The Circus Comes to Town


“The Circus Comes to Town”

That’s the title of a recent service, which featured belly dancers.  As Rev. John Gibbons says “It’s not like this every Sunday.”  The sermon was inspirational and brought home the point that this is a community with spiritFirst Parish in Bedford was recently featured in a UUWorld article Disco ball and candlelight as a breakthrough community.  It is a little surreal to read about how we built additions, music programs, social responsibility programs, and lots of other stuff that resulted in our doubling our membership in the past 20 years.

This post is intended to give my readers added context about people who influence my point of view, so let me share some personal observations related to this article.  I’ve been a member of this community for almost all of those 20 years, and was one of many, many people who worked to get the community to this point.  When we were all in the thick of it, I’m not sure I fully realized what was happening.  Fundraising and committee meetings have their rewards, but are also time-consuming and at times exhausting.  For me, this article is like a time-lapse video of a flower coming into bloom.  When it talks about all the children who have grown up together, I visualize my three kids in the mix; kids who view this place as an extension of their home.  When it talks about our response to the Iraq war in 2003, I remember being on the Parish Committee at the time and struggling with our choices about how to respond.  When it quotes Rev. Megan Lynes saying “A lot of young adults want to stand in a pew, hold a hymnal, and step into the living stream of ancient religions…” (full quote in article), I think about being part of the ministerial selection committee when we all said “she’s the one.”  It is really cool to look back and see all that has come to pass.

I like being part of a religious community where I don’t have to check my “scientist hat” at the door. I fondly recall learning about astronomy and celebrating Charles Darwin’s birthday.  I’m sure I could find people to teach me about many fields of science. After all, the use of reason is one of our core principles.  What’s even better is that use of reason does not lead to some dire conclusion about life without meaning as some might predict.  It is quite the opposite.  Growing in spirit is as much an exercise of the heart as it is the mind, which is why I enjoy the expression of spirit with dance, music, poetry and other forms.  People from a variety of backgrounds gather, share common principles, and grow in spirit (and finding meaning) in a unique way.  Diversity is the norm, as is freedom of thought.  This spirit transcends each individual by connecting us all into a community that more and more reaches out beyond the walls of the building.  In a time of tragedy, this is the place I would turn.

I think that First Parish will continue to help people of diverse beliefs to find common ground in 21st century.  As the world becomes more integrated, this will be essential.  Beyond finding common ground between faith traditions, First Parish will likely be an epicenter for bridging the gap between scientific and religious thought.  The building is done and the community is strong.  Now it is time to take the next step in our social and spiritual evolution.

My prediction for the close of 2012 is that the circus will be going on tour.

Have a Happy New Year.


2 thoughts on “The Circus Comes to Town

  1. weeklysift

    As a member of the same church Allan goes to, I wanted to add something about science and religion: One measure of faith is how willing you are to expose yourself to new information. If you think your faith needs to be “protected” from science or from any other source of new information, then you don’t really have much faith at all. The priests who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope were tacitly admitting that they knew the Church was wrong.

  2. Karen Friedman-Hanna

    I am not a member of First Parish, and don’t even live in Bedford, however, my family and I have had the pleasure of attending several services and events there over the past 20 years with Al and his family, including last night’s terrific cabaret. Each time, we have been moved by the spiritual, religious, artistic and intellectual aspects of the program we are participating in. There is an incredibly welcoming feel to your congregation, and we think it is truly a very special place. We appreciate being a part of it, peripherally though it may be. Thanks for your inclusive ways and keep up the good work!


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