Posted in Sunday Fellowship
The Prodigal Son is my favorite Bible story. I like it because it is about forgiveness and the kind of love that doesn’t give up. Forgiveness is important but it is also really hard. It is hard for me to ask for forgiveness and it’s hard for me to forgive other people, even God. But my parents still love me when I make mistakes and if you wait too long, one day it could be too late to ask for or give your forgiveness.
I grew up mostly in Arlington with my mom, my dad and my sister. I was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and we went to church a lot. I remember being a little scared of the man on the Cross. Sometimes I even had nightmares about him. My dad still goes to church almost every day and my mother loves to look at the statue of the Blessed Mother in her room.
There have been a few moments when it felt like God was with me. The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck when I was born but in the end I was okay. And I still remember how happy I was when my little sister was born! I had prayed and prayed to God for someone else to play with and there she was.
Still, feeling close to God has not always been easy for me. For a long time I was angry that God gave me Down Syndrome. It was hard for me to see my sister get married. I love her very much, I just wish I could do the same things she does. At times I have also been angry at God for taking my grandmother and grandfather away. I will always remember how I felt when my grandfather gave me my first sip of coffee and i’ll always remember the dress with the ice cream cone on it my grandmother gave me. Besides my parents they made me feel loved and I still miss them.
I started coming to Sunday Fellowship in the fall of 2014, right around the time I moved into a new apartment with my provider, Jody. I went to Fellowship mostly to make my mother happy but now it is the place where I focus on the good things in my life. I have decided to live with Down’s Syndrome instead Down’s Syndrome running my life. It’s like my friend Norah says all the time, “I have UP syndrome, not Down Syndrome”!
I feel like I can accept myself and other people more now. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t love people just for what they give you, not your family and not God. If you do that then you would be like the Prodigal Son, who wasted all his fathers money. I want to be like the Father who forgave both his sons for their mistakes because to have real love, you have to be able to forgive.
I want to thank my family and Jody for all their love and support and I also want to thank God and all of you for letting me share my testimony today. And a special thank you to Melissa Tustin for helping me.
The Sunday Fellowship Christmas Dance on December 6 was a blast! It reminded some of us of an awesome family wedding. Elementary school children, parents, teens and adults of every age and ability YMCA’d and congo-lined together. Check out the photo evidence! Special thanks to the Sunday Fellowship Team: Susan Adams, Jean Goulden, Maureen Mara and Joanna Swain and all who attended for making it such a great night. Merry Christmas to all!
Thriving churches have become an endangered species. Studies show more people than ever consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. And all of the mainline denominations are busier closing churches than planting new ones.
I’ve spent a lot of time in churches—at least nine spanning three denominations. I also have friends in many areas of the country who spend most of their time thinking, reading and talking about churches. So I don’t say it lightly when I describe WCUC to colleagues and friends as a thriving church. I’ve often asked myself the question: “Why is WCUC growing when so many other churches are struggling?”
Sunday Fellowship recently invited John Sharon, founder of Disabilities Understood, to preach at WCUC. In his sermon, “The Broken Body”, John described the flourishing church as a place “where everyone’s gifts are cultivated and embraced,” where differences are connecting, rather than disconnecting and where “everyone can find common ground for their brokenness.” As John told us, “when all belong, that’s when the church looks more like Jesus–broken, compassionate, and alive.” Maybe that’s one of the explanations for WCUC’s health and growth in recent years. Could it be that the members of Sunday Fellowship are some of WCUC’s most gifted teachers of the gospel? -Melissa
“At the cross, Jesus subjects himself to disability, and his resurrected body continues to bear his scars as a sign of God’s solidarity with humanity.”
― Thomas E. Reynolds
“Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still.
Let this be our song: no one stands alone.
Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
–Anthem sung by Sunday Fellowship
“Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body…It’s exactly the same with Christ. Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves are no longer useful—labels like male or female, young or old, disabled or able-bodied. We need something bigger…I want you to think about how all this makes you more important, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge…It’s all the different-but-similar parts working together.”
–based on 1 Corinthians 12: 12-15 from The Message
“After I woke up in the ICU, my dad found the hospital priest. Both my mom and my dad witnessed my baptism. When Father David from St. Mary’s Church baptized me, I felt joy and relief. God’s Spirit changed me from the inside and beyond. I could not care about how I looked. I knew it was God’s work all along.”
— from The Testimony of Dennis Lin
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is from Luke 10: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I want to show God my love by sharing my testimony with you today.
I remember doing a webpage for earth science class at CCHS. One of my first links was a picture of the Chinese Bible Church in Lexington, MA. It made my dad happy that I showed how I believed in Jesus and accepted him in my journey and announced my faith as a Christian. I remember I had wanted to join in taking communion for a long time.
About three years ago, I was hospitalized for low oxygen saturation. The doctor gave me a diuretic to drain excess fluid from my body. A strong dose of diuretic made me fall into a deep sleep that caused carbon dioxide retention in my blood. I was brought to the ICU for treatment. My dad thought I had suffered severe damage from the carbon retention and would never wake up. But I believed in myself and I never gave up.
After I woke up in the ICU, my dad found the hospital priest. Both my mom and my dad witnessed my baptism. When Father David from St. Mary’s Church baptized me, I felt joy and relief. God’s Spirit changed me from the inside and beyond. I could not care about how I looked. I knew it was God’s work all along.
Moving to a new environment and living on my own was a new challenge. I cried and was nervous at the beginning but I was also excited to take a big step in my journey. I am very grateful to God that a new apartment was prepared for me that is close to everything I need, a library, a Laundromat, the 99, but especially West Concord Union Church, where I feel God’s at home.
I came to West Concord Union Church for the first time on September 7, 2014. I will always remember taking communion here for the first time. Very quickly I met Pastor Hannah, Maureen and Melissa who invited me to Sunday Fellowship. I came to my first Sunday Fellowship meeting that same afternoon and I have been coming ever since. I love coming to Sunday Fellowship for worship, singing, and sharing joys and concerns with friends. I love hearing the bible stories there because it helps me understand God’s Word more. I really enjoyed coming to the Sunday Fellowship Christmas Dance because I have always loved socializing and having dinner with friends. But the best part of my time with Sunday Fellowship so far has been playing Joseph in the Christmas Pageant.
Thank you mom and dad for caring and loving me. Dear God, I know you have sent your Holy Spirit to live within me forever. Thank you God for all you have done for me.
Many who attended the Sunday Fellowship Christmas Dance counted it among the high points of the Christmas season for them and I must agree.
On Epiphany Sunday, January 4th, our congregation celebrated the end of the Christmas season with an energetic and dynamic pageant featuring toddlers, preschoolers, children, youth, adults, and members of Sunday Fellowship – all performing together to tell the nativity story with a few new twists. As always, our pageant was joyous, musical, funny, heartwarming, and occasionally chaotic. A special thank you to Melissa Gardner, Joanna Swain, and Kathleen Reidy for making and organizing the costumes, being essential helpers during rehearsal and the pageant, and for providing delicious treats to celebrate our wonderful performers after the service. Everyone felt the spirit of the season during the performance, and we are already looking forward to next year’s Epiphany Pageant!
In the service last Sunday, we saw this wonderful video that Sunday Fellowship put together to celebrate their year. Take a look!