye resulted from sudden or unexpected death or loss. As a young adult, each time I returned home for a visit, my mother would start a fight when it came time for me to leave. I later realized that this made it easier for her to let me go.

Ministers come to First Parish to serve as spiritual leaders– to the congregation as a whole and to you individually.

We come to do our human best (which is often more human than otherwise) to reflect or embody the Love at the heart of our UU faith.

We are, I hope, mostly friendly. Our work is to make connections with you.

For those in lay leadership roles, your work is to make connections with each minister that serves you.

We all know all of this, and yet when it comes to saying goodbye everything we “know” can seem to fly out the window.

It can be easy to assume we can maintain contact with the departing minister but not impede our ability to build a relationship with the next minister and the community’s ability to share in a fruitful ministry with the new person. Even ministers have these same thoughts. Yet my fellow members of the UU Ministers Association keep me accountable to the need to say a “goodbye” that is a true and complete one. It’s not easy for any of us, in any setting.

An important aspect of our spiritual work is to learn the grace of letting go and saying goodbye.

On June 30, I will leave First Parish, I will formally retire from the ministry.

I will be sad to leave you. I am grateful for the time we have had and the time to get to know and work with many of you. I have great hopes for your future with Rev. Steve Wilson.

Rev. Steve and you will build a new relationship of ministry, and this work takes time and

attention. Personally, I will treasure the moments we shared in our ministerial relationship.

These two years are now part of my personal history as well as part of First Parish’s ongoing history.

After June 30, I will not remain in touch. This means I won’t respond to Facebook, or phone calls, texts, emails, or snail mail from individuals for at least two years.

If there is a need to contact me regarding First Parish business please tell Rev. Steve Wilson (after August 1) or your Office Administrator; they will contact me for the information.

But I will be thinking about you. If we run into one another in person, I’ll be glad to see you.

Please say hello and I will respond with a hello. I say goodbye with appreciation for the honor of serving with you the past two years, and with my best wishes.

With affection and gratitude,

Rev. Abigail Stockman, Interim Minister

Happy Beltane

May 2024

Beltane is one of the Celtic pagan cross-quarter festivals. It marks the halfway point between the spring vernal equinox and the summer solstice. 

These days, and for something like the last thousand years or more, it has been closely connected with Mayday.

It is generally thought of as a festival of fertility to bless the ground as seed and crops are planted to feed the whole community for the coming year.

Reading about Beltane this morning I was reminded that Beltane’s roots may be much older and a bit less dramatic in its origin.

One author suggested that Beltane began nearly 6000 years ago as a marker of the time to bring the cows out of their winter shelters into the greening meadows for the warm, summer season.

The author noted that at that time the world was shifting from a hunter, gatherer culture into an agrarian one and therefore it was important to mark the shifting seasons and times related to agrarian life: crop planting and animal husbandry needs. 

Such a time must have been like the one in which we now live: a time of upheaval, uncertainty, excitement for new ways, and fear of letting go the old ways.  

The value of a faith community in shifting times is that it can provide us with a compass – an ethical and spiritual compass for navigating our way, individually and collectively, toward contributing to the creation of a new future that reflects our deepest Hope and Love for the well-being of all.

In faith,

Rev. Abigail

Hello First Parish,

February 2024

Hello First Parish,

We are almost 2/3 of the way through winter.

Punxsutawney Phil, the iconic groundhog, predicted on the 2nd of February that an early spring is on its way.

According to one newspaper article Phil is only right about 30% of the time. Time will tell.

Still, something in the air at First Parish feels, to me, like the fresh air of spring after you’ve opened the windows for the first time and unsettled some of winter’s housebound, stale, air.

I am not calling First Parish stale.

But the pandemic took us all into a metaphorical winter household with the doors and windows closed to the outside illnesses. The number of people with whom we interacted regularly became smaller during the pandemic. First Parish Church shrunk during the pandemic. You are about 1/2 the size of the congregation you were a decade ago in 2014. We became used to this way of being and hardly noticed it, even as we yearned to connect in- person and expand our interactions with others.

