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Interview Highlights with Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins

  • November 11, 2020

One year ago, Sunday Fellowship and Children’s Ministries partnered with the Village Art room to create a communal icon of depicting Jesus, the Disabled God, with the saints of the disability rights movement. Little did we know that one of our favorite disability saints, Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, would see her image on our icon and want to connect with us.

After weeks of careful preparation, representatives from Sunday Fellowship and Children’s Ministries interviewed Keelan-Chaffins and her mother. It was fascinating to hear Keelan-Chaffins talk about becoming “a master of talking with the media by the time [she] was six and half” and explaining the social model of disability. Highlight clips from the 37 minute interview are posted below. The entire interview can be viewed here.

Sunday Fellowship is also making T shirts with the image of Jesus as the Disabled God on the front and Rebekah Anderson’s powerful meditation “The Body of God” on the back. The cost is $25 per shirt (add $8 with shipping) but financial assistance is available. To order a T shirt, use this link.

Thanks be to God for Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins and all the saints of the disability rights movement!

https://youtu.be/_loXw2fSoQw

The Love Poured In!

  • September 30, 2020

Thank you to everyone who donated items to Share the Love, a game and craft drive, by West Concord Union Church to benefit Minute Man Arc! We asked and you delivered! Enjoy these awesome photos of the process and the smiles they have producing.

Youth Go Kayaking!

  • September 29, 2020

Our first in-person gathering since last March was a huge success. A sunny afternoon on the Concord River with friends and parents was food for the soul. We give thanks for our time together and for the beauty of God’s creation – the water, the trees, the grassy banks, and the interesting wildlife. It was wonderful to reconnect and enjoy the great outdoors!

Sunday Fellowship Celebrates a Year of Ups and Downs

  • June 11, 2020

Sunday Fellowship gathered virtually on June 7th to celebrate our year and to give thanks to God for all that we have shared this year. We acknowledged that it felt a little odd to be gathering for a party right now when cries of grief and pain echo all around us. And yet, in other ways, celebrating a year of Sunday Fellowship felt exactly right.

“Cant stop the feeling!”

Much like people of color, people with disabilities are at much higher risk of dying from COVID or in an interaction with law enforcement. Celebrating our inclusive and grace-fulled community is a natural outgrowth of our faith in Jesus, the Disabled God and a fulfillment of the baptismal vow to resist the powers of sin and death which Stephen Carter helped us all re-affirm at his baptism in February.

Plans are in the works for Sunday Fellowship to have its own conversations about white supremacy and racial justice this summer. A grief group is also being set-up this summer for Sunday Fellowship members who would benefit from a safe place to process past or recent losses. An information session about SF Grief Group will be held on June 21st at 4pm. 

Please enjoy our slideshow showing the ups and downs of a year that included Janice and Bryan’s testimonies, disability saint icons, Stephen’s baptism, Chrissy Pickard and John Martino’s deaths and memorials, our first therapy dog visits, not to mention games, meals, prayers, singing, dancing, pageants and fourteen weeks of on-line BINGO. Thanks be to God for Sunday Fellowship.

Caring Creatively in Response to COVID-19

  • March 19, 2020
Just some of the devices donated for group homes to connect with one another and with worship.

Necessity is the mother of invention? That’s what we’re all learning as we practice social distancing and adjust to so many changes in our daily lives. Here are some of the creative ways Sunday Fellowship is finding to care for one another and maintain our connections across the distance. 

Colds, Flus & Viruses

  • March 3, 2020

All of the conversation about illness on the news has prompted leaders at WCUC to consider what common sense precautions we might take to improve the safety of the most vulnerable among us as we gather together. Here are some basic tips we hope you will follow here and wherever you go in our communities:

  • If you’re sick, please stay at home! We appreciate your efforts to keep the rest of us well. Please let us know you’re sick so that we can stay connected and pray for you.
  • We encourage you to block all coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently — there are sinks in each bathroom and in the North Hall, Parlor, and Chancel kitchens.
  • Avoid touching your face.

