This article appeared in the July newsletter and serves as an introduction to our new minister.
Let the Story Begin
Greetings to the good people of the UU Society of Amherst! My name is Rev. Cindy Frado, and I have the privilege of being your Interim Minister for the next two years. While the Interim Task Force gave you a glimpse of some of my ministerial positions over the past 25 years, let me fill-you-in on some of the details.
I am of Portuguese Azorian descent and grew up on our family farm in Somerset, Massachusetts. One could say that my parents cultivated more than vegetables on that farm, and instilled within my siblings and me an in-satiable thirst for knowledge, nature, the arts, reading, history, people, travel and the spiritual journey. I received my BA in Theology from Boston College, studied in an Ecumenical Institute in Heidelberg, Germany, did an internship at the Commission on the Bible at the Vatican, attended workshops at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, and went on to study Spiritual Direction at the Religious Education Institute at Boston College. I was a Roman Catholic CCD Director for 700 7th thru 12th graders, sewed liturgical vest-ments for the Director of Special Needs Ministries for the ArchDiocese of Boston and later became Chair of the Religion Department at St. Gregory’s High School in Dorchester, MA (now defunct, but hopefully not because of me!). I married a former Jesuit who taught Confirmation classes for me and we went on to have two chil-dren. The latter grew up strong and healthy, but alas that marriage did not do the same.
When my youngest child was in the womb 32 years ago, I discovered Unitarian Universalism…a tale unto it-self. My life was changed forever and for the better, I might add! I went on to spend five life-altering years at Harvard Divinity School and graduated with a Divinity degree and a passion for parish ministry. I was ordained at First Parish of Concord, MA on May 19, 1991.
At the beginning of my second year as the called minister of the Mendon/Uxbridge UU congregation, I sustained a head injury when a 12-foot steeple that was part of a replica of the Mendon church on a parade float (on which I was planted behind a pulpit) caught a low-hanging power line. The steeple was ripped from its base and cracked me on the head. The pulpit saved me from being further crushed by the weight of the hardwood structure. (Not many ministers can say that a pulpit ever saved their life!) The steeple had been secured with several 4-inch screws to “prevent it from falling” and the resistance made the impact all the greater. The pro-found force crashed down upon my head and consequently shattered my world (and that of my family and congregation). After seven months in full-time rehab and another two years in part-time rehab with a total of 14 different therapists working on my body, mind and spirit, I gradually re-entered life and ministry. I am filled with enormous gratitude for the patience, compassion and perseverance of those who put me back together again. I think you can expect a sermon on what I learned from that experience!
During my transition back toward full-time ministry, I worked for Deepak Chopra and ran 700 study groups in 120 countries. It was an incredibly rich and healing time for me, and I am grateful for having had that experi-ence. Parish ministry, however, was my true calling. So I eventually accepted the call to serve a very spunky but incredibly wounded congregation in Westborough (that reminded me of me). I am very proud of all that we accomplished together over the 16 years of my ministry there, as we both proved our resiliency and grew and blossomed in untold ways. I became the President of the Interfaith Clergy Association and loved all the work/worship/social justice ministry that we did together in the larger community. I also started a World Religion Symposium in the Westborough School system that is still going strong nearly 20 years after its launch.
A new marriage brought me here, to the Valley. My husband, James Walker, is an evolutionary biologist (the last Chair of the Botany Dept. at UMass), and while he is an Emeritus, he still teaches Cosmic Evolution in the Honors College every fall along with the Chair of Astronomy. Together, we have four children and five grand-children, with another one due in October! I have been busy with a 1/4 time ministry in Northfield, recently completed a sabbatical ministry in Northampton, and I have a very part-time Clinical Hypnotherapy practice in North Amherst.
It is said that life is lived in the details, and I have offered you a few of the more poignant ones from my life. However, if you were to ask me where the greatest sources of wisdom have come from over the past 25 years of ministry, I’d have to say from the people I’ve had the privilege to walk alongside. Their stories of love and loss, struggle and triumph, doubt and faith, fear and courage, strength in adversity, hope and dreams, compas-sion and humility have left a profound imprint upon my mind and heart, and I give thanks every day for being entrusted with such precious threads that have become part of the tapestry of my life and ministry.
Needless to say, I am honored to be walking this part of the journey with you. I am very much looking forward to our time together. There are so many stories to be heard, new ones to be lived, and old ones to be honored. There is much to be accomplished in the next two years, as together we prepare the Society for a new settled ministry to take root and flourish. In the meantime, come the fall, I will make sure that the kettle is always hot, the tea cups are ever ready, and a listening ear along with an attentive heart are always there to welcome you wherever you are in your own becoming. Now, let us write a new chapter in the story that is the UU Society of Amherst, Massachusetts. The ink well is full and the quill is ready. I can’t wait to begin!
In peace, gratitude, and joyful expectation…