In the Life - Rev. Matthew Cockrum
Celebrate Big Love.
One last farewell and thank you. It has been a rich and full few weeks of leavetaking. What wondrous and heartfelt exchanges we’ve shared. Thank you for your cards, notes and gifts, the beautiful kintsukuroi bowl - “more beautiful for being broken” - the painting from the children and youth. I am humbled to know that my photo will join those of your former ministers along the walls of this great, good place. Your portraits will hang in the halls of my heart as I journey on.
Two things as I go.
First, it occurred to me, as it often does after the fact, that there’s something I wish I would have said on my last Sunday with you. That is this: As Unitarian Universalists we believe in Big Love. The heritages of which we are inheritors and stewards embodied this differently, but the outcome was and remains the same. There is always more room. The Love from which we come, in which we live and move and have our being and to which we return is immense. It is that which I address as “Most Holy Beloved” in times of meditation, prayer and contemplation. I was reminded of this by the painting presented to me on behalf of the children and youth of the church. Though the heart contained within it words of affirmation and support chosen by our religious education participants, there was so much more room in that heart. So it is with the Big Love in which we believe. There is always more...more room, more work, more to do, more to include, more to work and fight for...and more to receive, rest in. There is more room in the heart of First Church and I know you will make space for Monica Dobbins when she arrives to continue the work of a second minister here.
Second, stay true to the values of this place. Though I have spoken often of covenant, of mission and vision, of the seven principles and the six sources of our tradition, I have not often spoken of the expressed values of First Church. I hung them on my office wall during my time here, drawn from the work that helped articulate your strategic plan. At one point they were on the church website. Are you familiar with them?
During my two years with you I have witnessed and participated in your work for inclusion and compassion. I have been deeply impressed by your dedication to human responsibility and engagement. What has most impressed me in my last weeks with you has been the opportunity for Celebration. It was a privilege to come alongside Rev. Tom Goldsmith in this, his 30th year of ministry with First Church. Likewise, it was a privilege to be part of the Thank You & Farewell Celebration on Friday, May 5 with desserts, entertainment, gifts of gratitude and a surprise visit from Rev. France Davis of Calvary Baptist to honor Tom’s years of service and dedication. Music from the Java Jive with cheeky solos by Becky Heal and Todd Seymour were highlights of the night along with the great desserts and decorations coordinated by Amanda Esko and Christine Ashworth.
What stood out to me in the midst of wake of this was how difficult it can be sometimes to celebrate. As with Big Love there is always more...more to do, more to strategize about, plan for, respond to, recruit for. Celebration is one of the core values of First Church in its ministries. Make sure you continue to take opportunities to celebrate. Celebrate your victories and accomplishments. Celebrate your learnings and aspirations. Celebrate not only your ministers but more importantly the ministries... the contributions people make to the work of this place. The Hebrew psalmists among others proclaimed that God lives or is inhabited by our praise. When we celebrate we reveal and build up that which is most holy.
So, Dear Friends, as you continue in this place...as you defend the sacred, work for a progressive and just world...as you learn and explore, deepen and grow, serve and tend...take every opportunity to Celebrate. It will generate the nourishment you need to labor on. It will refresh and renew you. It will give you a view of the vast expanse of what lies within and among you. It will show you the Big Love for which you labor, in which you live and move and have your being.
Celebrate Big Love, Friends.
And thank you once again for the privilege of joining you in ministry here.
Here’s to The Work!
Peace, Faith & Passion,