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On March 27th, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, our community will gather for a service of installation. This special ceremony will officially recognize and affirm me as the minister of First Parish Church. It will be the conclusion of a series of rituals, large and small, that began last June when the membership of our congregation voted to call me as minister. Since then I’ve moved into my office here at the church, conducted my first worship service as minister, and my first wedding and funeral. My name has been carved into the stone plaque that carries the roster of our congregation’s ministers, and they even managed to fit the whole thing on one line. As Unitarian Universalists we have a well-earned reputation for cultivating a certain freedom from formality in our worship and liturgy, but we do make a few concessions to pomp and circumstance. The installation of a minister is one such occasion, and you can expect that on the 27th we will honor this meaningful moment in the life of our congregation, and also put on a pretty darn good party to celebrate. The service will also be one of the rare times when you will see me in a clerical robe.

As we grow closer to the day, I have been thinking about what it means to be installed – this is my first experience as the install-ee. Preachers and other speechifiers sometimes like to use the dictionary definition of a critical term as the jumping off point for a meditation on its deeper meaning. In this case, however, the dictionary’s treatment of ‘install’ has some troubling implications. The word can mean both the formal bestowal of a title or rank, such as a formal honor or political office, and it can also mean the setting up of an object or item for convenient use, as in the case of an air conditioner or washing machine. It is rarely flattering to compare oneself to heavy appliances.

Reflecting on the installation ceremony’ symbolic significance, really this is a public demonstration of the sacred authority of our Unitarian Universalist congregations. Our liberal faith offers guidance to each of its communities as to what they ought to be about: seeking after wisdom, cultivating peace, struggling for justice and building a community that helps heal and nurture all the souls who enter it. But each of our congregations must figure out how to express and put into practice those general principles in their own specific place, and at their own specific time. One of the most critical elements of this collective power of self-determination is each congregation’s right and responsibility to choose whom they will call to minister to and with them. Moving again from the general to the specific, it is a privilege and an honor to be a minister anywhere. In the last several months, I have found what I already suspected to be true: to be the minister here, at First Parish, is a particularly acute joy.

Points of transition and change in our lives are worth honoring and paying attention to. On the 27th, I hope to see you there – the ritual of installation has meaning because we come together to accomplish it. But whether you are able to be in church that particular Sunday afternoon or not, I hope you will take to heart the lessons that the service represents. Be aware of the power of the community of which you are a part. Remember also that there are things in this life worth celebrating and that there is a place for formality even in the lives of the most informal among us.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


Office Hours: T-F, 9-1

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