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Fear of Missing Out

I knew, when I first began making plans for my sabbatical, that I would miss First Parish while I was away. I knew that I would miss the people, and the building, and the rhythm of my work. And when I began to work with the Music and Worship Committee to make concrete plans for the services that would take place here in my absence, I felt a tinge of regret that I would be missing out on some of the gifted preachers and heartfelt messages that we managed to secure for the worship calendar.

Despite being away for two entire months, now, the news of First Parish still makes its way back to me. And from the reports I have heard, I can say that although I knew I would miss you, and though I knew that I would be missing some wonderful hours of worship, I wasn’t prepared for how many memorable Sunday experiences I would miss. From the messages offered by some dear, local colleagues, to the different voices and powerful personal stories shared from within our congregation – I’ve found myself thinking over and over again, ‘I wish I could have been there.’ And I was just told that this past Sunday, ya’all sang Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game in church – I love that song! And I missed it! Dang!

Neopagan, ecofeminist author and activist Starhawk wrote:

“We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.”  

Belonging to a community comes with it a fear of missing out on its trials and triumphs, and a certain amount of disappointment when such truly important milestones are passed while we weren’t there to be a part of them. Or at least, that’s how it is for most members of most communities – this sensation may only feel novel to me because I’m so accustomed to being tuned into and present for most of what transpires at First Parish. But these last two months, I’ve been in an unfamiliar role. It’s given me a taste of what it’s like for any member of our community when work takes them away from town for weeks at a time. When the arrival of a new child leaves them feeling like getting up and out the door to church on Sunday is too much of a challenge. When age or illness or depression leaves them unable to drive to join in worship on Sunday morning, or unable to leave their home at all.

Each of us humans yearns for a place where arms will hold us when we falter, where others will lend their strength to ours, and help us to be free. For those of us who catch our glimpses of that luminous thing called ‘community’ here, every Sunday morning (or Wednesday evening, or Saturday afternoon, or any day and time that church can happen), is another chance to taste that flavor. And every moment that we miss it, is a loss. I have the benefit of two little respites from my sabbatical this month – rejoining you to lead worship on March 6th and March 27th, and I look forward to them very much. But this time away has already made me more deeply aware how great a loss being cut-off from spiritual-community can be; it’s made me more determined than ever to reach out to those who are with us less than they would wish to be. I hope that you will consider that predicament with me as well, and reflect on what you might do to respond to it as well.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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