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The Promise of the Future

The Promise of the Future

by Sarah Stewart on March 27, 2024

We don’t know what the future holds, but together, I have faith we can thrive.

For Easter this Sunday, I’m preaching about the uncertainty of the future. What’s out there for us, as individuals or as a congregation? When we step over a threshold, are we stepping into an abyss or into a promise? Although we live our lives as though the future will continue on as the past has always done, there’s no guarantee. Every step is a step of faith in the future.

This congregation is taking a step of faith together into the future. The pandemic was hard. We look around the sanctuary on Sunday morning and we miss faces we used to see. On the other hand, we’re happy to see the new faces of friends who have joined us in the past few years. Finances are tighter than they were before; programs have changed; society is still recovering and reorienting itself in the wake of Covid. We don’t quite know what the future holds.

We don’t know; but I have faith. I have faith that this church will continue to thrive in the future. I’m excited about the next chapter of our life together as a congregation. The founders of the Second Parish decided to form a liberal church in Worcester in 1785 even though they had no promise of a steady stream of income. The church thrived and launched three additional Unitarian congregations in Worcester before the Civil War. We have survived two fires and a hurricane, as well as the social storms of the late 60s and 70s. Today we are a strong congregation with a vibrant community.

I have faith that we can inhabit the life of the spirit to which First Unitarian Church is called now. I am looking forward to taking that journey with you. And I am grateful to have a sabbatical this spring to rest and prepare for our shared ministry in the years to come. 

My sabbatical begins this Monday, April 1, and I’ll be back with you at the beginning of August.* I’ll do some professional development: I’ll participate in a UU ministers’ leadership retreat and attend an interfaith preaching workshop. I’ll spend time with my family: I’ll travel to Michigan to see my parents and brother. In June, Andy, Charlie and I will celebrate Ben’s graduation from high school. I’ll spend time alone, reading and hiking and connecting with my spirit. I’ll attend some other UU churches to see how they do things. I will rest from the work of the pandemic and prepare myself for the work of the church’s flourishing in the future.

I’m grateful to First Unitarian Church for supporting this sabbatical time for its ministers. Ministerial sabbaticals help support the kind of long term ministries First Unitarian Church has fostered. I hope to be your minister for many years to come, supported by this generous opportunity to rest, reflect and recharge. 

I can make some predictions about what the next few months hold at First Unitarian Church. You will be well-led by your part-time Sabbatical Minister, the Rev. Lisa Perry-Wood, as well as your excellent staff and lay leadership. You’ll continue to brainstorm how we can share the good news of this church with the community, and you’ll continue to grow and develop the practices of lay leadership here. You’ll have good news of your own to share with me when I return, and I will have the creativity and new ideas that come with rest to share with you. 

If you need ministerial support through the end of June, you can reach Rev. Lisa at or at the church office at (508) 757-2708. I will not be checking my church e-mail (and in fact I won’t get messages sent while I’m away). The church staff will keep me informed of any deaths or emergencies in parish life.

The spirit of this church is strong. I have faith that we will meet the challenges of the future with grace and courage, together. As I say every Sunday, I love you all; I’m grateful for the time away but I know I will be excited to return in August.

In faith,

Sarah Stewart

*I will technically return on July 29 to teach at Wiogora. I’ll be back in the office on August 6 and I’ll lead a summer service on August 18. But you’ll see me sitting in the pews on Sun. June 9 for our youth service, to celebrate Ben and the other graduating seniors. 

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