This last year and a half of interim ministry has been as much about your transition from

pandemic era functioning into our new hybrid reality, as it has, also, been about your transition between ministries. Many of you have expressed wondering, even concern, about how, and if, your congregational life will work in this new reality as a smaller congregation and with half-time professional ministry.

Yes, it can work and First Parish Church of Northboro has future potential!

That is some of the fresh spring air that I have felt blowing through your congregation recently. I hope some of you have felt it as well. “Future potential” may not look anything like the past that many of you hold dear and with deep affection (as you should). When I listen to you share about that past, what appears to have been at the heart of it was a connection to Principles, Values, and a connected community larger than any one of you.

Everything was not perfect and you as a community were not always perfect people – but the sense of aspiring toward being a more Beloved Community – was active and motivating.

The Transition Team is working with you to discern how that connection of community to

Unitarian Universalism’s Principles and Values could best serve you (collectively) as you are now, and as the world is now, emerging from a pandemic and in a time of great social anxiety about the future of democracy, climate, and human well-being.

You are, in large part, showing up for and participating in these services. This is part of the fresh air.

Many of you noted, a few Sunday’s ago, that the pews were filled with a number of familiar, and recently missed, faces. This was also an affirmation of the value of music, thanks to Olga Rogach and guest musician, Ron Williams, as an act of worship here at First Parish. And another moment of fresh spring air flowing through.

Your Governing Board, with Celia Brown as its President, and a number of your committees (or ‘teams’ as I prefer to name them) are considering, or making, changes toward your new reality of half-time (but still connected) ministry, of working with the needs of a smaller congregation (for now), and holding the possibility of a vibrant, if different, future for First Parish. More fresh air flowing around First Parish.

Your challenges too, which remain alongside all else, are also places where fresh air can offer new perspectives.

Please hold with me this prayer for your future:

Spirit of Life and Love;

Remind us that we are good; we already have what we need;

Blow through us the fresh air of current needs, though different from past needs, that still reflect

a viable, worthwhile, and meaningful Unitarian Universalist ministry.

(For those here and those who have not yet found their way here).

We are always Loved,

We are always new possibility,

May we commit ourselves to sharing that Love and new possibility in our living.

So may it be.


August 2023

September is just around the corner.

And so we begin our 2nd year of Interim Ministry together.

Opening worship service


Sunday September 10, 2023 at 10:30 am

We have an exciting program planned for this worship year. I, Rev. Abigail Stockman, will be with you for two Sunday’s each month (except for December when I will be here for three Sundays). Your Worship Team will be inviting guest ministers/speakers into the pulpit, or provide their own creative spirit to worship, for one Sunday each month. The Transition Team, who work with Rev. Stockman to help prepare the congregation for the upcoming ministry transition, will provide a program service once each month. For the three months that contain a fifth Sunday the Governing Board will be responsible for a service.

There are many opportunities for action that await us all this year. Worship and outreach into the larger Unitarian Universalist community and also into the surrounding Northborough area. There is a community meal program, centered through Trinity Church, that continues to need support. Alicia Coderre has carried the light of First Parish in this activity in recent years. It would be wonderful to be able to say that First Parish has an active group working on the community meals.

Northborough at this time is welcoming new neighbors, a group of Haitian refuges who are primarily Creole and French speakers. It would be lovely to connect with these new neighbors to ask them how we might assist them in their transition to this new community.

I continue to commute to you from northern Vermont, where the house building went a bit slowly in the early and mid-summer due to the weather. I will be in Northborough two weekends each month. See the current schedule of my weekends at the end of this article.


On the weekends when I am preaching, I will remain in Northborough through Sunday and Monday morning. I will be available, by appointment on Sunday, and will be in the Minister’s Office, downstairs in the Parish Hall, from 9am- Noon on those Mondays. Please enter Parish Hall, on Monday mornings, through the back entrance so as not to disturb the Montessori Preschool upstairs.

