It’s not often—maybe once in a lifetime—that one could say of a single person that they are simultaneously your minister, your friend, your colleague, and your mentor. But I am lucky enough to be able to say that about Terry Burke—he is all of these things to me. Terry balances all of these roles effortlessly, and with a lightness of spirit.
I first met Terry in 2001, when I called him up out of the blue as a ministerial intern, looking for a congregation that would serve as my internship site. So Terry agrees to meet with me and after our interview together he says sure, First Church can do this.
I didn’t know that a congregation could be that warm. Of course, this is because there are a lot of wonderful people who attend this church. But it also says something about Terry and the culture of caring that he has fostered among us. His big-heartedness is infectious. It brings out our big-heartedness. And that is a real gift.
I’ve learned a lot of things from Terry. Things he probably has no idea that he’s taught me. Joni Mitchell has a line in one of her songs that goes: “The times that you impress me most are the times when you don’t try. When you don’t even try.” Terry—you have impressed me many times without even trying to. And so since you probably don’t even know how many things I’ve learned from you, I thought I’d come up with a list. So here they are, in no particular order:
–conflict doesn’t end relationship
–apologize when you’re at fault, and sometimes even when you’re not really, but an apology will help. Apologies cost you nothing.
–receive others’ apologies with grace, forgive, and move on
–care deeply, but don’t take yourself too seriously
–answer the phone
–introduce people to each other and extol their virtues as you do
–tell jokes, even when they’re bad ones
–value people over things
–try hard to understand another person’s point of view
–be an activist. Our actions may be only drops in the bucket, but every drop matters
–bestow credit lavishly
–continue to walk your path; stay the course if the course is true
–there is always more to learn
–rejoice in the success of others
–write a novel
–encourage others not to be more like yourself, but to be more like themselves
–believe in First Church
–share the bread you bake
–don’t be afraid to appear foolish yourself in service of a larger good
–go on retreat
–offer reminders that perfection is not required
–there are 12 days of Christmas
For these lessons, and for many, many more, thank you, Terry.
We all admire Abby as the confident woman who can speak to the congregation without a microphone. It was as though Abby’s early life prepared her for service to First Church. Abby was raised on New York’s Upper West Side the youngest of three daughters. Abby’s dad was an academic; her mother a high school and elementary school math teacher, and amateur musician. As a teenager Abby attended an all-girls private school where she was expected to speak convincingly. During her teen years Abby also worked as a stage manager for “Off-Off” Broadway productions. Think about how efficiently Abby organizes vendors for the Christmas Fair in the limited space of the Parish Hall and makes it look like fun.
Early in her first year of college at the University of Chicago she met Neil whom she married following graduation. In 1986 the young couple came to the Boston area where Neil pursued a doctorate at Harvard University. Though Abby toyed with going to social work school, she entered the insurance industry. For the past twelve years Abby has worked as a risk management advisor for insurance consulting firms. She helps assess and address dangers to client’s assets.
Abby has been an active member of First Church since 1998. She has served in a variety of leadership roles: Chair of the Standing Committee, member of the Welcoming Committee, member of the Strategic Planning Committee and member of both the fair committees as well. On Sundays she is ubiquitous: welcoming, making announcements, and helping in the kitchen.
Abby describes her years at First Church: “Being a member here is an integral part of who I am as an adult.” As a member of the welcoming committee she is enthusiastic about spreading the good news about First Church to prospective parishioners.
Rev. Terry Burke writes: I made these introductory remarks for Gerry Wright’s plays “Frederick Law Olmsted and Walt Whitman: The Civil War Years” at our church on Sunday night, April 22, 2012, Earth Day.
What a joy to introduce my friend Gerry Wright tonight.
Gerry and this congregation have a longstanding relationship. I remember teens from Kiev rehearsing in this parish hall with kids from JP and Roxbury for Gerry’s Peace Child shows in the 1980’s. Jamaica Pond Project events have been held here throughout the last 25 years. Gerry created a Stewardship Club for the church that focused on the environment and history. He got the Stewardship Club activists to unwind and go bowling once. Another time we dressed up as our personal heroes. Continue reading
First Church historian George Wardle will discuss the connections between Jamaica Plain history and its First Church at a JP Forum talk this Sunday, January 29, at at 5:00 p.m.
Jamaica and West Roxbury were synonymous until the creation of a new parish church on the “Pond Plain in Jamaica” within the colonial town of Roxbury. Jamaica Plain was the Third Parish of Roxbury, it was the downtown of the Town of West Roxbury , and is now a neighborhood of the City of Boston and a postal district. For seventy years, First Church was the only church in Jamaica Plain.
Rev. Terry Burke writes:
Jamaica Plain historian Michael Reiskind says that today, January 19th, is the 350th anniversary of the “laying out” of Centre Street.
Happy Birthday, Centre Street!