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A Long Summer to Ripen

“It takes years to marry two hearts, even the most loving and well assorted…Such a large and sweet fruit is marriage that it needs a long summer to ripen, and then a long winter to mellow and season it.”

–Theodore Parker

I often read this quote from our Transcendentalist ancestor Theodore Parker during the weddings I officiate. I like it well enough even not to be dissuaded from using it in a season when the prospect of a long winter is about the last thing anyone wants to think about. I share this quote with brides and grooms as a reminder to the people getting married that a wedding is a moment in time, but a marriage is an ongoing process. A marriage can be – should be – a vital, powerful, nurturing force in the lives of the people who share it, but it is always a journey more than a destination.

Last week, the members of First Parish voted resoundingly to say “yes” to a merger with our nearest neighbors, the First Universalist Society in Salem. So the wedding is now accomplished. Or perhaps, we might more rightly call it the engagement? All metaphors break down under enough scrutiny. There will be a ceremony to mark this coming together with suitable celebration at the beginning of our next congregational year, in the fall.

What lies before us is the rich, challenging, and wondrous work of marriage. We are not strangers to each other: we’ve worshipped together many times in the last several months and we’ve shared meals and conversations. Now our two institutions – two memberships, two histories, two sets of practices and senses of spiritual purpose – are becoming one. This partnership came about in part because we found ourselves so well-matched and similar to each other – in our values, our common beliefs, and in the rituals and symbols we most treasure – but that does not mean we are the same. Together, we are going to build a new community, one which has continuity with its past. We will also holds a larger and more varied company than either of our churches held before, with a larger vision and sense of mission to match.

All of this is to say that we have begun something greatly important here. We could not have reached this point without the hard work, thought, and energy of so many people in both congregations. I want to be sure to credit Patti Welch and Danielle Povey (board chairs of First Universalist and First Parish, respectively) for their tireless efforts to inform and mobilize the memberships of both institutions. And in the months, and, indeed, years ahead, we’re going to be building on and from this moment. The call from the world’s great beauty and deep need gives us no shortage of worthy work in Beverly, in Salem, on the North Shore, and inside each relationship and each heart that our community touches. As the seasons ripen and season us, may we find that we are stronger together than we could ever be apart.

 

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

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First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915

978-922-3968

Office Hours: Mon 8:00 - 11:00 am & Tue-Fri 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

office@firstparishbeverly.org

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