Rev. Rob Mark, Pastor
Blessings to you all this New Year of 2019! What better way to begin this coming plunge into the wild gift of new beginnings than with a Celtic blessing:
Bless O God, our Church and our lives this New Year.
Bless our giving and receiving.
Bless our words and conversation.
Bless our hands and recreation.
Bless our sowing and our growing.
Bless our coming and our going.
Bless our outreach and our life together.
Bless all we welcome and all we commission.
Bless O God, our Church, and our lives, this New Year - your peace impart.
Like a yet unwandered path, the year of 2019 stretched before us as a gift of an invitation. As in all years, there will be transitions, there will be change. As in all years, there will be joys and sorrows, celebrations and concerns. Our task will be to respond to the gift of unknown in faith, with the underlying certainty of Emmanuel, God-with-us-in-all-of-it.
One such transition and resulting uncertainty that we face early this year is the commissioning farewell and blessing of our beloved Associate Pastor Julie who will leave us to become the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Chaplain to Emerson College. Though we will miss Rev. Julie deeply, we give great thanks that her ministry and gifted presence will soon be with the precious and impressive students just across Boston's Public Gardens from us. Your Council and I are already working hard to ensure a smooth transition and put in place an effective process to bring to life what exciting new gift comes next for our pastoral leadership and outreach in our life together. More details about this will come at our Annual Meeting on Sunday February 3.
So, friends in faith, what will you do with the wild gift of a year that stretches before us? However we each face it in our beloved uniqueness, may we wander together with hearts wide open. To this end, I offer another Celtic blessing from the
Carmina Gadelica called "The Journey Prayer":
God, bless to me this day,
God, bless to me this night ;
Bless, O bless. Thou God of grace,
Each day and hour of my life ;
Bless, O bless. Thou God of grace.
Each day and hour of my life.
God, bless the pathway on which I go,
God, bless the earth that is beneath my sole ;
Bless, O God, and give to me Thy love,
O God of gods, bless my rest and my repose ;
Bless, O God, and give to me Thy love,
And bless, O God of gods, my repose.
In peace on earth,
Preparing for a Pastoral Transition
by Rev. Julie Avis Rogers
Dearest members of the Church of the Covenant community,
We have begun our goodbyes as we prepare for my departure on January 13th. Tears have been welling up in my eyes way more than usual (!) and my heart has been heavy with the beginnings of our farewell. And yet, in this leaving, I also am so full of hope for what is yet to come for both of us. Thank you all so much for your warm wishes, love, and prayers as I move toward this new chapter at Emerson College as the
new Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Chaplain
When pastors in the UCC and PCUSA move on from a call, we are called to separate in a healthy and thoughtful way. This is to ensure that the ministry of Church of the Covenant, which we all love deeply, can also continue to be healthy as you move into your future with new pastoral staff. My role is to get out of the way of that future. And your role is to welcome in that future with all the love, joy, and hope that you have welcomed me in with through every stage of my journey here at Covenant.
On my last Sunday, January 13, we will perform a liturgy of farewell together. In that liturgy, you will release me from the promises I made to you as a pastor here. And I will then release you all from your obligations to me. It can be hard to fathom what this "release" might mean for each of us and so in this letter, I want to share some more specifics on how our denominations guide us through healthy separation when a pastor departs.
Here's a little FAQ that I hope might describe this more fully:
Will you still be available to pastor us on the side, especially if you're right around the corner at Emerson?
No, I will no longer be able to be your pastor and sadly, not able to perform any of the pastoral roles that you may have previously turned to me for.
Our UCC's national setting describes this in the following way: It is the expectation that "[u]pon departure, [a] pastor will not return to serve congregation nor serve members of the congregation in a pastoral capacity. For a minimum of one year up to three years, a minister will observe a no-contact boundary with congregants and will teach congregants to observe the same. This enables the past minister to fulfill the ministerial code of ethics, in support of the congregation's relationship-building with a new minister. Re-establishing contact is only after negotiation with the new minister, potentially in dialogue with a wider church representative."1
But can we still stay in touch?
Personally, this is the part that I will find the hardest of all. I will need to fully step back from all communication with the Covenant community for at least a year following my departure (or whenever a new Associate Pastor has been fully acclimated and is in place - whichever one comes second). Sometimes, after a healthy absence and with the enthusiastic consent of the current pastors, a former pastor may be invited back to visit or to preach. And of course we may run into each other around town. If you run into me on the street, I will be so so excited to see you and hear how you have been!
What about social media?
As pastors leave a church, it's necessary to disconnect in some way from people on social media, at least for a time. You've probably noticed that I'm not all that active on social media, so it won't be too disappointing that I won't be posting, liking, or commenting much on Facebook. But for at least the next year, I'm not able to interact with any of your posts to give us all a chance to allow our separation and the change in our relationship to settle in. If you'd like to unfollow or unfriend me I won't be offended or take it the wrong way, I promise! If it's just a temporary thing, and you want to send a friend request after you've had some space, that's just fine!
