We are overwhelmed with gratitude for all the members and friends, old and new, young and not-so-young, who all came together to raise money for affordable housing in our church’s neighborhood. We set some big goals: 60 individuals or households giving, and a $20,000 total gift. Thanks to your generosity, we exceeded both of our goals with 92 givers and $29,067.29! Here are some photos of the offering collection and dedication. Stay tuned for opportunities to build and plant in the summer and fall…
Posted in Serving Others
Isaiah 58:1-9a, Matthew 5:13-20
In this season, we remember how Jesus is baptized and begins his ministry, and how he invites others into discipleship. We remember how we were baptized, many of us, and how Jesus invites us into discipleship. But what does this mean, discipleship? How could we really do it? What does it mean to follow Jesus, or to live a life faithful to God?
Our scriptures offer us two lovely answers today. Both of them are worth a longer examination, if you want to take home your bulletin and look them up. In the book of Isaiah, we find a God frustrated by their people. People pretend to care about me, God says, and they pretend to care about my ways. But at the same time, they are oppressing each other, and fighting with one another. (This may sound a bit familiar; you may have witnessed some of this in the news recently. Times haven’t changed so very much.)
God says, if these people who talk so much about me were really interested in my ways, they would be undoing injustice, and sharing their bounty with those who really need it, and recognizing everyone as kin. Only when they do these things will their light shine forth, and their healing spring up. Only then will they feel my presence, right there, alongside them.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus, preaching what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, offers a similar message. He knows that his audience has heard the law of Moses, and the wisdom of the prophets. You have probably heard at least the basics of it, too: love God, and your neighbor as yourself. But too often even those who know these guidelines do not follow them; or at least, we do not follow them with our whole hearts. Jesus tells us: you already have everything you need to follow me. You know what you need to know, you are who God created you to be. So, be who you really are. Salt seasons all it touches. Light brightens all it touches. You were blessed to bless others, so be salty, be bright, be yourself, and bless everyone who comes near you.
This church has taken seriously our calling to love God and neighbor, to bless others – even those we don’t know. As part of our response, we give a portion of our budget — recently, 11% — to organizations we call Mission Partners. And along with our wealth, we share other things with them, too: time, labor, prayer.
I give thanks to all the folks who are leaders in this work of connection, several here among us today. Two of them will now offer us a glimpse into why they do what they do…
Barbara: This church has a long history with Open Table. Gordon Fraser was its faithful champion along with others when we first came to WCUC 16 years ago. When Jesus says, “feed the hungry” there is not a lot of confusion or spin around what he means. Community suppers in Maynard and Concord offer weekly healthy meals and the chance to socialize. The food pantry, operating in what was formerly the Aubuchon Hardware building on Main Street in Maynard, serves upwards of 80-100 families on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Our monthly food donations are part of providing that need. Local farms, businesses, and the Boston Food Bank fill in the rest, and the team of volunteers to pull off this feat is awesome. There are so many pieces to a community resource like this.
We all know about housing costs in this area. Many people who work even full time have trouble managing rent/mortgage, utilities, not to mention the possible need for child care or medical bills and paying back student loans. Helping families with food frees up money to meet some of these other bills. If you are like me, the emails, letters and phone calls keep coming—so many worthy causes, so many needs. I get overwhelmed.
I have needed to find my place of radical solidarity. I think this is what Jesus calls us to, to partner with the hungry, the homeless, the displaced, the refugees, with those who are struggling. When I worked in community mental health that was my place of radical solidarity. In retirement Open Table connects me again with people who are struggling, with job loss, illness, family problems, low wages—all of which impact their ability to provide basic needs for their family. It is also a place to welcome people new to this country, working to get settled. For my own spiritual health I have needed to get out of my bubble.
I am grateful to God for the presence of Open Table in our communities and for my opportunity to partner with Open Table.
Constance: Why I support Habitat for Humanity
- Habitat for Humanity is international, at one point present in more than 100 countries.
- Habitat for Humanity is a binding national network—across social, political, monetary, and religious lines.
- Habitat for Humanity is regional and local, sometimes at work in your own town.
- Habitat for Humanity is cooperative—“each one, teach one” is an unspoken motto.
- Habitat for Humanity is young people baking and selling their wares to raise money for a nearby project.
- Habitat for Humanity is a team of women bonding over a wide variety of tasks during “Women Build” Week.
- Habitat for Humanity is celebrating a 75th birthday in grand style, challenging friends and family to raise money at the time of the local affiliate’s annual gala.
- Habitat for Humanity is an agnostic Jew and a proud atheist (nephew of two Lutheran pastors) bonding as they dig foundation trenches.