I will hold virtual office hours on Monday mornings from 9-Noon when I am not in Northborough. These will begin on Monday September 18, 2023. All participants will first enter a waiting room so that confidentiality of conversations can be maintained in my virtual office. Thank you in advance for patience in waiting to invited into the room.

I will be answering emails and phone messages two days each week: Monday and Thursday.

If you need to schedule an office (virtually) outside of the Sunday or Monday time frames, please phone or email me.

If you have a pastoral emergency please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me by phone.

Watch your emails for further announcements of activities and events.

Hello First Parish Northborough,

September 2022

I am looking forward to being with you as your half-time Interim Minister for the next ten months!
I am joyful to be returning to ministry with you, after having served as your Minister for Worship during Rev. Sutherland’s sabbatical in early 2021.
I am excited about a co-interim ministry with Rev. Misty-Dawn Shelly, a first-time experience for us all.   First Parish Northborough, you are in my prayers for strength, courage, and creative imagination, as you transition from your successful ministry with Rev. Sutherland into your future successful relationship with a settled minister.  It is an honor.
As we slowly emerge from a, (alas, sigh) not-yet finished, pandemic, you, as a congregation, along with our larger society, are in a time of transition. Transitions – and interim ministry – are moments of hopeful possibility in our collective lives. Transitions are also times of grief. For every change comes with its own griefs and its own joys. We all have different responses to life’s inevitable changes – we may meet it with groans, or fears, or excitement, or welcome; or some combination of all four.  An interim ministry will give you, First Parish, the opportunity to acknowledge your griefs and explore your hopeful possibilities while also beginning to chart your way forward into the unknown waters of the future.
May the blessings and grace of just being human in these times, be with us all!
In peace,
Rev. Abigail

Greetings Members and Friends of First Parish Northboro,

September 2022

I look forward to being your quarter-time minister with a focus on supporting the ministries of the pastoral care team, religious education team, and your Director of Religious Education for this 22-23 church year.
Some of you may remember I was your ministerial intern from 2009 – 2011 and that you ordained me along with my home congregation of Brookfield, MA on June 12, 2011. First Parish Northboro has a special place in my heart.
I’m grateful the stars have aligned and that you have a wonderful transition team willing to contract for this year’s adventure of ministry. 

Rev. Misty-Dawn Shelly

Fewer Than Two More Weeks!?!

October 26, 2021

Have you heard? Our target date for Hybrid Worship (in person in the sanctuary, and on Zoom at the same time) is Sunday, Nov. 7th!
But before that can happen, we need to:
  1. Prepare the inside of the church for use once more, including sanitizer in multiple spots and signs about vaccines, masking, distancing and singing/not singing, and options such as sitting in the balcony for added safety.
  2. Adapt our service elements (joys and sorrows, hymns, etc.) so that we do them in the lowest-risk way possible, hopefully without sacrificing the feel or the meaningfulness of what we do
  3. Have the capacity to join Zoom from the sanctuary, in some form or other. It’s our hope to have our new, very cool camera and control board operational by then, but even if I preach to an ipad at first, it will be from the sanctuary. I am really, really looking forward to preaching to really face to face, breathing-in-the-same room people once again!
Want to help?

We are looking for a few more people who are interested in helping with the logistics of gathering in person while following the guidelines of our Covid Advisory team. The guidelines offer room for choices, so there will be lots of room for ideas and experimentation.

If you are a hands-on person, we’ll need some of that, too, as we begin to prepare for distanced seating, signage, hand sanitizer, collecting the offering, joys and sorrows setup, and many more details.

For those who will still be tuning in on Zoom, we are especially aware that we need to use our camera to bring you in close to the action, as often as possible, and make you feel included as much as is possible.

We will keep experimenting and learning, exploring and growing, adopting what works and graciously letting go what no longer fits. We will be trying some new things from time to time to see how they work, and we’ll need feedback, so please let us know what works for you, what doesn’t, and suggestions you may have.

