By Reverend Carol Rosine
The first time I met with this congregation was on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1987. After worship the dozen or so who were there arranged their chairs in a circle and the questioning began. They needed some answers before deciding whether or not to accept this Extension Minister who had been appointed to their congregation. You see the deal was that congregations who had applied to be Extension Churches (churches committed to growth) had to accept the minister offered by the UUA or you did without. A very different process from the one that you will be going through when you choose your new settled minister.
The question asked by Joe Cook, one of The Faithful Nine, has stayed with me all these years. “Why would you want to be our minister, Carol?” he asked. “Why would you sell your home and move your family to Franklin in order to be our minister?” Why indeed.
I had been a lay leader in a flourishing congregation in Connecticut and had then spent two years as an intern at the Unitarian Church in West Newton, an elegant cathedral church with a long central aisle down which the robed choir and ministers processed each Sunday morning singing to the accompaniment of a magnificent pipe organ. And I was leaving that to be the minister for these people who worshipped in a library carved out of a meetinghouse that had once been their church? Why indeed.
I admit that I had some misgivings when I started making calls that summer to the folks on the membership list, only to discover that several of these “members” had only visited once and were definitely not members. It seemed that the membership book had been padded a bit (or a lot) by my predecessor in order to meet the UUA’s requirement that a congregation have at least fifty members in order to be accepted into the Extension Ministry. My heart sank when I realized that the real number was a grand total of twenty.
So why did I stick around? Well I guess it had something to do with faith. I had faith that the UUA’s Extension Department had done their homework and were correct in their assessment that Franklin’s demographics would support the growth of the church, provided they had the right minister. I trusted that there would be folks moving to Franklin looking for a progressive church like ours. But more important was the way in which Unitarian Universalism had transformed my life and my commitment to making this a possibility for others. I knew that this was a “life-saving” faith, of that I was sure.
I pounded the pavement every day that summer, making cold calls on families that I had been told might be interested in trying us out. So when we opened our doors in September, there were 27 children waiting to register for RE… and their families of course. Within a few months, the church elders (the Faithful Nine) agreed that we needed to spend a chunk of the church’s treasure to hire a religious educator. And so with Claire Mallette on board as our first Religious Educator, we were on our way.
And here we are, 29 years later. It was something about faith…