Posted in Sunday Fellowship

Minute Man March 2018

Thanks to everyone who donated and walked to support our mission partners Minute Man March this past weekend! We were thrilled to have 40+ walkers in our WCUC group.

True Story Theater Brings Down the House

  • March 21, 2018

 

True Story Theater brought down the house on March 18th when a intergenerational audience of over 60 people came together to share stories about learning. Trained in the art of “playback theater,” six actors expertly used colorful scarves, musical instruments along with their bodies and voices to create evocative, multi-sensory interpretations of the stories shared by the audience. Camp chairs, coloring pages and construction toys were carefully placed to ensure that everyone could participate as they felt comfortable.

True Story’s director and co-founder, Christoper Ellinger, deftly created a safe space for personal sharing by inviting each actor to open Sunday’s performance with a story from their own experience. Children and adults were rapt with attention as the actors shared and then acted out their struggles with 
dyslexia, mastering a foreign language after failing to learn it in an academic context and a deep affection for a teacher who encouraged children to move in her classroom

A child talked about a favorite teacher who is silly and “looks like me” and adult with a hearing-impairment used a combination of sign language and voice to express her uncanny ability to share her joy with everyone regardless of communication style.Brave adults and children described the scary but ultimately beneficial decision to change schools when meet their needs were not being met. Everyone could relate to the difficult journey of learning healthier eating habits!

 

As more and more of us shared our stories and experienced the healing balm of being lovingly heard, the more connected we felt. It was as though the final words of the Hokey Pokey, one of the songs we used to open the gathering, were being acted out through all of us:

You put your whole self in,

You take your whole self out.

You put your whole self in and you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about!

 

And really, isn’t that what Life should “be all about?”

Special thanks to all who attended, to Children’s Ministries, the WCUC Youth Group and to the members of the Sunday Fellowship Planning Team (Julie Beyer, Sue and Jack Faasse, Pat and Jane Fleming, Mary Jane Hall,  and Joanna Swain) for all of your work to make Sunday’s gathering possible.

 

 

Have Faith and Put Our Your Nets!

  • February 13, 2018

On Sunday, February 11th, former WCUC pastor the Rev John Hudson joined us and offered this sermon celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Sunday Fellowship.

Mark 1:14-20

From the text: And Jesus came upon some everyday people doing everyday things and said to them, “I need your help to spread God’s love in the world. I need you to put out your nets and have faith!”

Good morning!  I can’t describe how wonderful, what a blessing it is to be in West Concord Church again, to among and with you, my friends, some old and so dear, some brand new and gift too!  The seven years I spent here as pastor and teacher from 2000 to 2007 were among the most exciting of the almost thirty years I’ve been in ministry, sometimes not so easy, but always so important and life changing and yes, world changing too: together, with God, we did good work. Thank you for that!  And a special thank you to Pastor Hannah and to Melissa, for inviting me back to on this happy day when we celebrate the amazing ministry that is Sunday Fellowship.

So imagine this.  The year is 1891, 127 years ago.  Seventeen courageous women and men founded this church.  They were not from the landed or wealthy gentry of Concord.  They did not ride to church in fancy buggies drawn by sleek thoughroubreds. They were workers for God in the toughest of places: in a prison.  Their neighbors toiled on the railroad and in the mills and on the farms and they founded West Concord Union Church as a working community, as an extension of their Christian ministry in the Reformatory.  They dared to believe that with Jesus they could transform the lives of the young criminals they worked with and therefore the whole world! This church’s forebears gifted you with a spiritual DNA of dirty hands and sweaty brows and one earnest hope: to make God’s world, more merciful, more just, and more loving.

Imagine that!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because they did, we are here! Can I get an AMEN!

Imagine this.  It is the early 1980’s, and a new home for developmentally disabled adults has opened on West Street, right here in West Concord.  But–not without some struggle.  For when it was time to get permission from the neighborhood to move in, well, most of the neighbors weren’t too happy and were not very welcoming, not at all.  But at one of the first public meetings about this proposed home, a group of folks from the West Concord Union Church: they came and they spoke up and they spoke out and they said, we would love to have these new neighbors! Not content to just let those West Street folks to merely move in, the church invited them to worship and eventually started a ministry to and with them: one that invited all God’s children, every last one, to fully participate and be fully welcomed into the full life of the church!  Sunday Fellowship was born!

Imagine that!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because they did, we are here! Can I get an AMEN!