Please contact me by email to join the fun, or to ask any questions you have.
With Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

Hello, friends,

August 24, 2021

It’s good to be back home, after an absolutely wonderful three weeks with some of my kids and grandkids. I definitely feel more refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of “church amid pandemic.”

I just finished reading and doing some analysis on the Reopening Survey we put out a couple months ago. Many thanks to all who replied! I especially appreciated learning how many folks feel about the possibility of holding in-person church.

Comments ranged from “It has been great to go to church in my pj’s, I may never go back” to “We should just open up!” The vast majority of you expressed the wish to proceed with extreme caution, and follow our values of inclusion, interdependence, and relying on scientific evidence to guide our decisions. That is exactly what we will endeavor to do.

The Reopening Team is working hard on crafting a policy, subject to Board approval, that will guide us in gradually resuming in-person operations, and, should the virus resurge, suspending in-person operations,

The Worship Team is taking on the challenge of planning worship that can translate into two platforms, in-person and online. Olga is hatching some fun ideas to keep excellent, soul-stirring music a vital part of our Sunday morning experience. And we will undoubtedly find some new and innovative ways to feed each other’s spirits and keep doing good in the world.

Hang on, friends, this year should be very interesting! I’m sure we are up to the challenge, together.

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

Sharing community partnerships: what’s happening, what isn’t

June 8, 2021

In an effort to draw our circle wider, we have been working for the past few years to get to know other congregations, and exploring mutual aid and cooperation with the churches in our area. Over the past year, we have worshiped on Zoom with six other congregations,  experimenting with different worship styles, and getting to know other UUs.

The last congregation we shared worship with this year, Marlboro-Hudson, has had to make deep cuts to their staff hours next year, and is discussing many possibilities for their future, including the possibility of seeking to merge with another congregation. I have learned that there are some feelings of anxiety and confusion here at First Parish about the fact that “merger” has been mentioned.

I appreciate those who have come to me or a member of the Board directly with questions and concerns, because I really value direct communication. and because I always learn something valuable that helps me become a more thoughtful and inclusive leader. 

So I need to clarify: We are not in talks with Marlboro-Hudson about a merger. I can promise you that if they ask to talk to us about that possibility, it would be an open process, with the congregation ultimately making any final decisions. Just as with calling a minister, no merger, nothing on that scale can happen without you, the members. Nothing has happened except that the Unitarian Church of Marlboro-Hudson has let us know that they are discussing it, among other options.

Your leadership has been working hard to be clear, transparent, and responsive to all of the members. We deeply appreciate feedback. As always, if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, the Board and I encourage you to call, text, or email. Any one of us will be glad to listen and discuss. 

Thank you for being here, thank you for caring, thank you for speaking up and making your thoughts known.

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

A Work of the People

December 11, 2020

While not the same as getting together in person, our online worship team works hard to provide heartfelt and inspiring worship services each week, and to nurture as much connection as possible during this time of social distancing.

During December’s Holiday season, they are working extra hard to bring a “taste of the holidays, First Parish style.” 

I meet three times a week with this stellar Worship Team, and I want to publicly thank them for all the ideas, talent, enthusiasm, and hard work they bring to support our Sunday worship week after week, month after month:

  • Dennis Duquette
  • Pam Landry
  • Debra Zagaesky
  • Olga Rogach
  • Linda Clark
  • Anne Lenault
  • Chris Woodcock
  • Rich Morreale

Many thanks as well to all who have helped with our worship through planning services, doing readings during Zoom services, sent recorded musical numbers, photos, video clips, ideas, readings, poems, or stories, decorating the sanctuary for the holidays, and providing feedback to help us make worship a more heartfelt and inclusive experience. All of these things help make worship at First Parish truly a “work of the people,” as it should be.

