By Barbara Polan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – While members of the U.S. House of Representatives met Rev. Judith E. Wright, pastor of First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist (UU) of Northborough, because of her involvement in the community service projects undertaken by her congregation to help local people in need, her favorite calling is elsewhere – helping new ministers learn to help people in need.
“Personally, [the mission closest to my heart is] helping to mentor ministers … so that they can go and do good work in the world,” she said after her return home from serving as guest chaplain of the House and presenting the invocation at its Sept. 21 afternoon session.
Wright's path to being selected as guest chaplain started when her parishioner Stephanie Sullivan, who, according to U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D, has “profound respect and admiration” for Wright, suggested Wright as the local minister to be selected for the honor of being the guest chaplain.
Like Wright, Sullivan admires both foci of her church: community outreach and nurturing new ministers, who serve at the church for a year or two. Sullivan explained the program that First Church has to nurture new ministers, whom she referred to as an “impressive group of upcoming ministers.”
“We do a ministerial internship program, an apprentice system … I am very proud of the “pay-it-forward” aspect [of the internship program], helping the movers-and-shakers of the church from an organizational basis,” Sullivan said.
In her decision to suggest Wright to McGovern, Sullivan said her goal was twofold: the first – she wanted to inspire others with the simple act of making something happen, to help people understand that everyone can do something that matters, that any person can, and should “make their voices heard.”
“Even as individuals, you can effect change in government… I was able to get the federal government [to] do something.”
Sullivan's other reason was to draw more attention to the UU church as a whole, a church with a rich tradition among our nation's founding fathers. Rev. Wright is the first UU minister to give the invocation for a House session this century.
” I wanted the Unitarian Universalist church to be more visible…[The faith] had a significant prevalence among our Founding Fathers.”
When in Washington, Wright's message to Congress was straightforward: she focused on the richness of diversity and asked that those in attendance love all other human beings, despite their differences, and care for all living things on earth.
“We gather this afternoon, a rich tapestry of faith woven together by diverse religious beliefs. In the midst of this theological diversity, may we choose acceptance and love towards one another and strive to live harmoniously and respectfully with all living beings on our fragile and cherished planet,” Wright said in the invocation.
“We should all respect each other and help those who are suffering around us … We are all connected,” she said in an interview after her return home.
Wright's words reflected much of her work with the congregation at First Parish Church, where she has served for nine years. Throughout her time there, Wright has supported and encouraged her flock's outreach. Those programs include everything from participating in the town's Community Meals, to the First Parish Micro-loan Fund.
According to McGovern in his introduction of Wright to members of Congress,
“For the past nine years, [Rev. Wright] … has played an integral role in our community, engaging her parishioners and encouraging their support for providing vital safety-net programs in central Massachusetts,” he said.
McGovern agreed to nominate Wright as guest chaplain, according to Wright, because her congregation's work dovetails with McGovern's own work, which is focused on helping those in need. McGovern's approval of the nomination pleased Wright.
“I was very, very honored to be sponsored by Congressman McGovern,” Wright said.
Although the invocation, which Wright called “well-received,” is now behind her, Wright is expecting a lasting memento from the trip.
“We hope to get the flag that flew over the Capitol the day of the prayer … It will be coming to our congregation,” she said.
For more information about First Parish UU Church of Northborough, visit www.firstparishnorthboro.com. To view Wright delivering the invocation in full, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKfRTyPaQtQ&noredirect=1.