Ingathering 2019

“Be Water, My Friend”
Ingathering on the Common
September 8, 2019


Ingathering Welcome & Comments

Rev. John Gibbons:

Good morning!

Welcome whether you are here for the first time today or you have been here forever.  Welcome if you’re here for the last time!  Welcome whatever your identity, whatever your theology, whatever your age, sex, race, class, political, social and sexual orientation, expression and pronoun, whatever your ability, disability, whatever’s working or not working in your life. Welcome as you are and as you would become.

Welcome as well the jazz stylings of the Tyler/Conrad Jazz Quintet!

Welcome to our special guests and old friends the Stuart Highlanders Pipe Band!

Welcome to Casey Acacia, another of our astonishing whackadoodle, feel good friends from the Boston Circus Guild!

Welcome to our solar panels (as if you could see them).

If you’re new and want to stay in touch with First Parish, or wonder what the heck is Unitarian Universalism and what’s going on here, visit the Welcome Table and fill out a blue connection card.

To register your kids in our religious education program, please visit the RE table and introduce yourselves to Deb Weiner.

If you brought water from near or far, put some in our mingling bowl – or just pour some from one of the pitchers.  And then we’ll make holy water out of it – you know how to do this, right? Boil the hell out of it! – boil the hell out of it and then we use it to bless our babies and children when we name and dedicate them.

We have First Parish t-shirts, free of charge!

And we still have bumper stickers and bicentennial refrigerator magnets, church history books, photo directories, cookbooks, and…pledge cards!  Honor system! Leave lots of money! Time to clean the house!

And now that I’ve got you softened up, I’m gonna preach.  Right now.  I’m going to slip in some really serious stuff and you’ll hardly know it. Just like usual.

First of all, I’m gonna tell you what we’re trying to do around here and then I’m gonna tell you how we’re gonna do it.

We are  – and by “we” I mean we as individuals and we as a covenanted congregation – we are trying  to get good at doing three things.

We’re trying to get good at – wait! You’ll never guess – we’re trying to get good at….shameless lamentation! You heard me right.

We’re trying to get good at visionary proclamation.

We’re trying to get good at creating radical courageous spirited spiritual community.

All right, I know it is celebration, not lamentation, that comes naturally to us and yes we’re gonna celebrate.  But there’s so much to grieve and to mourn, to be sad about, to feel guilty about…there’s so much pain.  So much has been damaged!  We’ve lost so much.  Think about your own life (if you can bear it).  Think about those you love or those you’re estranged from.  Think about our planet.  Think about the melting of the glaciers, the polar ice cap, the burning of the Amazon.  Think about the trampling of human worth and dignity.

And so…we’re here to practice unashamed lamentation, feel our wounds, bind one another’s wounds, share our sorrow, and learn to deal with our pain.  That’s a big part of why our community exists, a bigger part than we usually acknowledge.

And then…we’re also trying to get good at visionary proclamation: we proclaim the worth and dignity of all sentient beings, you, me, the stranger, the other, the trees, the grass beneath your feet, and the worth and dignity of your self, for crying out loud.  We’re here to keep faith with the fallen, to proclaim freedom to the enslaved.  We’re here to turn mourning into praise.

And, number three, we’re here to create radical courageous spirited spiritual community.  This is no casual club.  A radical is one who gets to the root of things and we’re here to put down roots and grow a pair…grow a pair of ovaries or whatever it is that brings you courage, ‘cause we’re gonna need it.  You’re gonna be asked to do stuff here; you’re expected to be yourself, even if you’re a wretch; and here you’re gonna  be invited to be your very best self.

So that’s what we’re doing here: To practice shameless lamentation, to make visionary proclamation, and to create radical courageous spirited spiritual community.

And now here’s how we’re gonna do it.  Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist, put it this way – in words that have become the rallying cry of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and that we too may make our rallying cry:

“Be like water making its way through cracks,” Bruce Lee said.  Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

We will be like water.  We will cry real tears.  We will ebb and we will flow.  We will roil and we will boil and we will be still. We will be like steam and we will be as formidable as ice.  We will run deep as the water that feeds these trees and the grass beneath your feet. We will wear away stone. We will sweat.  We will roll for love and for justice like the mightiest of everlasting streams. We will laugh until the tears roll down our legs. We will make a splash.  We won’t waste a drop.  We will be like water, my friends.

All right now.  You got the idea?  You can preach the rest of that sermon yourself.  You don’t need me.


David Southard
Parish Board President:

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new church year!

Autumn is a beautiful season of change, which for many of us also marks the beginning of the school year and renewed commitment and energy. In my family, we recently sent our son Noah off to college, and many of you have similar tales of transitions, both joyful and poignant, as well.

The Parish Board is a group of Parishioners that represents the congregation and oversees all the practical matters of church affairs. So that everyone can recognize us, I’d like to introduce the Board members for this year. We are:

(yours truly) David Southard, president

Maggie Debbie, treasurer

Paul Bradford

Chris Gittins

Jennifer McClain

Catherine Van Praagh

You can identify us by our yellow name tags, and we are always available to you to discuss any thoughts you may have.

One of the responsibilities of the Board is to hire our professional staff, including the ministers and religious educators who help guide us through life’s journey, both as individuals and as a community. The two-year term of our Interim Director of Religious Education, Deb Weiner, will conclude at the end of this church year. We are announcing for the first time the dates for two Forums on Staffing for Religious Education, which will be Sunday September 29 following the worship service, and Wednesday October 2 at 7pm. The Board will discuss the staffing transition plan, answer questions and listen to comments from the congregation. Please save the dates, further announcements and details will be forthcoming.

Thank you for being here!

I’m excited to be with you in the coming year!


Deb Weiner

Good morning, everyone.

As you have heard, the words for today’s service come from the martial artist and actor Bruce Lee:  “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.  Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Lee’s words, which have informed the witness for justice going on in Hong Kong in these last weeks, call us to adaptability:  to be flexible, ready to respond to what comes, to shape-shift and move in ways that will help us adapt and be able to respond to injustice, to advocate for what is right and needed in the world.

Such words remind us that in lifelong learning – that which we seek for our existence, here at church and out in the larger world – we similarly need to be adaptable, responsive to changing needs and changing times.  At First Parish our religious education program has responded to those needs, as well: we have developed a program of learning, based on those elements most valuable to building our faith in this time: honoring the individual journey to discover our own beliefs, the community in which we gather together, the service we can offer to each other and the larger world, and the quest to build our knowledge of faith.

This year, First Parish’s religious education program for children and youth offers a variety of excellent, age-appropriate curricula for children and youth up through high school – and we want you to join us, as learners, teachers, helpers, advisors.  Members of our Religious Education Team will be at tables to help parents register your children and youth after this service.  They can also provide more information about our programs.  And we seek your engagement – because this is a team effort.  The time to act is now:  Our programs begin tonight, as our Senior High Group gathers to begin their year.  It continues on Wednesday when our Junior Youth Group will gather.  And next Sunday, our RE classroom programs begin at 10 AM.  So come now, to register, to engage, to fill in the cracks and the crevices, like water.

Bruce Lee urged us to be able to adapt quickly to circumstances, to cut our losses when we need to, to be mobile and agile and responsive.  Those are the qualities of water – able to adapt, to flow, and to nourish life, again and again.  So it is with us, with the faith we want to build in our children and youth, here at First Parish and out in the world as well.


Be nurtured:  Drink deep, be carried forward into this church year, and use your nourished self to help grow our faith.  Welcome here, and welcome again.