Imagine this: it was the first Sunday I preached here at this church, August 6th, 2000.  I was very excited but I was also feeling lost, in a new place with a new home, in a new town. Would I be accepted, liked?  I really needed to feel and see Christ’s light that morning, to let me know it would be ok. We finished communion and I asked the congregation to name out loud in prayer one thing that they were thankful for. There were several Sunday Fellowshippers in worship and I confess I was nervous about that too. I had no experience ministering with developmentally disabled adults.  As people were offering their thanks, one Sunday Fellowshipper, Carl Alden, stood up from his front row pew walked towards me as I stood behind the communion table.  I kind of panicked–did I do or say something wrong?  Carl strolled right up next to me, gently put his arm around my shoulder, so I asked him, “What are you thankful for?” He replied, “You!” and then he kissed me, kissed me, right on the cheek, and then returned to his seat! And from that moment I was never the same again, was radically transformed as a pastor, as person, in having Sunday Fellowship become a part of my life, my world.  Thank God!

Imagine that!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because I did, I am here! Can I get an AMEN!

Imagine this! The year is 2006 and our church owns the house right next door and uses it as a regular rental property but then some folk in the church have an idea.  What if we made that house, our house, into a new house, a new group home for more folks in need, like West Street?  What if we spiffed it up and made it accessible and then rented it through Minuteman ARC so even more of our friends and our neighbors would have a nice place to live and call home and this time the neighborhood was fine with it!

Imagine that!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because they did, we are here! Can I get an AMEN!

Imagine this–that for almost four decades, through Sunday Fellowship, this church has been changed, and oh my goodness, for so much good.  Has learned what it means to be truly and fully inviting of all people, with all abilities: has realized this is not just a ministry to but a ministry with: that Sunday Fellowship has taught West Concord Union Church about welcome; about standing with and for and by folks the world can easily forget or neglect or just pass by.  That this ministry of love has made the heart of this community bigger, wider, more service focused, less about me, more about thee.  That now, church would not be church, not really without Sunday Fellowship, right?

Imagine that!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because they did, because you still do, we are here! Can I get an AMEN!

Imagine this: that Sunday Fellowship is unique, one of kind among churches and houses of worship, not just in Massachusetts, but around the country.  That Sunday Fellowship will only grow and thrive in the next 35 years by all of you recommitting to its hopes and its dreams, to all the ways it embodies God’s love for this beautiful and broken world, as witnessed in the life of Jesus, who called and still calls out: friends will you fish with me?  Will you realize this day just how God blessed you are, and we are, by Sunday Fellowship? 

Imagine this call!  Put out your nets and have faith! And because we have, we are here! God bless us, God move to say “Yes” to the days ahead too! Can I get an AMEN!  THank you God for Sunday Fellowship, for this church, for leaders and volunteers, for Sunday Fellowshippers here and gone, for parents and caregivers, for this ministry and this community.  Make us grateful.  Make us fish, with you and each other.  Let all God’s people say, “Amen!”

 

 

Happy 35th Anniversary Sunday Fellowship!

  • February 12, 2018

It was awesome to see so many people at the 35th Anniversary of Sunday Fellowship. There was standing room only in our sanctuary! I counted at least 50 SF members as well as many MMArc staff, past SF leaders, and lots of friends and family members! 

Everyone did a great job helping to lead the service. Here are a few of the comments we’ve received so far:

“Still basking in the glow and spirit of this morning. What a great service! So spirit filled, so fun, so energetic.”
 
“What a great service today! There were so many folks there. A great celebration of the heart of the congregation.”
 
“Everything came out great and Pastor John’s sermon was great.”
 
“Such an amazing service this morning! I like SF songs.”

Many thanks to MMArc residential director, Andrew Forti and all of the MMArc house managers for working with us to facilitate transportation. Special thanks to the MMArc staff who came in early for the 9am shift to make it possible for people to arrive before worship. 

Thank you junior and senior choir members, Jim Barcovic, Susan Davies, Chris Porth, Pete DeRosa, Julie Beyer and Jeff Tustin for working with us to make beautiful music yesterday.

I’d also  like to thank Andrew Southcott and the Hospitality Committee for providing all of the healthy snacks we enjoyed after worship as well as our guest preacher Rev. John Hudson. John told some stories about his experiences with Sunday Fellowship back in the day when he was senior pastor at WCUC. And David Swain took over 300 photos. Here are some of them! Thank you all!

The Lodgings

Sunday Fellowship entered the Sanctuary on December 3 to find it utterly transformed. One hundred lit candles and a twelve circuit labyrinth invited us to enter the space with wonder and curiosity. Music and the tradition of Las Posadas became our guides as we began to explore what the familiar story of Jesus’ birth has to say to us and to our world at this moment in history?