As for our church policies, we are trying new ways of passing the peace, sharing communion, collecting the offering, and providing snacks, to minimize the spread of illness.

If at any point it becomes dangerous to meet together, we will do our best to keep in touch through phone and internet, providing resources for worship and social connection, and monitoring the needs of our congregation.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please be in touch with Pastor Hannah or head of Worship & Welcome, Ruth Sedlock. Thank you!

Baptism Day!

  • February 6, 2020

February 2nd was “Sunday Fellowship Sunday”, the day when members of Sunday Fellowship, a ministry for adults of all abilities, leads worship. Our focus, this year, was baptism and reminding each other that we are who God says we are: children of God. The day was extra special because it included the baptism of Stephen, one of our long-time members (video here). Check out a video of the song Sunday Fellowship sang with the Junior and Senior Choirs here. Everyone did a great job.

Sign up here to volunteer at an upcoming Sunday Fellowship service.

Gift Tree Update!

  • January 27, 2020

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.

How the Light Comes

  • December 4, 2019

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

by Jan Richardson

Nothing like a snowstorm on the first day of Advent to throw its themes of waiting and mystery into sharp relief! “I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does.”

Sunday Fellowship gathered a few hours earlier for SF in the Light, our annual tradition for welcoming Advent. As in years past, the Sanctuary was transformed by a room-sized labyrinth and the many, many candles providing the only light. We removed our shoes and walked in knowing we were on holy ground.

This year, we read A Savior is Born by Patti Rokus which uses rock art to depict the story of Jesus’ birth. Rokus writes in her author’s note about the healing and inspiration she received through telling the story with rocks: “I wondered if each rock over time was shaped for this very moment– to represent Mary or Joseph, an angel or even our savior…Could it be that we’re like that too– designed for significance we could not begin to imagine, and that will inevitably be so, not by our own making, but by a power much greater and much more loving than we ever imagined?” Of course, we were inspired to create as well. Check out the beautiful rock art and the 3D star ornaments we made together.

The 3D star ornaments now hang in Sanctuary on the Gift Tree and will soon accompany gift requests from Minute Man Arc clients who don’t receive much at Christmas time. Gift requests will be available on December 8th. Please take one and keep your star as a reminder of the joy you are bringing to someone else. You can place the gift under the Tree by December 17th. Thank you all!

Testimony by Janice Smith

  • August 28, 2019

Good morning everyone. I’m Janice and I’m going to be sharing my testimony today. Thank you for letting me share my story.

My mother and I started coming to this church when I was about twenty-two years old. We had heard West Concord Union Church was starting a group called Sunday Fellowship for adults with disabilities and we came for the very first meeting. I’ve been here ever since! I’m the youngest of four and the spoiledest! But I’m the only Concordian in the family. I was born at Emerson and I‘m also the only one who still lives here. In fact, I live just a few doors away from here in a house that’s part of the “shared living program” at Minute Man Arc. That means my roommate and I live in our own apartment but there’s a caregiver upstairs in case we need anything. I love my apartment because it’s close to my friends and many of my favorite places like church, the library, and Dunkin Donuts. Janice runs on Dunkin! Ha, Ha!

Growing up, I was involved in a lot of activities. I participated in plays through Open Door Theater. I also played tennis and ran track with the Special Olympics. One year, I even went to the International Special Olympics in track and field. The strange thing is that even though I was born and raised in Concord I couldn’t always go to school here. For three years, I was sent to Lincoln schools because there weren’t any programs for me in Concord. Then, they brought me back to Concord for junior high and my first year of high school. But after one year at CCHS they decided I would be happier at Wayland High School.

