spiral of rainbow colored heartsCelebrating Our Congregational Life with Reverend Kathleen Hepler

April 1

With the announcement of Kathleen’s departure, we are entering a time of transition. This is familiar terrain for many, but for some it is new and unsettling. For all, this transition provides a chance for reflection on the ministry we have shared with Kathleen of the last 11 years. It is a time to celebrate her dedicated leadership and to recognize what we have accomplished together during her tenure. We will make space for our sadness, and recognize the strength of our spiritual community.

Over the next  eight weeks we invite you to share in a reflection on This Time in Our Ministry. Each week we will focus on a different part of our congregational life. The Sunday “Time for All Ages” will illuminate that area. Kathleen and a lay leader will share a personal reflection, celebrating the fullness and depth of the First Parish community. We will gather your photographs and stories as we build a visual representation of our ministry in Scott Hall. Finally, we hope you will mark your calendar now to save Saturday, June 2 when we host a celebration in Kathleen’s honor on the evening before her last Sunday service and First Parish in Framingham.

April 8, Week 1

A Place that Cares for Members and Friends

Reflections from Kathleen Hepler

spiral of rainbow colored heartsThe most meaningful moments in ministry are the connections with people over time; through pastoral care, small groups, teaching and especially being a companion in the gateway moments of life such as memorial services, weddings and child dedications. What a privilege it is to be with your during these transitions! Thank you for inviting me into these moments.

There is a lot of love here at First Parish in Framingham. It’s part of the systemic DNA. The women and men of Caritas are always ready to help in times of crises with rides, food and visits. The Women’s Alliance provides gracious receptions after a memorial service. Candles during the Sunday Moment of Sharing are often lit for others in celebration, gratitude and grief. People reach out to one another to support and encourage. There are conscious efforts to be inclusive, even when doing so is challenging.You know how to laugh and have fun together at events like Pies on the Common, the Talent Show and the Auction. I am frequently in awe of the generous giving of time, treasure and talent that First Parish members give to the ongoing health of the church.

There are not many places in American culture where people can be together over time doing life-sustaining things, practicing to be good human beings, and learning to love through difference. This community is a gift( and an antidote) to this fast-paced, competitive  world. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Reflections from Pat Greeley

First Parish has always been a place for community for me. It is so much more than a home for Sunday worship. It is the place where I developed the deep connections to people who have sustained me through all of life’s changes. It is  where Tony and I were truly known. And for Tony especially, it was his personal mission (and still his legacy) that every newcomer should be welcomed and known.

By committing my time in one place over so many years — to the choir, the Church School Council, the Nursery Committee, to Caritas, to Women’s Alliance, to Wellspring Wednesdays, and now to Prison Outreach — I have surrounded myself with people who offer me friendship and support. The people of this community were by my side during Tony’s early illness and recovery, through my own health problems and during Tony’s final years.

Kathleen’s presence with our family through the transitions of life, her particular strength in pastoral care, has provided me support when I needed it the most. Her background in social work and the depth of her understanding of families in all of their complexity, has been an important part of her ministry at First Parish.

In this community I have come to know that all people seek acceptance and understanding. I have experienced those things at First Parish, and I have found so many ways to give them back to others who are hurting, to people in need. To this day, it is the ability to help others, just as I have been helped that gives my life so much meaning.

April 15, Week 2

Connection to Our Denomination

Reflections from Kathleen Hepler

spiral of rainbow colored heartsFirst Parish is not alone in its religious endeavor! You are part of the New England Region and the Unitarian Universalist Association. In my 11 years here, I have been proud of all of you who have taken the time and effort to reach out to other UUs to both learn and teach. The congregation has benefited greatly because of it. For instance, former member Janice Knapp-Cordes was on the Board of UU Mass Action (state wide legislative UU advocacy) and currently member Alejandra Duarte is doing the same. Some of you attend their yearly legislative action day. i hope you have pride about the various ways you have been diligent supporters of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. They serve fragile communities international. You send one half of the Christmas Eve offering to them every year, and support fundraising for them through “Guest at Your table” most years.

Through its connection to the UUA, First Parish will find both an interim minister and a more permanent called minister. The UUA credentials new ministers and provides a process within which congregations and ministers choose each other. The UU Minister’s Association care for ethical standards and collegiality among its members. For five years I served my colleagues as a “Good Officer,” offering consultation and support during difficult professional situations.

Over the years, First Parish members have attended many UUA workshops, connected with another congregation to consider growth strategies (Leap of Faith), and received consultation on long range planning (Vision 20/20). Finally our congregation is recognized as an excellent place for aspiring ministers to do their ministerial internships, In my time, there have been three: Michelle LaGrave, Michael Hall and Johanna Murphy. We ordained both Michelle and Michael here, and Johanna’s ordination is on June 16th.

In these, and so many other ways, you live the truth that “Together, UUs are stronger!”

Reflections from Janice Knapp-Cordes

To be a minister is to undertake serious responsibility to care for the spiritual lives on their congregants, and the congregation as a whole. For Unitarian Universalists, part of this includes contributing to and learning from the larger denomination. Over the years, Kathleen has kept us in touch with the New England Region and the UUA in Boston. She invited Teresa Cooley and Sue Philips from the region  to conduct workshops and discernment session for us, helping individuals to grow and helping our leaders to envision our future.

Kathleen had many forward-looking ideas that just needed a bit of funding which couldn’t be squeezed out of the budget, so she applied for grants from the Chalice Lighters. I particularly remember the Leap of Faith program, where Kathleen led a First Parish delegation to St. Paul to meet with UUA staff and partner with a congregation in Fairfax, Virginia that had successfully adopted policy governance. First Parish lay leaders learned  a great deal from the members in Fairfax and there was sharing going the other way too.

In recent years, First parish has built a particularly strong connection with UU Urban Ministry, committed to social justice and community outreach in Boston. Kathleen was always supportive of this work. UU Mass Action, the statewide network of UUs working for social justice, also always received Kathleen’s support. Finally, there is that grand finale to the church year, the UU General Assembly, to which Kathleen traveled many times. First parish members, including our youth, have also traveled to GA in recent years. The experience offers not only personal renewal, but also insight and ideas that are relevant for First Parish as a whole. Ministers are consummate and dedicated professional, committed to their holy work, and First Parish has been blessed to have had Kathleen Hepler as our minister.