• Save Sunday, May 19th at 12:30pm for our Annual Meeting

    First Church Boston’s Annual Meeting
    Sunday May 18 @ 12:30pm

    In-person and online 

    A photo of a contemporary church with blue sky and writing in rust colored bands about an Annual Meeting, May 19 at 12:30

    All Members of First Church in Boston are urged to attend the 2024 Annual Meeting, either in person or online. At this time, we elect our church officers, members of the Standing Committee, Nominating Committee, and Membership Committee, and delegates for the General Assembly. In addition there will be reports from the church’s key committees and the presentation of the budget for the coming fiscal year.

    A light luncheon will be provided. A Zoom link will be sent to Members a few days before the meeting

     

    Posted May 1, 2024

  • Rev. Stephanie’s Reflection: On Ministry

    Woman in Birght blue sweater and white shirt smiling sitting in her office at a computer.What does it mean to be a Minister? Several events this month have me reflecting on this question. In succession, I will participate in the ordination service of a former student on April 7, celebrate the 10th anniversary of my own ordination on April 13, and be installed as the 24th Minister of First Church Boston on April 28.

    During my ministerial internship, my supervisor had me read the book, This Odd and Wondrous Calling. Being a minister is both odd and wondrous. Odd because ministry combines a wide range of encounters and expectations. Yesterday, I discussed all manner of philosophical topics with a visiting author over coffee, supported a former intern in contract negotiations with her new congregation, helped to edit a fundraising letter, and collaborated with staff on this week’s order of service for Sunday worship.

    Quote" Ministry is the unexpected ways Spirit show up each day......And, ministry is wondrous, well, because every day provides moments to ground myself in the gift of life, to connect with people, and to support others along their own search to live meaningfully and well. On the best days of ministry, I feel as if I had helped to move someone or a whole group of people a bit closer to a sense of love and goodness. On the hardest days, I feel as if the tendrils of conflict and despair will overcome any efforts to clear the way for hope or justice.

    As an odd and wondrous calling, ministry requires me to both cultivate a life of the spirit and to tend the institutions which support spiritual community. One moment I am asked to be decisive and attentive to details while the next I am called to grateful awe before the depths of life’s wonder. The work of ministry is in the unexpected ways Spirit shows up each day in all manner of relationships and encounters.

    Grou pof people in a church with a woman holdinga chalice

    Ten years ago, the local congregation where I had been a ministerial intern ordained me. As a religious tradition rooted in congregational polity, this right of a congregation to ordain ministers is old and cherished. Such ceremonies of ordination are moments for the voting members of the congregation to affirm the ordinand as a minister. Which is to say that individuals cannot declare themselves to a minister, they must be recognized as a minister by those who would receive their spiritual care and leadership. At its core, ordination is an act rooted in relationship—to others and to the Sacred.

    Two people meeting and discussing at a desk with computer screen of zoom faces behind.While affirmed as a minister at my ordination, the ensuing years have continued to teach me about ministry. I have had to learn how to care for people amidst messy divorces, in the ambiguity of life post-retirement, at the start of new marriage or new baby, and in the wake of heartbreaking death. I have also had to learn how to support a congregation in naming what is most central to their identity as a community, in identifying what actions they would and would not take in the public square, and in wrestling with hurtful behaviors and whether or how to hold people accountable for their harm. I have wept and laughed, cussed and sang. I have held congregants shaking in grief and been held by colleagues who understood my own pain. I have learned how to do worship on Zoom and the importance of sometimes stepping away from email. If ever I think I have come to know everything about being a minister, I encounter yet another person with a different story or yet another challenge not quite like others before. To be a minister is to be immersed within ever-shifting relationships while also striving to remain rooted in life-giving spiritual practices.

    Contemporary calligraphy of ministers of First Church in Boston with Rev Stephanie May included in 2023.Since becoming the Minister of First Church Boston last August, I have sometimes felt not only immersed but overcome by this new relationship with a centuries-old congregation. Becoming part of a historic lineage of religious leaders—and being the first who identifies as a woman to be the Senior Minister—is humbling. (I also respectfully acknowledge the preceding ministries of the Rev. Rosemary Lloyd who served as an Associate Minister from 2007-2013 and the Rev. Doris Hunter who served as Interim Senior Minister in 2000-2001 as well as many ministerial interns who identify as women.) I inhabit my new role conscious of the ways my very presence disrupts century-old encrustations of expectations of whose voices are valued and whose perspectives are silenced. And yet, I am but one person, one perspective among an ever-widening diversity of people in the city. As such, I am also humbled by the challenge of fostering a community that more effectively embraces this diversity as it seeks to remain a vital and relevant religious institution in the city. How does First Church Boston move from the narrow confines of its Puritan origins to engage the multicultural pluralism of a 21st century Boston?

    Answering this question along the many others that emerge from seeking to be a vital, sustainable religious community in the city, is not my work alone. Like an Ordination Service, a Service of Installation is an act rooted in relationship—to others and to the Sacred.  The core of the service is the Act of Installation which consists of mutual promises made by Minister and Members of the congregation to share in the work of being a church in service to its members, its wider community, and to its values. The Service also includes participants from other congregations and institutions as a reminder that no minister or congregation acts alone. As individuals and as institutions, we are in relationship to others in shared concern and entwined histories. As both a celebration and sacred ritual, the Installation Service formalizes a relationship between minister and congregation as they venture forth together in relationship to one another, to others beyond the church walls, and to the sacred gift of Life.

    I am a minister because I believe that religious institutions can be life-giving. To be a minister is to serve this Spirit of Life, who has been called God, Gaia, Allah, Energy, and many more names. Whether through transformative experiences of worship that renew the spirit or through social justice actions that denounce life-crushing injustices, to be a minister is to call us all into relationships that foster more life and love. For more than ten years, it has been both my joy and, yes, at times my struggle, to engage in this deeply meaningful work. As I celebrate both my ordination anniversary and my installation at First Church Boston, I relish the gifts of relationships to so very many people and to the boundless Spirit of Life and Love.


  • Rev. Dr. Stephanie May will be installed as our minister on April 28

    CLICK HERE to watch the installation live.

    For more details about the installation and other events at First Church Boston in April:
    https://firstchurchboston.org/april-marks-a-historic-event/

    Posted: April 1, 2024