After high school, I started working and eventually, moved into my own apartment. I had a variety of jobs—some better than others. I worked the longest at Concord Teacakes but it was a very physically demanding job. So I left Teacakes and went to work at Crosby’s Supermarket. Unfortunately, I had to retire from that job too due to a shoulder injury. I don’t have a paying job these days but I keep busy. I’m on the Board for Minute Man Arc and Open Door Theater, I’m a self-advocate for people with disabilities at the Statehouse, I go to Standing Strong with other self-advocates twice a month and I volunteer at Petsmart twice a week. That’s not to mention the time I spend each week helping in the church office! Oh, and I also work in the church nursery on first Sundays. You can see why I need my coffee! Janice runs on Dunkin!

Seriously, though, I know I’m lucky. I’ve always had a full life. If I had been born just a few years earlier, that might not have been true. Special Olympics began when I was five years old and I was twelve by the time schools were required to provide public education for children with disabilities. Even now, more than 75% of people with intellectual disabilities can’t find a job. Did you know it’s legal to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage? I’m happy to say Minute Man doesn’t do that and there’s a bill in Congress to change that law.

Many of you were there in June when I retired from Sunday School. The day I said goodbye was one of the biggest, hardest times in my life because Sunday school was a job I could always count on and I loved it. I started teaching twenty years ago with Patty Lynch. Before I started helping Patty, I had no idea God would ever want me to do something like this. It was a big surprise and a new beginning. But I had a niece who had just been born and I felt like something was telling me to go upstairs. Maybe God was calling me just like God called Samuel.

I’m glad I had the courage to answer God’s call that day and I’m grateful to Patty for welcoming me. It was a big blessing because I didn’t know Patty and she didn’t know me. I never took care of kids before and I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into. I didn’t even know what church school was because there weren’t any Sunday school classes for me at the church I went to as a child. Patty became my “Eli”. She got me started with teaching and she was a big role model for me like Eli was for Samuel. That’s why it was very hard for me to see Patty go when she left six years ago. At the time, I wasn’t sure I could keep teaching but I heard Patty and God saying to me, “Don’t leave.” Once again I answered God’s call and I stayed. I continued to teach with Ruth and Jessica and then with Melissa and with my final teammate, Lisa and all the parents that helped out. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. The nursery has changed places three times since I started! The teachers have changed. The kids have changed. Even the ministers have changed. I was the only one who was always there. I hope that was helpful to the kids.

This year, I started to wonder if my call could change too. I had started to feel like God might want me to do more to help with Sunday Fellowship. But I was nervous to tell anyone I was thinking about leaving Sunday School. I didn’t know how they would take it. For months, I struggled with my decision. I tried to compose my thoughts on how I wanted to phrase it and why I felt like this was something I needed to do. Some of my favorite memories at church are being with the kids and all the other teachers and I didn’t want to hurt them. I bet that’s just how Samuel felt when he had to tell Eli what God had said!

Finally, Jessica and I talked and she told me I could still help with Sunday school as a substitute or if there’s a project she needed help with. Telling her was a relief but saying goodbye to Sunday school was still very hard. Patty and I had been texting all week before my last Sunday and then she suddenly stopped answering! I wasn’t sure what was going on! I thought maybe something was wrong! I felt a little like Samuel in the story when he thought Eli was calling him and kept saying to Samuel, “I’m didn’t call you! Go back to bed!” Little did I know  she had stopped answering me because she wanted to surprise the heck out of me! When I came into worship on my last day in Sunday School I saw a familiar face in the back. It was Patty! I went right up to her and gave her the biggest hug! It was a wonderful surprise on a day that was kind of sad and a celebration. It became a celebration of two teachers, not just one.

So that’s the story of how I found my calling in Sunday School and how God is helping me realize that calling is changing into something new. I want to say how grateful I am to God for all of the opportunities I’ve had in my life. I am also grateful to Patty and my parents and all the other “Eli’s” God has sent to show me what faithfulness looks like. I guess I never realized that one day I would become an Eli too. Thanks be to God. Amen.