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

Connecting with the Beauty of Life Takes Practice

October 27, 2020

All through October, we have been talking about cultivating contemplative practices that allow us to pause and allow ourselves to be beguiled by the beauty around us, as a way to connect with ourselves and our work in the world in a deeper, more authentic way. I am taking this lesson to heart, working to institute habits that allow me to repeat this experience, over and over – to “practice” opening my heart to be touched by this great wonder that is Life.

I consider the taking of sabbatical to be one of the disciplines of being a minister. Sabbatical is a time of paid personal leave with the intention of encouraging growth and development in the arts of ministry through education and spiritual renewal. This is a benefit to both the congregation and the minister, and works wonders in helping to avoid ministerial burnout and high ministerial turnover rates.

My sabbatical is scheduled to begin a three month sabbatical beginning January 1, 2021. I have been working with the Sabbatical Committee, appointed by the Board, for the past year to put the pieces into place to facilitate the smooth functioning of the church while I am gone. They will be sending out an email in the next few days, with more details about how this will work.

You will continue to have great worship, and if needed, pastoral care. Stay tuned to meet our Sabbatical Minister at a Sunday service in November!

I am grateful to have the opportunity to take a sabbatical next year. I will take the time to dive deep during those three months. I will explore ways to connect with my call to ministry with more clarity and joy. I hope to learn more about the daily and weekly practices that work for me, that help me show up as my best self for my family and friends, our congregation, and the world. And I will be excited to share the journey with you when I return.

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

Message from the Minister

April 7, 2020

My friends, this is hard. Vacations, graduations, trips to the beach, Jazz concerts, Open Mic, proms, so many things that we have looked forward to have been postponed or cancelled. People we know have family members who are ill – some with Coronavirus, some with other conditions – and many cannot even visit them. Some have lost jobs, or must face daily exposure to dangerous conditions without adequate protective gear in order to continue to pay rent and buy food. Some choose to walk into danger because sick people, elders, and others may depend upon their help for their very lives. Anxiety is high, we worry and wonder how careful we need to be. It is ALL HARD.

Here is my message today: it is our moral duty to face this head on and do the hard thing. And continue to do it, as long as we have to.

This morning I looked up the local coronavirus statistics for Middlesex County, where I live. Confirmed cases in the county as of today are 2,950, up 328 from just yesterday. 42 have died; yesterday that number was just 5. We are 5 days away from our medical system being seriously overwhelmed.

The most important thing we can do for the next 2-3 weeks is to stay as safe as we possibly can. Staying safe under these conditions is an act of moral courage, and benefits everyone.

Please, please, as much as you possibly can, only go out among other people if it is truly a matter of life and death. It’s time to voluntarily live under as close to lockdown conditions as we possibly can, until the worst of this wave passes over us; and even then, proceed with extreme caution until an effective vaccine and/or treatment can be found and made widely available.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep on caring, keep on sharing, keep on helping where we can, as safely as we can.

I love you all. I want us to come out of the other side of this with as many of us as possible still here among us. I am glad I have you all to walk through this with me.
In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda

Spiritual But Not Religious

August 23, 2019

In a survey taken by the Pugh Research Center some years ago, a significant number of people self-identified as “Spiritual but not religious.” By this they meant they felt they had some spirituality in their lives, perhaps even spiritual practice, but they did not identify with any one religious body or set of beliefs.

Of course, the typical UU response to this is, “They are UUs at heart!” One of our seven UU principles is “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.” We will happily assert that you can be a UU Buddhist or Christian or Jew or Muslim or Religious Naturalist or Pagan or Humanist or Atheist, or maybe several of the above at the same time.

However you may define “spiritual growth,” it is important to living a positive, resilient life. We don’t have control over everything that is bringing stress into our lives, but we can develop the capacity for staying grounded, and bouncing back after grief, pain and worry – resilience.

Spirituality is a necessary component of resilience. That is Brenee Brown’s conclusion, after years of research and analyzing thousands of interviews. She says, “Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we’re all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives.”

And this was true no matter the person’s interpretation of spirituality. “We all have to define spirituality in a way that inspires us,” Brown says. “Practicing spirituality is what brings healing and creates resilience.” 

