Prelude Meditation:(Honestly it was far better than Commencement, which i left quite early. Graduations are at core deeply boring: processions, recitations, etc. Not that i can’t appreciate the ceremony, of course, but aside from the graduates and those who love them deeply, it is far more about graduation parties than about graduation itself.)
“There are only two things we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other is wings.”
Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.
We sang a bit of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” which made me happy, as it’s one of my favorite hymns -- so then of course i was sad we didn’t sing all of it.
I cried a lot during the service. During the children’s portion, a bunch of the teenagers talked about how wonderful Kelly had been for them these past 8 years, and that was the first time i really cried. Not only was i thinking about how wonderful Kelly was the one year i knew her and how sorry i am that she won’t be at First Churches my last year there and thinking about wanting to get more involved in First Churches, but i was also thinking about how there aren’t any people at United who have had a profound positive effect on my life and whom i would be really sad to see go.
The offertory was “Down to the River to Pray.” Again, i was happy but sad that i had to sing along softly since it’s only the choir who does the offertory. (You know how it starts with “sisters”? I always heard it “sinners” -- you know, let all us sinners go down to the river together... very poetic i think.)
Kelly preached on John 5:1-9, Jesus and the lame man at the pool. She talked about the importance of meeting people where they are. Talked about how much she has learned from Peter, about how she was a radical out of Union Theological Seminary when she got here and how Peter taught her to be considerate and respectful of all perspectives... this was better phrased at the time, but anyway, it definitely upped my opinion of Peter... and again, about meeting people where they are: not demanding that everyone have the same opinions as you, but engaging with all people respectfully.
She talked about how one year after declaring itself to be an Open and Affirming church, First Churches hired her, an out lesbian, to head the Christian Education department, what a powerful statement that was. Jenny (Peter’s wife) has taught JoAnne (Kelly’s partner) about being a minister’s wife. First Churches may not be a place i could make my life home, but i think it’s like Smith: flawed though it is, where else would be better for me? It’s not perfect, at least not for me, but it really is an impressive wonderful place.
Denise Karuth, the head deacon, who is in a wheelchair, said during the post-service Grown-Ups Talk About Kelly, that when she saw that Kelly was preaching on a healing passage, she felt safe, that Kelly and Peter are among the few people who are able to preach on healing stories in a way that isn’t insulting to people with disabilities. I always get upset at United when Pastor Bill or others talk about God As Healer in a way that implies that if you just ask (and have enough faith, are a good enough person, whatever) God will heal you, but i had never thought to make the next step to what Denise was talking about.
Peter’s end prayer focused on Kelly and the transition from here to Chicopee, but he also mentioned that Chey, the sexton, and Nancy Taylor, last year’s divinity student, exchanged vows in Berkeley 19 years ago, and this Tuesday at 6pm they will be married in this church and the entire congregation is invited. That’s when i started sobbing. I wiped my nose on my shirt because, though i knew it was going to be the Farewell Kelly service, i hadn’t actually brought any tissues. So yeah, i totally wanna bus it back here on Tuesday (my parents are driving me home on Monday) and crash overnight with someone. One of those rare instances in which i wish i had a driver’s license, because then i could take my brother’s car and drive out and back on my own.
The final hymn was “In the Midst of New Dimensions,” which i quite like.
God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar. We your people, ours the journey, now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more.
I hugged Kelly, and she had gotten my card (from, oh, January - but we know she’s been busy) and would love to have coffee, and of course i’m leaving tomorrow but she’ll still be in Northampton, so we will be in touch in the fall, which made me happy.
After lots of First Churches people had talked about Kelly, one of the guys from Chicopee said it was so bittersweet, hearing all this made them almost sorry to take her away, but also very glad to have her.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be pleasing in your sight, oh God our Rock and our Redeemer.