I wish you all could have been with me last month as I preached at the service that installed our friend the Rev. Dr. Linda Barnes as the settled minister of the Starr King UU Fellowship in Plymouth, New Hampshire. It was a joyous occasion and a real treat to see Linda and her people celebrate the start of their ministry together. The relationship of a minister and a congregation is unique and worthy of special attention, especially at the start. Being clear from the beginning about expectations and the covenant that is being made is imperative because it informs everything that will follow. The congregation made promises to support Linda and her family, to not expect too much, and to hold up their side of the responsibilities for their shared ministry. Meanwhile, Linda promised to serve them faithfully, to be present to their sorrows and their joys, and to always prioritize the health of their congregation and the growth of their shared UU faith in the world. I found myself unexpectedly tearing up throughout the service, thinking not only of the commitments that Linda and the congregation there were sharing, but also of the commitments that you and I have shared throughout our nearly 16-years together. We have done well by each other. And we have much to celebrate, even as it nearing the time to say farewell.
On June 11, for my final Sunday as your minister, our congregation will share in a special service to mark the conclusion of our relationship. You can anticipate some storytelling, a slideshow, a “charge” to you from me, and a ritual of “de-installation”, whereby I will return the privilege it has been to serve you back to the congregation. So that we can all be together for this final Sunday, we are arranging to have the service off-site at a location to be determined. More details will be coming soon. We do know that the single service will begin at 10am that morning, and will effectively kick-off the single service summer schedule that will continue until the Sunday after Labor Day.
As most of you know, starting this month I will begin working part-time in my new role as the Executive Director of the ACLU of Iowa, utilizing remaining vacation and leave days to cover the time I am working in my new position. I regret that I will not be as available to you in May and June as I would have hoped, but the ACLU is anxious for me to get started. I’m proud to take the helm of an organization that has for more than 80 years worked to defend our freedoms and rights. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Finally, as part of our May 14 Mother’s Day services, we will have an opportunity to share in a ritual of dedication for some of the children in our church community. During this simple ceremony at the 11:00am service we will acknowledge the children’s given names, bless (or honor) them with the four elements, and declare our responsibility to them as parents and as a community. Contact me no later than May 3 if you wish to have your child dedicated or if you’d like to know more about the ceremony.
See you in church,
Rev. Mark Stringer