The Generalist Ministry Team

Rev. Marta Flanagan

Rev. Marta Flanagan, Lead Minister

Rev. Marta Flanagan began her ministry as our twentieth called minister at First Parish in the fall of 2009. She is a genuine and forthright preacher. In conversation she is direct and engaging. She speaks of prayer with as much ease as she laughs at human foibles. We call her “Marta.” Marta is a religious liberal, a theist, a feminist, and a lover of the woods. As a student of American history at Smith College she was captivated by the stories of social reformers who were motivated and sustained by their faith. That led her to consider the ministry and to study at Harvard Divinity School from where she was graduated in 1986. She was the first woman minister in the city of Salem, Massachusetts, serving at the First Universalist Church there (1987-1997). She served in a co-ministry at South Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, (1997-2005) from where she is minister emerita. Marta served as interim minister in Montpelier, Vermont (2008-2009). She is trained as a spiritual director. For three years she lived in the Vermont woods practicing voluntary simplicity and the spiritual life. Marta enjoys the vitality of First Parish and our strong sense of community. She celebrates the yearning for depth and the desire to make a difference in the world that she finds here.

Rev. Erica Richmond

Rev. Erica Richmond, Parish Minister

Rev. Erica Richmond joined the First Parish team in August 2020. After several years as a hospital chaplain and one year at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in North Andover, Rev. Erica is thrilled to be settling into Arlington. She brings humor, warmth, and curiosity to her ministry, all the while making space for grief and injustice to be heard and honored. Rev. Erica grew up as a Unitarian Universalist at the First Parish in Brookline- she will be forever grateful for the faith formation she received there. She then went onto Clark University in Worcester where she studied International Development and Gender Studies. After completing her undergraduate degree she stayed at Clark to earn her Masters in Community Development. Next it was onto New York City- she graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 2013. Rev. Erica spent two years in Seattle at Harborview Medical Center and then served as the Palliative Care chaplain at Hartford Hospital from 2015-2019. In this complex and aching world, she believes we must hold each other tenderly, creating a beloved community that can journey together, through joys and sorrows, through triumphs and challenges. She loves all things New England, including our sports teams, our autumns, and our history. Beyond that, she loves reading psychological thrillers, going on rambling walks with friends, and perfecting her newly-discovered commitment to biking.

Core Commitment and Covenants of the Ministers

We began our ministry in August 2020 with a three-day private consultation led by an outside church consultant.
The following was born out of those conversations.
We periodically update it to reflect our learnings together and the ways we might call each other and this congregation forward in love.

Rev. Marta Flanagan, Lead Minister & Rev. Erica Richmond, Parish Minister
June 2021

Our Shared Core Commitments
Our ministry together is grounded in:

  • a sense of a Spirit moving within and among us
  • service to First Parish, its leaders, and members
  • a call to work for justice, both within and beyond the walls of the meetinghouse.

Together we will work and serve; share joy and delight; engage in prayer and devotion.
In this time of returning to post-pandemic life, we keep before us the call to

  1. help others and ourselves discern what is important and life-giving in our days and in our community and
  2. turn outward even when our society’s temptations to go inward can be so great.

In this ministry, we are grateful that we are not alone. We support and are supported by a larger staff team, lay leaders, and volunteers. We are also connected to the community of greater Boston and Unitarian Universalism.

Our Individual Core Commitments
We know too that we bring to our ministry our separate stories, passions, and commitments. We will encourage one another in those pursuits that make our hearts and souls sing.

Of particular note, Rev. Erica is committed to:

  • Lifting up and giving attention to what is deeply important; this includes issues of justice, trauma, and grief in our aching world.
  • Honoring complexity as a spiritual endeavor — that many things are true at the same time.
  • Companioning with and being led by a Holy Presence in her work and encounters with others.
  • Encouraging experimentation and agility in service to this liberal religious community.

Marta is committed to:

  • Ministering to others in times of death and grief.
  • Advocating for the outsider, the outcast, the misunderstood, and those peoples often made absent.
  • Fostering spiritual awareness and transformation in others
  • Promoting racial justice – made even more pressing in this time of pandemic.

Our Covenants
Knowing that the ways we are and work together are important, we covenant to:

  • Underscore the joys of this work and take delight in the opportunity to work and learn from one another. We will celebrate one another’s successes and those of the congregation.
  • Speak the truth in love in our work with the congregation the staff, and one another. We will maintain confidentiality in staff conversations and meetings. We will share pastoral care concerns of those we serve with each other as needed and will inform the congregation of that policy.
  • Model direct conversation and discourage triangulation within the congregation. If someone complains to one of us about the other, we will coach that person to be direct with their feedback. We will publicly support each other when issues arise.
  • Consult with one another before initiating new or uncharted public stands or actions.
  • Be open to new ideas and learn from one another’s approaches and frameworks.
  • Recognize difference as a good thing and honor one another’s perspectives. We aim for a spirit of playfulness and curiosity when we hold different perspectives.
  • When disagreements arise, we will not speak disparagingly or invite others to take sides. We will take time and approach any disagreements with intention.
  • Support each other in finding balance in our work and in our lives. This means encouraging one another to take time away from ministerial responsibilities for rest and refreshment.
  • Give each other feedback; knowing that we have a shared commitment to growth and to building a partnership of trust and support.