How do you define spirituality in your own life? What practices help you retain a sense of connectedness to yourself, to other people, and to the vast interconnected web of existence which is our home? What helps you reconnect with love and compassion in your life?

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland

Minister Message

June 14, 2019

Here we are, on the cusp of summer, ready to celebrate the sun’s power to renew and energize. From the Soular Jazz fest on Saturday, highlighting solar power and other earth-friendly technology and practices, to the Flower Communion on Sunday where we celebrate community with a ritual incorporating the riot of blooms this rainy spring has gifted us, to the Women’s Retreat and summer solstice ritual, the church year is finishing with a flurry of sun-centered events.

Please note that next week on Sunday, July 23, our service will be a live stream of the worship service concluding the national Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which is in Spokane, WA this year. Therefore, the service will be at 1:00 pm. We’ll set up the big screen and projector in Parish Hall and enjoy worshiping with UUs from across the country. This is always a wonderful service, and I hope many of you will join us.

After that, we begin our summer worship schedule, a little earlier and in the more relaxed atmosphere of Parish Hall. These will be “lay led” services, which means members will be leading them. As Unitarian Universalists, we support each other as we each search for truth and meaning, and lay led services are a wonderful way to share what we are finding on that journey, and to explore further together. If you think you might like to lead one of the summer services, the worship ministry team can help. Contact Linda Clark at 

There will also be two “Summer Safari Worship” services this summer, and it is our turn to host one of them. This is a cooperative program of the UU churches in our area, and give our folks a chance to visit another UU church and mingle with our neighbors in other towns. Please see details below; more information will be coming soon! 

I will be taking three weeks of vacation starting July 1, and after that I will be around, mostly studying and participating in planning for the next church year. If you have a pastoral care need, please contact the pastoral care team; there will be a minister available should you need one while I am away, and they know how to reach me as well in an emergency.

Our regular worship schedule and choir schedule will resume September 8 with our “Ingathering” service (aka “Welcome Home”) with a ceremony mingling the waters we gather on our summer adventures. 
My wish for you is that the coming season will bring you the possibility of a little bit slower pace, a little bit more fun, and some time for introspection and centering. I hope to see many of you on Sunday for the gifting of flowers.

May you have peace, may you have joy, may your life abound with love and grace.

In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland 

Minister Message

March 22, 2019

The relationship you have with your minister can be, and should be, supportive, affirming, and empowering. It is my intention to make this true for all people in our congregation, from the youngest to the oldest, and everyone in between. Your minister should feel approachable and accessible. 
And, of course, there are times when I am more accessible than others! Sunday morning is often a very full and focused time, and not the best time to try to engage in a deep conversation. Monday is my day off. However, I am accessible throughout the rest of the week.
Not sure when to call your minister? Here are some ideas:
Call the Minister When:
  • You don’t know me, but would like to.
  • You are upset with me, or would like to express appreciation.
  • You have religious or spiritual questions.
  • You are seeking to deepen your spiritual practices.
  • You have problems with your job, children, marriage, parents, school, or anything else where a sympathetic ear might help you sort through the issues.
  • You are going to the hospital, having surgery, find out you have a serious illness or condition, or know of someone else in the congregation who has any of these experiences.
  • Someone close to you has died or is critically ill or you’re dealing with a significant loss or transition of some kind.
  • You are planning to be married, separated, or divorced.
  • You would like your child dedicated in a special blessing ceremony.
  • You are struggling with your identity or sexuality and need support.
  • You feel ready to join the congregation, or have questions about membership.
  • You want to explore new ways to engage in congregational life.
How to Reach the Minister:
In the spirit of trust, compassion and inquiry,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland 

Minister Message

January, 2019

The subject line caught my eye immediately: “The Small Church in Massachusetts Where Gay and Trans Immigrants Feel at Home” I’ll admit I am always on the lookout for good news these days, stories (true ones) about people acting on the better angels of their natures. I’m also attracted to information about what other small churches near us are up to, so I paused and read the article, from the Boston Globe.
I learned that for a decade, a dedicated team of volunteers at Rev. Judith Hanlon’s Hadwen Park Congregational Church in Worcester has helped more than 150 gay and transgender immigrants make a life for themselves in America. They arrive with legal visas, seeking asylum, but can’t work until they have a social security card and green card, a process that can take up to a year. The church fills that gap with donations, help with housing, and a lot of love and care.