Will we still be connected through the Kindling Collective at Emerson and Covenant?
And hey, what's going to happen to the Kindling Collective now anyway?
This has been a big question on my mind and on the minds of our Kindling Collective Advisory Team members. We've met to discuss this and have a proposal to bring to our Council that keeps the spiritual needs of the student participants as our top priority. The Council will discuss this at their meeting in mid-January and will then be in touch with the wider congregation around the time of the Annual Meeting in early February. This all being said, we do think there will be ways for Emerson students/my office at Emerson and Covenant to collaborate in the future, once a healthy amount of time has passed... and I am already looking forward to that day!
What if I have questions/opinions/ hopes for the Associate Pastor role in the future? Who should I talk to?
While Rev. Rob and the members of Council are always excellent sources of information and listening ears, the members of the Associate Pastor- Parish Relations Committee are an additional group with a particular interest in thinking about the next steps for the Associate Pastor role. As their work and road ahead becomes clearer, they will want to hear from you so do not hesitate to reach out to them! They are: Betsy Groves, Melissa Morgan, Mocky Day, Kathy Bull and Ed James.
The depth of awe, love, and gratitude that I have for this special community is something that exceeds my own capacity for words.
I have learned so much from you, Church of the Covenant, and will continue to love you, always-no transition can undermine the love between us, a gift from God that will never cease.
Rev. Julie Avis Rogers
Special Happenings at Covenant
Join us on
Sunday, January 13, in worship as we
Commission and Bless Rev. Julie Avis Rogers on this her last Sunday with us before she transitions to become the Director of Spiritual and Religious Life and Campus Chaplain at Emerson College. A reception in Bates Hall, put on by the Deacons, will follow worship - please join us!
Church of the Covenant's Annual Meeting will be held on
Sunday, February 3, 2019, in Bates Hall following the church service.
Safe and Welcoming Spaces
by Rev. Rob Mark
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
A Safe and Welcoming Spaces Team at COTC has formed, and would like to solicit your feedback, ideas, and input on our ongoing efforts at making Sunday mornings at Church of the Covenant as safe and welcoming as possible.
Specifically, we want to hear your input on our 3-month trial around changes to Bates Hall access on Sundays during worship.
To provide feedback, please speak to any of our team in person, or click here to fill in our comment form between now and Feb. 18, 2019. Thank you.
In peace, and prayers,
Anne Crane (Ushers), Jessica Ciottoni (Council, CYCE), Kathy Bull (CYCE), Betsy Groves (Building Committee, Council), Faith Perry (Food Pantry, Membership Development), Anita Goncalves (CYCE staff), and Rob Mark (staff).
News from the Pews
Compiled by Linda Pursley
Anne Crane writes from Maine, "
As Sarah and I make plans to attend a church in nearby Hallowell tonight, we realize that this will be the first time since 1983 (when we were in Zimbabwe) that one or both of us hasn't been at Covenant for the Christmas Eve service. We have missed being with our church community these past few months, but we look forward to being back in Boston on a regular basis and in our new home by the end of January. In the meantime, we have put up some Christmas decorations in our summer house, and we keep the wood fire stoked up to make the place cozy. It has been a new experience to watch and listen to the lake as it freezes. There is an amazing variety of sounds, especially at night, as the ice expands, shifts and cracks. Soon the fishermen will be out drilling holes and setting up their little shelters on the ice. Will has built a beautiful fire pit [photo below with Tombi the dachshund] on the rocky shore, and we enjoy sitting by the fire at night looking at the stars or watching the moon come up over the ice. As we anticipate a quiet Christmas together here, we are very mindful of being richly blessed in so many ways.
enjoyed lunch with
Elsa and Reine Abele
and two of their daughters at Havenwood in Concord, NH. Linda took them her poinsettia from church, so they have a little piece of Christmas at COTC in Elsa's room.
Tom Reid and
David McKinney are pleased to announce that they were married on December 7 at Cambridge City Hall. The plan is to have a larger church service and celebration for family and friends in late summer/ early fall 2019. David is a new Covenant member, having joined on December 16, 2018; Tom joined Covenant on September 12, 2017. They have been residing in Cambridge for four years. Tom and David spent Christmas in Kansas with Tom's family.
Julie and Alyssa Avis Rogers recently traveled to Ixopo, South Africa (near Durban) to celebrate the wedding of their dear friend,
Mbali Nguse (pictured with Julie and Alyssa). While most of the wedding was an amazing traditional Zulu celebration, Julie was asked to officiate a semi-spontaneous wedding ceremony as part of the proceedings! It was an amazing week that they will never forget.
Under the Mango Tree
by Tim Groves
Note: This column will be a monthly sharing of stories from our sister church community, Dulce Nombre de Jesus, in northwest Nicaragua.
As with all communities that are connected with and love Nicaragua, we at Covenant have worried that some citizens and visitors may not be safe with current political conflicts. This worry has led us to ask, "Can we send a regular annual delegation from Boston to
Dulce Nombre de Jesús?"
