It’s been quite a month. To all appearances, our church re-start in Norton has been moving along beautifully. We’ve had between forty and fifty people at our January and February services, and vibrant small group communities in our Roots groups, Buddhist groups, and Young Adult group. People are inviting their friends to our events, (hooray!) and we’ve been growing by about 2 or 3 people per week.
I received a letter at my home a few weeks ago. It was from an attorney who the Parish Committee of Norton had hired, and it notified me that when my contract with the church expired on May 1, they would not be renewing it. Further, it appears as though the Parish Committee has decided not to formally meet and therefore allow any of the new people to become actual members of the church.
When I first received the letter, all I could think of was “this must not be over. We are onto something here, and something beautiful is happening in this community. It simply can’t be over!” For a short period of time, my vocational path was clouded, and with it, the future of the spiritual community we have been building. I had felt so sure, you see, that this church, at this location in Norton, was the way to bring about a version of vibrant, transformative, Unitarian Universalist faith. But as I started to talk to people – people who have been part of the Norton community and the Unitarian Universalist community, and the people who are interested in what we have been doing in Norton – a path opened that I never would have expected a few weeks ago.
Yesterday, I signed a contract to become the full time minister at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Taunton. First Parish Taunton is a small congregation just seven miles away from Norton Unitarian. The Taunton church has been following the Norton re-start with interest, and even spoke to one of our denominational officials last fall about possibly doing a similar program in Taunton. They were in search for a minister who could help them grow their congregation, and who was tuned into how to reach those who are “spiritual but not religious.” They are delighted to welcome in our members from Norton, and to continue to grow the church into a welcoming, spiritually based community for the twenty first century!
When I first began the conversations with First Parish Church in Taunton, I was excited about the idea that our church re-start would not die. As I have continued to speak to their governing board and learn about their community, I have become truly convinced that moving our congregation to Taunton is the calling of our church community. Not only are the people in Taunton excited and welcoming, they have a large, up-to-date building, including all kinds of fancy assets that we don’t have in Norton, such as a telephone, and more than one toilet. They have several rooms for their children that have doors on them, rather than an outside door leading straight into a parking lot, and they even have computers!
They also have some staff, which means that I would be able to do two things – stop taking out the garbage myself, and allow me more time to take the next step in our ministry. You see, the goal for us before starting weekly worship in Norton was to reach a critical mass. I’m delighted to say that with addition of the people from the Taunton congregation, we have met that goal, will be able to begin having weekly worship when I start my ministry there on April 1.
It is the sort of story that you can’t possibly imagine, and yet when it does, it seems like it was all meant to be. I’m so excited for this move – for the new opportunities for growth and creation, and for all that this congregation can become!