I expect this effort will make it onto our half-plate donations list in the near future.

It does my heart good to hear about people making a difference. It does my heart good to know that our congregation, through donating half our offering each week to different organizations doing good – which we have been doing for years now – can help amplify the good that others are engaged in. It does my heart good to know that people care, and do what they can to help fellow humans, creatures, and the planet we all depend on.

Keep on looking for the good. 
In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland

Minister Message

November 9, 2018

In delving into our November theme of Memory: Story Dwellers, I have been struck by how many stories clamor for our attention these days. With instant news 24/7, and the amplification of Facebook and Twitter, we are exposed to stories constantly clamoring for our attention.
Often, those stories can be distressing. Sometimes, the quantity of alarming, scary stories can feel overwhelming, and threaten to keep us constantly in fight, flight or freeze mode. This is not a healthy state to remain in for long periods of time, and it can sap us of our ability to be the positive force in the world that each of us can be. And it is so important to be that influence for good, even in very small ways. What we do, say and feel matters. We matter.
But there can be an upside to having access to these many, many stories. If we look, we can find stories of great courage, stories of people caring, and sharing, and rising up in defense of the weak and marginalized. Stories that give me hope in the goodness of so very many people, stories of courage and compassion and ethical behavior. I try to remember these stories when I am feeling discouraged and worried about what is going on. 
Here is one of these stories, shared by a UU minister colleague:
One of my congregants went to hold a sign to support question 3, in defense of Transgender Rights. She chose the polling place near her home, where her neighbors, the ones who knew her kids growing up–including her daughter who came out as trans two years ago and now leads part of the student community in her town– would all have to pass her to go and vote. She went to say, look at me, at my face, in my eyes. She went to say, see my daughter. She showed up to say, see me, see all of our humanity.
Then a police car drove by, slowly, once, and then came back the other way, and then parked and two officers got out. She thought, oh shit, and drew herself up and cleared her throat; she had permission from the city to be there. One of the officers waved, and the other one approached.
He said “hi.” She nodded.
He pointed to her sign. She nodded.
He said “thanks for doing this.” She stared.
He said, “I’m trans.”
So that happened. Here in little [small town], MA.

May the stories that come into our memory today be these kind of stories, that help give us courage, and hope, and imagination for an even better future than we have yet dared to imagine.

In Gratitude~
Rev. Lynda Sutherland

Minister Message

September 14, 2018

No one needs change their beliefs or identity in order to be UU. We are people of many beliefs, honoring each person’s heritage and search for truth.
In Unitarian Universalism, you can bring your whole self: your full identity, your questioning mind, your expansive heart. By creating meaningful communities that draw from many wisdom traditions, and more, we are embodying a vision “beyond belief:” a vision of peace, love, and understanding.
We have more than one way of experiencing the world and understanding the sacred. What we call our “Living Tradition” draws from six sources of inspiration from scripture to poetry to modern-day heroes. One of the six sources we draw upon in our worship and religious education is “Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.” 
This Sunday, we honor the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a progressive and inclusive twist. At other points in the year, we may honor holidays from other religious traditions. In all of this, we are honoring one of our core UU principles, to support each other in our search for meaning and truth.
 How do you experience the world? How do you make meaning? What beliefs and traditions are yours?
Let’s continue the conversation!
In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland

