Rev. Mark Harris wearing a blue robe and multicolored stole

Rev. Mark W. Harris

This column would normally be my goodbye for the summer missive, but it is a goodbye to the church and ministry column instead. This summer will bring a massive sea change in my life, and a changing face of ministry here.  I think by now you have all heard or read plenty of sermons on losses, saying goodbye, and cleaning out bookshelves and closets.  Saying goodbye is never easy, especially after such a long time.  Yet, we will both be fine! I know you will be in good hands with the interim minister.  It is sure to be an exciting process, as you begin to search for my successor.  I hope to see many of you at the party for Andrea and me on Sunday, June 9 from 2 – 5 p.m.  I will be conducting the service on June 16, and will be the minister of the church (on call) until July 31. My cell phone number is posted in the church office. I will be in the office most of June, and the very end of July, but on vacation the beginning of July. 

In leaving two things are very clear to me.  First, I am ready to retire.  As much as I enjoy the ministry, the years of labor and the various physical ailments from the last few years have prepared me for a different pace.  I have loved working with this congregation over the years, and am very proud of all we have accomplished together.  I think of the three capital fund drives, culminating just a week or so ago with the dedication of the beautiful memorial garden.  But ministry is more than painting walls or planning programs or services, it is getting to know all of you as you experience the roller coaster of life’s joys and sorrows. In recent months I have made many trips to the hospital and rehab to see Beverly, and hope to see expectant Mom Kim, too.  I have gone to Tristan and Alyssa’s house to meet baby Miles.  I have worked with Eric Hanson Plass on the history of First Parish, and seen his wife Kate’s dedication to the church (rewriting all those bylaws), and feeling with both of them the anxiety of waiting for their baby. Of course all these babies coming into the church is the best sign of all. Only a few short years ago I was worried that our church school was aging out, and we had no little ones. Now our future looks bright.  That is the second thing that is clear to me.  I am ready to retire, and I think you are ready to say goodbye, too, and move on to a new and exciting phase of renewal.

So now it is time to officially say goodbye.  Some people don’t like goodbyes because they seem so final.  It is true we will leave 130 Marshall Street, the place we have called home for twenty-seven years.  There are the thousands of walks back and forth from home to church that I will never replicate again.  We will not see Roger and Johanna at the movies on Monday.  I will not shake hands with Kathy Warren in our ritual fashion. I will miss Missy’s comments during announcements. I will miss all these things, and many more.  But I will have a new life with Andrea of mornings by the sea, and lighthouses and Camden hills.  I will sit in church, as most of you do, and meditate on peace and justice, and compassion and community.  Life will go on.  Change is hard, but we adjust in time.  So let us celebrate all that has been good between us, and say farewell. Thank you for everything -your listening, your sharing, and your faith commitment.  May you keep this parish alive and well for many centuries to come!

My love and best wishes for all the days to come,

Mark

P.S.

First Parish History and Other Books for Sale

Mark’s history of First Parish is finished. Hooray!  He really enjoyed working on this, and also enjoyed his collaboration with Eric Hanson Plass.  It will be available after church on June 2 and June 9.  It will also be available at Mark’s talk on John Weiss, which will happen at the library on June 4 at 7:00 p.m..  The cost is $10.00.  Checks should be made out to: Mark Harris.

He can also offer copies of his and his and Andrea’s other works. Please let me know if you want any of the following:  Elite: Uncovering Classism in UU History ($10), An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions by Mark and Andrea ($30), and the new Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism, 2nd edition  ($75).  It’s a final chance for autographed copies!