Jessica and Josh -- Parents and new members
Jessica and Josh say WCUC is a place where their whole family feels welcome and loved. "We noticed right away that the church embraced our children 100 percent, and there's nothing more satisfying than that," says Jessica.
The couple cherishes the worship hour. "I love love the way Hannah preaches," says Jessica. "During worship, Josh and I feel fulfilled, and we know that our children's spiritual journeys are being nurtured in Sunday School." For this family, "church is about building your relationship with God and building your relationships with other people." In fact, they are making so many friends at church that Luke, age 4, has announced his desire to spend some vacation time at the home of a longtime church member who has done some babysitting for the family. His older brother Jacob enthusiastically agrees!
Andrew — Muscle therapist, new member
"Open hearts and open minds," is how Andrew describes West Concord Union Church. "Now that my two sons are in college and my parental responsibilities move away from the day-to-day concerns," says the Ayer resident, "I ahve a strong need to express, explore and deepen my spirituality in a community of open-minded and good-hearted persons. I have found that community here."
Andrew says he values "how we are encouraged to question and explore personally difficult scriptural passages through open, honest and compassionate dialogue, both during Bible study and even in the main Sunday services themselves." He calls his recent baptism "a weighty leap of faith, but one made with the assurance and comfort of abundant support from Rev. Hannah Brown, the Deacons, my sponsor, and the whole of the congregation. I am very grateful!"
Susan — Mother, grandmother, retired teacher, lifelong learner
Susan, a retired French teacher, found WCUC in 2010 after many discouraging months of looking for a church home. "By the time I came to West Concord I had almost given up," she remembers. "But the first Sunday I was there, I thought, 'This really feels like home.' It just did. I felt very welcomed right from the beginning."
Susan also likes the music, the beautiful sanctuary, the inclusion of people with disabilities, and having a young woman as the minister. "I get a message from Hannah's sermon that I can carry around for the week and think about. I find that very nurturing," she says.
In 2011, Susan joined the church and became a trustee. She quickly initiated and oversaw the renovation of North Hall. "What was thrilling to me was there was never an attitude of 'Who does she think she is? She just got here!"
"People arrive as they are and they're accepted for who they are," Susan says. "I've never felt I had to change anything or really verbalize a set of beliefs that I'm not comfortable with."
Sharon — Mother, pharmaceutical company scientist
Ellen — Hospital IT specialist
Mark — Student, Boy Scout
Mark, a high-school freshman, treasures the church because of "its culture of openness and tolerance and because my family can be accepted." Mark's two mothers were married two years ago by the Rev. Hannah Brown, and his mother Sharon is a deacon on the church.
Sharon values WCUC for its small size and concern for social justice. She traveled with other members to New Orleans in 2007 to do hurricane relief and recalls, "There was one moment of sheer joy when we were working on a rooftop and we burst out singing. It could have been so discouraging to look out at a sea of blue tarps and damaged homes. But instead, to be part of a group of people doing something to make it better, there was so much hope. It was one time when I felt this is absolutely where I was meant to be."
Sharon also finds WCUC to be a place where "we can share the raw and messy edges of life. That's what life is, and you can share that and not be judged." She finds the time in worship when people offer up their own personal joys and concerns to be deeply moving.
Sharon's wife, Ellen, had a difficult time with church when she was growing up, so she says she is always surprised by the warm welcome she receives when she comes to church with Mark and Sharon. "This church is wonderful. I'm glad Mark is having a completely different experience than I had growing up in the church."
Melissa – Mom and new member
Melissa found West Concord Union Church shortly after moving with her husband and two young daughters to West Concord.
“I was intending to shop around, and this was the first church I went to,” she says. “After going one time, I knew this was the church for me. Having been raised as a Catholic, I thought having a young woman pastor was awesome. The talent in the congregation is overwhelming, the girls love Sunday School and my daughter Lauren adores the children’s choir.”
Candy – Mother, grandmother, and volunteer
Traveling to New Orleans with 10 other congregants and the pastor just six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated that city was a scary prospect for Candy, a longtime member. But it was one more way that West Concord Union Church stretched and challenged her.
“I remember being nervous beforehand, about whether I could really handle it — I wasn’t really sure I could do it,” she says. But she made two discoveries: Her body was strong enough to rip the walls out of ruined houses and her spirit grew through the group’s reflections and prayers each evening.
“Having everybody share and really ground our work in the fact that it’s our faith above all that calls to us — that it’s God who calls us to do it — was really helpful. It helped me put all those devastating images we were bombarded with each day into some sort of perspective and to experience God’s hand in what we were doing.”
Mary — Retired preschool teacher and daycare owner
Mary and her late husband Mark found WCUC shortly after moving to town in 1972. They chose it because "it seemed to have the nicest people," Mary recalls. But over the years it has provided so many things she values — an excellent music program where Mary shares her beautiful voice, an "open and affirming" policy toward people of all sexual orientations, and regular Bible studies that give her the spiritual education she craves. "I'm grateful for all the knowledge that comes from all the Bible courses," she says.
Now Mary treasures the elevator that provides access to all three levels of the church and the garden that offers her such peace. "Every time I go over to the church, I have to walk in that garden and ease up my mind."
Katie – Junior in high school
Katie is a teenager who finds Sunday worship “relaxing,” a peaceful hour in which she doesn’t have to think about homework. “It’s nice to see your friends, listen to a good sermon, and get a break from school, playing an instrument, looking for colleges.”
She went through confirmation class and was pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn’t being told what to believe. “Some other churches teach you what you should think, whereas ours lets us think for ourselves,” she says.
Ann – Vocational rehabilitation counselor for people with disabilities
“Because of West Concord Union Church, when clients come in, I look at them – whatever their past – as children of God. I view them in a way that’s colored by WCUC and what God is calling me to do. The idea that people deserve good things in their life… that’s what we learn from our relationships with each other at church as well as the specifics of the Bible.”
Joyce – University chaplain and mother
Matt – College counselor, dorm parent, basketball coach, and father
Matt, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, and Joyce, who grew up Lutheran, have been part of West Concord Union Church since they came to town in 2002. They have three children.
“We wanted a church where everyone was welcome, whatever stage of life they were in,” Matt recalls. “The intellectual and spiritual engagement of the preaching was important, too, and of course we wanted a place where our children could start their own faith journeys without the restrictions we had growing up.”
The couple feels that WCUC is a place where people can come as they are and be challenged and nurtured as they explore and grow in their faith.