- Habitat for Humanity is learning humility—being just one more team member when the team leader may be 1/3 of your age.
- Habitat for Humanity is being amazed by Jimmy Carter’s steadfast dedication to a cause he did not found but has supported more visibly than anyone for decades.
- Habitat for Humanity is climbing tall ladders to wash windows, getting up on a roof that turns out to be steeper (and higher) than it had seemed, wielding new tools.
- Habitat for Humanity is humbling—patiently washing paint brushes, picking up trash, sorting screws.
- Habitat for Humanity is moving 1000 concrete blocks across a London worksite because they had been delivered to the wrong spot and were in the way.
- Habitat for Humanity is replacing 1000 bolts in fencing because the wrong size had been delivered but everything had to be finished by the end of the Jimmy Carter Week in Vác, Hungary—and someone had to make the switch when the correct bolts arrived.
- Habitat for Humanity is, in the words of founder Millard Fuller: “Love in the Mortar Joints,” “A Simple, Decent Place to Live,” “The Theology of the Hammer, “More than Houses.”
- Habitat for Humanity speaks to me because it pulls me out of the isolating intellectual writer’s world where I spend too much time into physical partnership with people in need—and because Habitat for Humanity can use time and talent as well as dimes and dollars.
All of us can be part of this. Thanks be to God.
Wayyyyy back in December, children and Sunday Fellowship members created the beautiful 3D stars that would hold gift requests from Minute Man Arc. Twenty-four stars were hung on our Gift Tree and disappeared within moments. Like clockwork, the gifts poured in, were passed to Minute Man Arc and then delivered on Christmas! Thank you to all of our gift-givers and special thanks to Andrew Forti and Jean Goldsberry for partnering with WCUC in the second year of this project. Check out these pictures of the joyful recipients that day.
On January 12th, we heard three members reflect on why they do what they do at WCUC.
From Ellie Garvey:
My father used to tell me I had an affliction, like my mother. He called it “the rising arm syndrome.” It manifests itself when I hear the words, “Would anyone be willing to…?” or “Could someone…? And my volunteer arm rises up. I don’t consider this an affliction. Helping and volunteering are part of who I am, and I like it that way.
West Concord Union Church has no shortage of volunteer opportunities, and I have thrown myself into the community with abandon. In addition to singing and ringing in the senior and bell choirs, I hold an elected position on the Worship and Welcome Ministry. I have served on this ministry for 6 years, and that means my time is up. In accordance with the church’s constitution, I have to step down. While I am a bit sad about that, it does give me the opportunity to tell you about everything that I love about serving on this ministry.
Most of what you see up here in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings is under the auspices of the Worship and Welcome Ministry. We guide the ushers and greeters, we prepare and serve communion, we assist with Joys and Concerns, and we review Sunday worship services to improve on our dedication to making them welcoming and inclusive. In the summer, we coordinate the outdoor services, and we are in charge of hospitality and fellowship, from coffee hour to funeral receptions. And I love all of that. My favorite parts are serving communion and helping with fellowship events. And the best part of the Ministry is the team of leaders that I have had the privilege of working with.
The first time I set up the communion table was way back when I was on the board of Deacons, the precursor to Worship and Welcome. As I laid out the bread and juice, it occurred to me that I was setting Jesus’ table. And that was a pretty cool thing to be doing! For those of you who are wondering if you could serve on Worship and Welcome in the future, the answer is yes! Please speak to me after worship today and I will be happy to fill you in on the details of this vital service to the church.
It has been a privilege to serve WCUC in this capacity for six years, and I thank God for this community of volunteers. I’ll take a year off, and then we’ll see where my rising arm takes me next.
From John Fossett:
I joined WCUC in 1988, after being introduced by one Maynard Forbes. What I found here was a vibrant church, teeming with vitality and activity, and it has been, and surely will continue to be, a congregation that is a living affirmation of God’s call to service, providing innumerable opportunities for each of us to serve the church in some way. Some such roles require an ongoing commitment throughout the year, while others are those I call one-off or time limited commitments. Over the past several years, I have focused my efforts on the latter, serving as a member and Chair of the Investment Committee, as a greeter, usher, and coffee host, and helping with outside grounds cleanup and periodic setup for special events. One of my most favorite “roles” has been to provide rides to church for Annie and Fran, not easily able to get themselves here otherwise.
