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"Getting Parsonal" - January 2021

I’ve decided on my New Year’s resolution for 2021: to be grateful. My goal will be to live day by day, week by week, even moment by moment, with an attitude of gratitude. Even when things get difficult, when the days are dark and troubled, and my burdens (emotional or physical, social or professional) feel weighty – far too heavy for me to carry – I will strive to be grateful.

Many worthy contenders have presented themselves, vying for first place of 2021 resolutions. I’ve imagined goals for fitness and health, accompanied by resolutions for more vegetables, more fruits, less coffee, less sugar (sugar!), more strength training, more yoga. I’ve had thoughts of reading more intentionally through books I already own, plowing my way through piles of unread, well-intentioned books that still pique my interest. Perhaps if I started with history, working my way through biographies and then on to fiction? And what about polishing-up on my Spanish? If only I could regain a good vocabulary, surely the grammar would all fall back into place

All of those are worthy resolutions. I suspect each of them will play some role in my life in the coming year, especially through the next few, hopefully, waning months of the pandemic. Yet the clear winner, of all these and many other potential resolutions, is gratitude. As a start in what will be an exercise for the months ahead, I want to share some of the things for which I am grateful. Perhaps there will be overlap for you, too.

I’m grateful for a life grounded in faith. From the earliest days of my life, my parents raised me in an environment of faith in God, both at home and in church. Surrounded by disciples of Jesus Christ, I have always lived with an understanding of the love and compassion of God, and of our calling, as followers of Jesus, to walk in his ways, serving God and the world in all that we do, as best we can.

I’m grateful that my faith evolves and grows. The faith I cling to now is distinct from my faith as a child. I strive to live with an open mind and an open heart, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. And year after year, my understanding of divine love and compassion has grown, as has my capacity to express them in the world.

I’m grateful for family and friends. Though the pandemic keeps us physically distant from one another, we have maintained, even strengthened the bonds between us. We’ve been proactive about connecting, hearing, encouraging, and supporting one another. I’m grateful for that beyond measure.

I’m grateful to be part of the First Church Congregational family. From our first days together, I have been blessed to share in life and ministry with you. I grieve the ways the pandemic has taken away (temporarily!) the in-person interactions that we all cherish. Yet we maintain a strong bond. Our faithfulness to God and to each other has seen us through, as it will continue to do until we can physically gather again.

The rest of my list names things about our ministry for which I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for the live broadcast of worship, starting on the first Sunday of the pandemic. For months we used Stacey Murry’s iPhone to broadcast from my office or the parsonage back yard. Then, through the generosity of our church, we acquired a state-of-the-art video broadcast system for our sanctuary. It took a while to work out the kinks, but we now have achieved a dependable, quality broadcast that has not only serves our church’s members and friends but also extends our reach to countless new people. I am especially grateful for Stacey Murray, Carol Sanborn, and Pat Wright for their ongoing dedication to our live broadcast.

I’m grateful for the Church Board, and for the various committees, ministry teams and groups that have continued their work undaunted throughout the pandemic.

I’m grateful for Roberta Jurovich, our Office Manager, for all that she does for the church, for me, and for Chapel School.

I’m grateful for Chapel School, for Cindy Mazella’s dedication and leadership, and for the work of all of our teachers and staff. Together, they create and maintain a safe place for children to learn and grow.

I’m grateful for the Methuen Tuesday Night Food Pantry, and for all our church members who do so much to make it successful, volunteering, donating food and money. Through these tough economic times, addressing food insecurity is more important than ever.

I am grateful for the faithfulness and generosity of our members and friends. Pledges, offerings, and gifts have remained steady from day one of the pandemic, assuring the financial stability of our church through this tenuous time.

And most of all, I’m grateful for the love and support we show one another through calls, texts, emails, cards, notes, zoom gatherings, and even drop-by, socially distant visits.

Even with all of the struggles and pain, grief and loss, frustration and worry of these pandemic days, we have a lot to be grateful for. As we wait for vaccines to be broadly distributed, and long for the time our lives can regain a sense of normalcy and stability, I plan to cultivate gratitude for the many blessings of my life, and for a faith in God that will see me, and all of us, through to the other side.

Happy New Year!


- Bill

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