Minister Message

June 29, 2018

Last Sunday, I gathered with about 20 other First Parish folk in Parish Hall to experience the Sunday Worship, live streamed from the General Assembly in Kansas City. The President of our Unitarian Universalist national Association described her experience last August when she showed up with other clergy from many faith traditions to witness for peace during the white nationalist “rally” in Charlottesville, NC, where the university and local synagogue were the targets of hate speech the night before by heavily armed white men.
Her story is powerful, sobering, and extremely important; she was there, eyewitness to events that are almost incomprehensible to many of us. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable and weak among us are increasingly under assault in a variety of ways. The ongoing imprisonment of children whose parents showed up on our southern border looking for asylum is one recent example. Two things, Rev. Gray told us, are absolutely clear. 
#1-This is no time for a casual commitment to your faith, your community, and your values. As Unitarian Universalists, we are first and foremost religious communities, religious communities that practice love as our foundation-and we are living in times of heartbreak, violence, struggle, and pain. In this time, we need communities that remind us of our humanity in this very inhumane time.
#2-This is not time to think we are in this alone. We as individuals, or as individual congregations, cannot be in this struggle alone. “I was strengthened,” she said, “by the faith leaders who I stood with shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, on that line. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist-Siding with Love. Now is the time to build stronger relationships across our faith deeper partnerships and commitment with those most impacted, on the frontlines of campaigns for liberation.”
My friends, we are indeed not in this alone. Tomorrow, Saturday June 30, thousands of people will rally in Washington, DC, to protest these family separations and the “zero tolerance,” “ignore due process” policy that has led to this and other human rights abuses. People are gathering locally, as well, all over the country. I plan to attend the rally here in Northborough at Ellsworth Park on route 135, scheduled for 10 am. I need to show up shoulder to shoulder with others who feel, as I do, that what is happening is WRONG. To know that I am not, that we are not, alone. To witness for Love, and that hate has no home here.
You can find video and transcript of last Sunday’s service here:

For a rally near you, check out the Act.moveon.orgwebsite: and scroll down to All Events. Links are provided with further information about each location’s event. Note that there is also an online rally for Massachusetts disabled, caregivers and others. 

Tomorrow, I will be among many who show up On the Side of Love. Let us not give in to discouragement, let us not expect more of ourselves than we can do, but let us do what we can to remind our beloved nation of our common humanity. Resisting hate is an act of Faith.
In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland

Minister Message

March 30, 2018

Minister‘s Message
How very welcome spring weather is each year, and it seems especially welcome right now, on the heels of three intense winter storms. Now that the snow is melting, the full extent of the damage to trees and human structures becomes even more evident. The view from Ginger’s and my back patio contains multiple mature trees that were snapped right in half.
And yet, the crocuses and daffodils are pushing their hardy green shoots into the warming air of spring, the songbirds have returned, and we have seen a pair of mourning doves checking out the neighborhood. Mourning doves were a big part of my childhood, with several pair nesting under the eves of the house I grew up in, so I’m hoping those two will want to move in near us.
And, just as hardy and dependable as the return of spring, we see a resurgence of the human longing for freedom, for fairness, for a society where we care for our youngest and oldest and poorest and most vulnerable members. What began as a trickle has, seemingly, melted into a springtime flood. With young people leading the way, people are joining in a bipartisan movement for common sense rules to keep our citizens safer from the threat of gun violence – not only mass shootings but accidental shootings and a variety of other fatal incidents involving guns.
Does everyone agree what those laws and rules should be? Of course not. But until people talk about it, begin to study the problem, try new approaches and honestly appraise how they work, we will never make any progress on the issue. I’m terrifically proud of all the young people who are insisting that we begin, and then sustain, that conversation. I am terrifically proud of the elders who are listening and paying attention, respecting the voices of a generation that has grown up with, not fire and tornado drills, but shooter drills.
Now, we are listening. Now, we are talking. Now, we are seeing the stirrings of change and growth. All is not dead, all is not lost.
The return of warmth, the return of hope, the stirrings of life in the spring, the cycle is repeated. Welcome, spring. Welcome, life and love.
In Gratitude,
Rev. Lynda Sutherland