Over the years, service to church has given me pause to contemplate my formative days at the Wellesley Village Church, and how my late mother, Jane Fossett, taught me the power of individuals to help others through a helping hand or other simple acts of kindness. Her work was quite similar to what I see here: A quiet, yet abiding concern for the well-being of others, answering His call. Jane would be so pleased to know that I had re-established a faith connection with a place that shares her values and that pursues God’s call for us to serve others.
One of the major reasons I pursue volunteer activities at WCUC is the satisfaction I derive from the joy of strengthening personal connections with others, not only while greeting or ushering or hosting coffee hour, but also during the enjoyable rides to church with Annie and Fran. Any of these time-limited roles may be perfect for those of you unable to take on longer term or ongoing commitments, but wanting to serve the church in some way.
From Joanna Swain:
I’ve been participating in our Sunday Fellowship ministry for adults of all abilities since our family moved to Concord – more than 12 years now. In fact, the SF program is one of the key reasons we visited this church, and also why we never visited another! My involvement in Sunday Fellowship has ebbed and flowed through the years as my other commitments have come and gone. Sometimes I just go to a biweekly worship services and help with whatever job needs doing, like collating music sheets, writing down joys and concerns, or passing out name tags. Other times, I have helped to organize a specific event, like a dance complete with DJ and a photo booth. Recently, I’ve been sitting on the SF Team, along with several others from within our church and some from other faith communities. The SF team meets every couple of months to review past events, plan for new initiatives, and generally serve as a sounding board to Melissa Tustin, who is our paid and incredibly qualified SF Director.
Why is SF so important to me? To tell the truth, most of us here at WCUC are pretty good at presenting the best of ourselves on a Sunday morning. We are buttoned down and pretty self-contained, am I right?. But SF worship services are different. They are really “come as you are”. You can’t sing on key? Who cares! Did you have a fight with someone you live with? Who hasn’t! The services are rambunctious and sweet, with big emotions, and God’s love is palpable. I praise God for our Sunday Fellowship program, and the opportunity to participate and help make it happen.
Last weekend, WCUC hosted a book sale to support children in Honduras who need medical, financial, and educational assistance. We raised over $600.00 and had a great time doing it! To read more about Emily and Tom Collins’ non-profit organization click here.
A huge thank you to all of the volunteers from WCUC that helped to make this possible – those who donated or bought books, helped with set up, the sale itself, and clean up! The left over books were donated to More Than Words, a local non-profit book store that is managed and operated by foster care youth and young adults. A special shout out to those who helped box up all of the books after the sale ended on Sunday – a great joint effort by the Youth, Sunday Fellowship and other WCUC adults.
Fun times with the Miracle League of Massachusetts baseball organization! Spirits were high, smiles were plentiful, and the sun was shining brightly on this fabulous afternoon. Not sure who had more fun…the players or the youth group buddies? We are so thankful for this opportunity which has now become a favorite youth group tradition!
On Saturday, WCUC Youth and Parents joined hands with many other people around town to help clean up Concord. Our route covered Commonwealth, Highland St. and Lawsbrook Rd. It was a beautiful day to be outside …. great company, great exercise, and great cause! After we finished, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Reasons to Be Cheerful for an ice cream treat. The old adage “many hands make light work” rang true for us on this day.
The youth were busy on Sunday! After worship, some helped to host a card making table for Concord Prison Outreach’s holiday bags while others learned a new song that they will sing in worship on December 16th. Later in the afternoon, many returned to church to join with Sunday Fellowship in marking the beginning of Advent with songs, scripture, prayers, craft activities, and labyrinth walking. Finally, we ended the day with a well deserved pizza party/game night in North Hall. Feeling grateful for the many ways we can serve, sing, and celebrate during this holy season!
The youth group celebrated Thanks-Giving this year by making promises to support WCUC and by baking pies for people in our congregation who could use some extra cheer.
After brainstorming in class the many ways that people can “give back” to this church and offer thanks to a community that nourishes us, the youth made their own pledges of commitment for the year ahead. Their “tokens” of appreciation showed a wide array of promises including: Sunday Fellowship participation, Youth Group and school service activities, more consistent attendance at worship and at youth group classes, spreading love and peace, being more kind, worship leadership, inviting friends, and making a monthly monetary donation. We are beyond blessed to have these thoughtful and generous young people in our church community!
Putting their faith and giving spirit into action, many of the youth came to church early on Sunday morning to be welcomed by Ann Schummers, and adult volunteers Amanda and Debbie, for our annual pie baking adventure. Fifteen small pies and hand written cards were prepared for delivery and the youth got to enjoy a “sample pie” to be sure they were good enough to serve to others. A huge thanks to Mrs. Schummers for keeping this tradition alive. It has become a Youth Group favorite. Happy Thanksgiving!