Las Posadas or “The Lodgings” was first developed hundreds of years ago by Spanish religious leaders as a way of communicating the Christmas story to people unable to read the scriptures for themselves. While there are a variety of ways to celebrate Las Posadas, dramatizing the holy couple’s search for shelter in Bethlehem is always central.

Members of Sunday Fellowship acted out the story with wonderful music, costumes and a candlelit walk of the labyrinth. We took turns playing the roles of the weary travelers and the overwhelmed innkeepers. How would we respond to a stranger at our door in the middle of the night? How would we feel being refused shelter in our hour of greatest need? Las Posadas challenged us to get in touch with both our compassion and our vulnerability. Will we be prepared to offer both to God’s own child wherever and whenever he comes?  We felt a little more prepared by the end of our time together.

Celebrating the Life of Dennis Lin

  • October 10, 2017

 

 

On October 8, scores of Dennis Lin’s family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. Dennis grew up locally and graduated from Concord Carlisle High School where he met many of his friends. After high school, Dennis achieved his goal of living independently and resided in West Concord for the past three years.

Dennis died on September 25 after a life-long battle with Prader Willi Syndrome. The love-filled memorial service was hosted by Sunday Fellowship, a ministry for people of all abilities at West Concord Union Church (WCUC), both of which Dennis was an enthusiastic participant. In addition to his many friends at WCUC and Sunday Fellowship, the service was attended by Dennis’s mother, Woahyih Lin, his father, George Chia-En Lin, his brother, Samuel and his aunt, Jenny. Many of Dennis’ former classmates and teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School, gathered with friends he made at local businesses, among Concord’s first responders and on the commuter rail to remember Dennis’ enthusiasm, his love of dancing and his inexhaustible friendliness.

Members of Sunday Fellowship led the congregation in a reading of Psalm 139 affirming that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God regardless of how our bodies move, communicate or think. Samuel read the story of the Good Samaritan, a scripture Dennis referenced in his testimony. George spoke gratefully of several notes he found among Dennis’ papers in which Dennis expressed deep love and faith. As the coordinator of Sunday Fellowship for the past three and a half years, I couldn’t help but think that Dennis would have LOVED the idea of his friends all meeting each other, especially at a Sunday Fellowship gathering. While I and so many others will always wish we could have had more time with Dennis, we are comforted to know that his time was so very full of love and joy. We love you Dennis!

 

The Gift of Courage by Jane Fleming

Some people say I have an unusually peaceful aura about me. I don’t know if that’s always true but I think I’ve always had a gift of courage. I believe I’ve had it so that I could deal with the challenges I’ve had to face in life.

Like my mother said earlier, I have Prader Willi Syndrome. Prader Willi is a genetic condition with a few different symptoms. But the main thing about Prader Willi is that you’re born without the signal that tells you when you’re full. So people with Prader Willi always feel hungry.

You might think Prader Willi is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life. But it’s not. Getting diagnosed with Prader Willi made my mom and me really happy! I wouldn’t say knowing made my life any simpler. But it explained a lot—like why I have small hands and feet and why I was always really good at puzzles. For the first time, there was a reason why aspects of my life seemed different. And it was a huge relief to know I wasn’t the only person who had gone through some of my issues. But Prader Willi has not been my biggest challenge in life. Growing up without my dad, moving a lot when I was a kid, and having a hard time in school were a lot tougher. That’s when I needed my courage.

I’ve always been drawn to people and places where the Love is big and easy to feel. The dance studio where I dance several times a week is like that. It’s a place where everyone is glad to see each other and where we’re free to be ourselves. It’s like there’s a Love in that place that’s bigger than all of us. But we are all a part of it if in our own ways. All I have to do is walk in the building and I feel it. West Concord Union Church and Sunday Fellowship are like that for me too. So are certain people. And so is Nature. They’re the places I know where I can always go to recharge my batteries and fill up on Love.

My best friend Madeleine was one of those people too. She drove a taxi service I used a lot and I would be with her most Sundays. Being with Madeleine always made me feel such love. But along the way, I found out she had ALS. It was very hard for me to admit she was going to die. But when I saw her getting the signs of ALS so rapidly, I had to face it. And that was a much bigger challenge than finding out I had Prader Willi.

My mom and my friends often say I’ve taught them a lot about how to “live in the now”. I guess that’s true because I don’t hold on to my problems. I know how to look for the people and the places where the Love is big and easy to feel. Thanks be to God.