Recently we asked this question to
Entre Culturas, the group that facilitates our sister relationship. Eduardo, Luis, Amanda and Memo have responded:
We as Between Cultures had a conversation about a possible delegation from Covenant to Nicaragua. We think there are conditions for a delegation to come; you can come because there are no clashes in the streets. There are no protests anymore, especially in Managua. The rest of the country, especially in the region around Dulce Nombre, the situation is pretty calm.We believe it is good for you to come to see the new reality of Nicaragua, to feel it and realize that the future of Nicaragua will be more difficult. Another thing is that some people of Dulce Nombre are afraid and thinking that maybe because of the situation in Nicaragua you will no longer be interested in being in a relationship with them.
We in Nica Companions have been encouraged by this response and want to ask all at Covenant if you would be interested in joining a Boston-to-Nicaragua delegation in July, 2019? We believe that there will be some people who have been on past delegations to travel with this one. We also believe and hope that there may be new people of Covenant who would like to learn more and possibly join a delegation in July. Please communicate with one of our Nicaragua Companions to ask questions and to see if you may be interested. Any of us who hav e been to Nicaragua before can answer your questions. In particular, you may contact Diane Lauber or Tim Groves to talk about a delegation.
To help raise funds to support the travel of delegations, Covenant's Mission and Advocacy budget commits a generous amount from your annual pledges. Nica Companions from time to time asks Council for permission to raise some additional money with fundraising activities. On Sunday, February 3, at our Annual Meeting, we will provide order forms for people to buy soup. Many Nica Companions will be cooking soup for your order, and we would love it if others in the congregation could volunteer to make soup also for us to sell. Please contact Karen Henry before January 15 if you are able to cook soup for us to sell. And everyone, please order soup on February 3.
By Phyllis Galt
December 11, 2018, Council Meeting
REPORT ON STAFF FROM PASTOR
Small Groups 2019
In the life of our congregation, it is time once again to spend some intention time looking inward for a season. It is time to look more deeply into our own spiritual lives and health, and look more deeply into the spiritual lives of our fellow congregants. A proposal was made to revive the Speaking of Faith small groups we launched two years ago, with a special focus on small groups for Lent 2019.
December 16 - Advent Three, Instant Christmas Pageant & Choir
December 20 - Thursday 7:30 pm, Longest Night of the Year / Blue Christmas service with Emmanuel Church 15 Newbury St.
December 23 - Advent Four, Rev. Julie preaching
December 24 - Monday Christmas Eve 6 pm, Candlelight Festive Lessons & Carols Service
December 30 - Festive Christmas Hymn Sing Sunday
January 6 - Epiphany All Ages
January 13 - Julie's last Sunday and commissioning
Lent 2019: Ash Wednesday March 6 - Easter April 21
Staffing, Ministerial, Programmatic, Adjustments in light of Rev. Julie's transition will begin on January 13. The planning process around next Associate Pastor, interim, assessment of needs and opportunities.
Steps & Boston Home
Ongoing meetings with Katie Day from Trinity, Manna Ministries and Christine James from our Next Steps Team to see about birthing a Copley Square equivalent to Boston Home. Rob is also meeting with the new interim Executive Director of Women's Lunch Place, Judy Beckler Collins, and will see about movement on the opening of the 10 overnight beds as a seasonal shelter here in Bates Hall.
COTC is honored to be one of eight Boston clergy to light the menorah at Central Reform Temple on 12-4-18 in a special service that was dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of Tree of Life Synagogue.
Safe and Welcoming Spaces Team
The Team formed and had a first meeting 12/2/18: Anne Crane (Ushers), Jessica Ciottoni (Council, CYCE), Kathy Bull (CYCE), Betsy Groves (Building Committee, Council), Faith Perry (Food Pantry, Membership Development), Anita Goncalves (CYCE staff), and Rob Mark (staff). We developed a form for feedback, and we are making name tags for CYCE teachers, staff and Food Pantry volunteers, staff, and bracelets for parents who drop off children. Blinds up, and locks are being changed Jan. 2, 2019.
STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS
Building Committee: (Betsy Groves-liaison)
We have received unofficial notice that the Henderson Foundation has funded our $40,000 request for conservation of the Angel and Cornelius window. Official notification is pending.
Update on the repairs to the church exterior: the scaffolding on the Newbury Street church facade will come down sometime in December for the winter pause in construction. It will be erected again in the spring for the completion of the project.
Mission and Advocacy: (Barbara Darling- chair, Christine James)
The M&A committee has done some research on ways to give to support migrants at the border. They propose that the Christmas Eve offering will benefit the International Community Foundation's Border Fund. Christine James will visit the San Diego border region in early January.
Note: If your January birthday does not appear on this list, please notify Hillary in the church office so we can include you next year!
Will Forsdick, Brian Bigler, Lucy Williams
most up-to-date church calendar.
About This Issue
January 2019 Covenant News
Editor and Graphics: Evelyn Kimber
Template: Harry Forsdick
Deadline for the February 2019 Covenant News is Friday, January 25. Please email your submissions to Evelyn Kimber at