A Farewell Message

By Joe Sullivan

A blue double door is shown with some clouds above it and a sandy landscape in front. The doors are open to reveal a green field and cloudy blue sky beyond.

Last year in a conversation with leaders (Google drive video) of First Parish Church of Groton, MA my colleague Meck Groot and I were introduced to their phrase “spacious grace” – an all-embracing term to describe the “breathtaking” quality of welcome, acceptance, trust, kindness and forgiveness they see as hallmarks of their congregation’s practices.

I was captivated by the possibilities for human potential represented by the phrase.

And now, as I prepare to bid farewell, I think of spacious grace as the gift I have received from congregational leaders and colleagues throughout my nearly 12 years working as a UUA field staffer. It wasn’t long after coming onto UUA staff in 2012 that I felt your acceptance of this layman from elsewhere – your willingness to share with me your hopes and challenges, reach out to me as a thought partner, trust in my care and counsel, invite me to join you in special celebrations and milestone events.

I have felt the gift of spacious grace in your willingness and capacity

to change while remaining faithful to essential core purposes of congregational life – particularly during the life-altering stress and impositions of the covid pandemic. I’ve been inspired by your efforts to challenge structures and norms of white supremacy culture and wrestle with legacies of harm.

I have seen spacious grace in the distinctive expressions of our faith across New England and in the humble beauty of well-tended congregational life.

As described by First Parish Groton leaders, spacious grace also encompasses high expectations. I’ve been blessed to serve with colleagues, present and former, who have challenged me in creative collaboration while approaching the purpose of our work as abetting faithful change rather than maintenance. You have been central to my ongoing formation.

Thank you for all of these expressions and gifts of spacious grace. I wish for spacious grace to rain upon you and your work in the world. Farewell and Blessed Be.

About the Author

Joe Sullivan

Joe works with churches of all sizes on a range of congregational life matters with a special interest in helping congregational boards be more faith-filled, mission-focused, and accountable in their practices. Joe joined the UUA staff in 2012 as District Executive for the former Northern New...

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