President’s Perspective – celebrating Rev. Molly’s 10 years at UUCC

Following is the text of the speech given by President
Melissa Ensign-Bedford at our Aug. 13 UUCC Elevated Gala

On April 22, 2012, Molly gave a sermon to our congregation called “Roots Hold Us Close.” At the beginning of that service, she painted a picture for us in which she described her “roots” and how Columbia feels “awfully close to where she came from.” She stated that she hoped that her ministry would dig deep and grow strong in our community. As a member of this congregation and someone who has been on this journey for the last 10 years, I feel I can say that Molly’s roots have not only dug deep and strong but have become an integral part of our spiritual ecosystem.

In ecology, there is a term called Mother Tree. Ecologist Suzanne Simard describes them as “the glue that holds the forest together.” These trees use a mycorrhizal network to feed, communicate and support the ecological community that surrounds them. They are a central hub of sorts. They connect not only with their species but with other tree species, plants and soil microbes. They hold soil, and they keep the water flowing through the system, and after a disturbance, the Mother Tree is what helps the system recover.

When we called Molly to be our settled minister, I do not think we knew that we were calling a Mother Tree in the making. As soon as she was planted here, she began to seek out those connections that make a mother tree a mother tree. She started with the congregation by getting to know us, and then she branched out to the community at large. Year after year, she builds on this network, working tirelessly to help us dismantle systems of oppression and simultaneously nurturing our congregation. She asks us to consider hard questions and step out of ourselves, not because she wants us to struggle, but because she is helping us grow.

During the pandemic, Molly held us together through online fellowship. This was a considerable feat for a church that had never had online services and was not wired for it. It required the talents of many coming together without actually being in the same room! Even though the pandemic sucked, we can now offer our services in-person and online. You could say our church’s roots are now intertwined with the world’s web.

I think what I, and the board, love most about Molly is that when the world throws us a punch, she faces it head-on. She reaches deep down into those roots and faces the challenge, knowing that being firmly planted means you won’t get knocked down – or at least not as hard. I look forward to continuing this journey and seeing our roots, and thus our church, grow. Molly, your wish that your ministry would dig deep and grow strong in our community has come to fruition. We know it hasn’t always been easy, and there must have been times that you wanted to run away, but you didn’t! Thank you for taking root at UUCC.