Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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Rev. Dan Smith leads a Bible study on Zoom

A Thank You Letter from Dan

June 18, 2024

Dear First Church,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

What an over-the-top, spectacular, beyond-perfect, super-emotional and super fun farewell Sunday. So much Spirit, Love, and Joy, and so many tears, especially mine!  I cried before church; I bawled like a baby throughout the service (in case you didn’t notice). I was filled to the brim with gratitude as I was going to sleep that night. I couldn’t believe how much joy and heart you all could put into a service and gathering to celebrate our twenty years together. And, I’m still flying high, and will be for a very long time. Words can’t begin to express what’s on my heart. Gratitude and grief, for sure, and also so much confidence, in who you are and in what you can accomplish (without me!) when you come together in common purpose.

In fact, most of the day came as a totally delightful surprise to me, as in, I had zero to do with making it happen!  First, Beth’s stunning voice from the balcony on Patty Van Ness’s Grace to the gorgeous hymn by Peter and Kate to the beautiful and inspired new song that Issa wrote in the shower that morning!  Such gifts and amazing grace indeed, and the waves of it kept coming and coming. I knew about the litany and release of vows ahead of time but not until the moment did I sense their power and relief. And the best surprise of all was of course that epic flash mob dance party to Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” for “the Jersey boy” as Phil said before his mic came on. SO fun!  To Moana for dreaming that up, to Phil for teeing it up and emceeing so masterfully, to Sarah and Emma for the perfect choreography, to the choir for the pom-poms, to Don Johnson and Lee for the disco lights that lit up the chancel like never before, to the dozens of you who came out on Thursday to rehearse it, to Ben Brenner for the air guitar, and to all who danced and sang their hearts with me, thank you! Thank you! I will never forget it. And to think we still had a party after all that!?

About that party…I trust we can all ‘give it up’ for Jacob and Manoa Poke for that supremely delicious meal. In case you didn’t know, the Manoa fam is an extension of Moana’s fam and so, of our First Church fam. That food was sooo good and part of it is because their business is itself a spiritual practice of aloha. As it says on their website: “Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached (Rev. Abraham Kahu Akaka).” So good!  You could taste the love in every bite, just like the cupcakes so many of you brought. Thank you, all, for a meal for the ages, and thanks, too, to Caitlin and her fam/team, to Don and Lee (again) for the streamers in MJH, to Nancy Cyr for all the flowers, to Moana ironing the tablecloths and tending to every detail!  Heartfelt thanks, too, to the Hendren Funck family for the slideshow and tech support, and to Rob Cooper, for capturing footage of us all throughout the day.

And those testimonies, too many to name and give thanks for here! And the very special gifts – again, too many to lift up here. It was like Christmas in June! And the memory book with even more loving tributes! I spent the better part of last week reading them all, and will return to your beautiful words, notes, and remembrances repeatedly. Thank you to the party prep team: Moana, Phil, Amy, Sarah, Barb, Laurie F., and Martha D. And of course, thanks to the leavetaking and farewell team: Beth, Bruce, Amy, and Alex. How can I ever thank you enough?!

It was a truly epic sendoff, by far one of the best days of my life, and I will cherish the memory of it and all of my time at First Church forever. Gratefully, a livestream recording of the service and party (minus the Bon Jovi soundtrack due to copyright issues!) will be available soon so we can all revisit the beautiful moments and blessings of that most memorable day.

As I said loudly during the flash-mob, “You are the best church ever!” I don’t know what Jesus would make of such a comparison but I’m sticking with it! Infinite gratitude to you all and abundant blessings on your next chapter. I have no doubt that the Spirit will continue to sustain and grow all the ways you love and serve each other and the church! Here’s to many more utterly joyful after-church dance parties!

God’s love and mine,

P.S. Manoa is literally my family’s favorite restaurant! We get take out from them, a lot! Please continue to support them however you are able, and be sure to tip huge when you do!