Do you know who that is up on the screen?  Yep, that’s me.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  I bet those of you who are kids can’t believe that I was once a kid like you.  But I was.  Every adult here was a child once.  Did I know what I wanted to do in life as a little girl and a teenager?  Looking at these slides you might think you I wanted to be a cowgirl?  That didn’t happen, but you know what they say – even though I wasn’t born in Texas, I got here as quick as I could!  Or you might think I wanted to be a baseball coach. That didn’t happen either but, I do love those Astros!  Or maybe I’d be someone who cares about their appearance?  Well, some things never change, do they? But become a minister? Who would a thunk?  Probably no one back then; least of all, me.  If you’d asked me back then what I wanted to do in life, I probably would have said I wanted to be a teacher becasue I loved school.

But –  Here I am on the night of my ordination thirty four years ago – hard to believe I ever looked that young! I was 33 years old.  It had taken me a long time to decide whether ministry was right for me.  I had done a lot of studying, preparing, thinking about it; but that night I was sure this was the life I was called to live.  And for the most part, that certainty has never left me.  What a night that was!  How honored I felt to become part of our Living tradition.  I was ordained by the Accotink UU Church in Burke, Virginia.  I served them as a solo minister for 13 years and it was sweet run.  We started out with 70 members meeting in an elementary school cafeteria and when I left, we had about 270 members and we had built a building of our own on 11 acres of meadow and woods.

But, life changes – and 21 years ago this year, this church, Emerson called my husband Mark and I to be your Co-Ministers.  Here we are on the night of our installation.  And that’s a picture of me from that time in my favorite clerical robe.  Mark and I served this church together for 17 years before his death in 2016.  And now, counting this year, I have served Emerson four more as your sole Senior Minister.

My point is this:  People don’t stay the same; they age; their looks change; what they decide to do in life changes.  There are chapters in life.  Every adult here could look back like this on the chapters in their life.  In 6 months, I am going to start a new chapter in my life.  I have decided to retire at the end of this church year.  It will be a new chapter for me and for this congregation

I imagine that there are lots of questions about what happens next for Emerson and for me.  I said a little about that in the letter those of you on our mailing list received and I’ll be saying more about this later in the service. But we don’t have to say everything today or figure anything out today.  We have time for that.

The most important things to remember right now is that this congregation’s mission of increasing the measure of love in the wider world doesn’t change, it doesn’t end with my retirement.  Neither does the love we share end either.  This video of the children’s story, The Invisible String, speaks to what is in my heart today.

Video Link

Ministers and congregations have invisible strings, too and those strings don’t go away when the minister retires.

Now a word to those of you who are newcomers, you may be wondering if this was the right time to visit Emerson.  Well, stick around.  Because I think today – and the months ahead -will tell you a lot about Unitarian Universalism and what a wonderful congregation this is.