"Getting Parsonal" - September 2020



In my seminary days, I had an older, respected friend, a retired attorney who was a member of my home congregation at the time. It was the church that sponsored me for ordination. He often referred to history as “the great oblong blur.” The expression amused me and sparked my imagination. I was a man in my mid-twenties. I thought I understood what he meant. The past somewhat runs together as we age, and it can be a trick to remember what happened when, where and with whom. And so, every time Jim referred to “the great oblong blur of history,” like our other friends, many of them nearer to his age, I would chuckle. Having now accumulating a small handful of additional decades to my life, and especially having lived through these recent pandemic months, both together with and apart from the rest of the world, my understanding of that oblong blur has grown immensely.

Days, weeks and months seem somehow to merge together, and demarcations of time’s passage grow unclear. When was it that happened? Who was it that said that particular thing? When did we go there? Having lived in different regions of the country throughout my career, in some ways, I have the advantage over people who have spent their lives in one place. If I can remember where I was at the time, I can get that much closer to when it was that a particular thing occurred. Yet still, the details grow fuzzy around the edges, and my mind reinterprets things more from a perspective that is more personal than historical. What happened gets colored by my aspirations, hopes, perspective, prejudices and desires. I wonder sometimes if anyone can clearly, objectively recall the past, what, with our capacity to remember (Re-member? Assemble to our liking?) history from our own point of view, with all of our biases and agendas.

And so, my personal understand history, and “the past,” my past, has evolved through the subsequent thirty years of my life.

Then came the pandemic. Life as we’ve known it, and the demarcation of time, came to a sudden and dramatic stop. Days turned into weeks, and weeks, months, and months, seemingly, eternity. Especially when we were mostly sheltering in place, but also since many of us have hazarded more mobility, most of the major milestones that have used to mark the passage of time simply disappeared. Week after week, life remains much the same. Even events like worship, meetings, trips to the store or other errands, all have a measure of “sameness” to them. Seasons seem to be the most reliable marker for time’s passage. It was cold. Then it wasn’t quite so cold. Then it was sunny and nice. Next, hot. REALLY hot! Hot. And now, cooler again, at least for a little bit.

Yet time has not stood still, and especially so for First Church Congregational. People have been at work in the background, keeping our ministry moving forward despite the need to further delay in-person gatherings as a church.

• The food pantry serves increasing numbers of families week after week. Chapel School moves closer to reopening, even with registration remaining low due to understandable caution on the part of families.

• Committees and Ministry Teams work to move our agenda forward:

o Stewardship preparing for our annual pledge campaign;

o Membership Development and Communication managing technology for worship, specifically the new broadcast equipment for the sanctuary;

o Outreach preparing to launch a new project while supporting ongoing ministries like the MAN, Inc. Back to School Backpack project.

o Finance keeping close tabs on income and expenses. Trustees cleaning up, maintaining and planning for our facility’s care, both church and parsonage.

• And of course, the Board, helping to hold all of our ministries together on behalf of the whole church and the community, all the while monitoring the pandemic in our community and region to discern when it’s appropriate for us to gather together again for worship.

In short, though it often feels like we’re standing still through these days of pandemic, First Church Congregational is not standing still. We are definitely moving forward! We continue to be an active, faithful congregation, serving God in Christ’s name, aspiring, in every way we can, to live up to our mission statement:

Seeking God. Caring for each other. Improving our community.

Faithfully yours,

- Bill

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First Church Congregational

United Church of Christ

26 Pleasant Street

Methuen, MA 01844-3119

TEL: 978-687-1240

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