Posted in Sunday Fellowship

Sunday Fellowship Celebrates @ The Butterfly Place

  • June 26, 2024

For the second year, Sunday Fellowship gathered at the Butterfly Place for an end of the year celebration. Attendance was as high as the temperatures. Good thing we had lots of watermelon and cold drinks to cool us off. To top it off Nan kept us singing! Check out these AMAZING pics!

Sunday Fellowship Celebrates LGBTQIA+ People

  • June 11, 2024

Last Sunday, Sunday Fellowship joyfully celebrated LGBTQIA+ identity and being part of an “Open and Affirming” church for twenty-five years.

During our tribal land acknowledgement, we learned about Geo Soctomah Nepune, an Indigenous Passamaquoddy master basket weaver, drag performer, and model in Maine who identifies as a “two-spirit” person. To learn more about the indigenous concept of gender known as “two-spirits” watch this video.

Geo Soctomah Neptune is an Indigenous Passamaquoddy master basket weaver, drag performer, and model. As a Two-Spirit creator, Neptune works with Passamaquoddy and other Wabanaki youth to preserve cultural arts practices by teaching basket weaving across Maine. In addition to their art, Neptune’s work has extended into the political sphere, after becoming the first openly Two-Spirit person to be elected into public office in Maine in 2020. They continue to spread awareness about political and social issues impacting Indigenous people through their activism.

To show our support for LGBTQIA+ people, many of whom have been harmed by the Church, we wore rainbow clothing and painted rainbows on our hands. We sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow and True Colors by Cyndi Lauper and talked about each letter of the LGBTQIA acronym. Bekah Maren Anderson and Allison Connelly-Vetter, two queer women with disabilities, shared aspects of their personal journeys with us through a prepared interview. You can watch the interview with subtitles here. Then we used a social story to learn more about the many ways people define and express their gender identity.

We wanted to make sure people would know West Concord Union Church is a safe place for LGBTQIA+ people. We made kindness rocks with rainbow crosses to put outside, some of us added pronouns to our nametags and many of us signed the Open and Affirming Covenant adopted by WCUC in 1999. It was an awesome day!

Sunday Fellowship Explores Mind/Body Connections in Lent

  • March 26, 2024

Sunday Fellowship started working with our Lenten theme, the Body Remembers, way back on February 11th. After sharing the story of Jesus’ temptation and 40 day fast in the wilderness, we recognized the tendency to think of Lent as a time to deny or punish the Body. What would happen if, instead of denying our bodies, we trusted that we could draw closer to God by focusing more on our bodies and how they impact our spirituality?

Each week, we explore different scriptures and different embodied practices. We explored Paul’s discussion of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, the Feeding of the 5,000 and the Story of Holy Week. We did chair yoga, hand reflexology, hand/foot washing and made enough snacks for all out of a small amount of ingredients. Naturally You, a local salon, donated aromatherapy oils for us to use in our practices. Check out our photos!

A Thrill of Hope at SF in the Light

On December 3rd, Sunday Fellowship gathered to welcome Advent and reflect on the question “How does a weary world rejoice? (a line from O Holy Night).” We sang, prayed and created glow-in-the-dark “moon prayers” to express our weariness and deepest longings to God. The gathering concluded with a festive hot chocolate bar. Please enjoy the photos.

Team WCUC @ Minute Man Arc March

  • September 26, 2023

Families, friends and church members came together as Team WCUC raising over $1500 in support of the Minute Man Arc March. It was a great day for fellowship and community.

Minute Man Arc (MMArc) is a human services agency that supports people of all ages who have disabilities providing therapeutic services, day programs, and a variety of supported residential options. West Concord Union Church (WCUC) and MMArc first began to partner back in the 1980’s when the first group home opened on West Street. Since that time, WCUC has hosted Sunday Fellowship, a ministry of worship and friendship for people with disabilities. Minute Man Arc is WCUC’s largest mission partner.

To open the March, State Senator Jamie Eldridge and State Representative Simon Cataldo spoke warmly about their experiences with Minute Man Arc, especially the self-advocates who regularly meet with them. Cataldo shared his excitement about a bill he co-sponsored to increase pay rates for direct care workers employed by the Department of Developmental Services. As a whole, the March raised over $125k. Enjoy the photos!

Sunday Fellowship in the Light

  • December 14, 2022

It was good to be together as a community celebrating Advent. In the candlelit sanctuary, the members of Sunday Fellowship sang and prayed, shared the Annunciation story, made ornaments and enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies.

To remind us of God’s loving embrace when we are sad or afraid, we practiced wrapping baby dolls in blue swaddling clothes. Then we wrote our fears and sadnesses on blue and purple ribbons and put them inside ornaments. The outside of the ornaments were decorated with golden stars symbolizing God’s light surrounding us despite our fears. After losing several members of our community this fall, it felt especially important to acknowledge the bittersweet feelings this season can evoke. Enjoy the photos!

Sunday Fellowship’s 40th Anniversary

  • October 3, 2022

Enjoy these highlights of our worship on October 2nd, celebrating Sunday Fellowship’s 40th Anniversary!

Greening the Soul: Thoughts on My Sabbatical

  • August 31, 2022

by Melissa Tustin

I felt pretty strange describing my sabbatical before I left. I’ve always enjoyed nature but camping and environmentalism were hardly defining interests. These are just some of the things people said: “Why are you so interested in trees all of the sudden? And why Ireland? Didn’t you go there a few years ago? You say, you’re planning to do yard work during some of the time? That’s the last thing I would do during vacation time.”

I can understand why people responded this way. I didn’t know why I craved green things so much. I just did. My body and soul seemed to want green in an almost visceral way. It didn’t seem to matter whether I was gardening in my backyard, devouring books about the science of forests, or biking though the green hills of Ireland.

I’ve returned from my time away with a deep appreciation for green things; not just because of their physical beauty or usefulness, but because of what they teach us about the nature of life. I never realized that forests are comprised of complex networks of organisms which together have an essential role in the climate. For example, did you know that the size, shape and type of trees growing in a given area can determine the temperature and water level? And apparently, huge trees depend on the tiny threads of an underground network of fungi to send and receive information from one another. Different species of trees will actually warn each other about approaching pests and diseases! And some trees work together for years to keep their parent trees alive if they’re damaged. There’s so much more I could say about how incredible forests are. If you want to learn more, check out “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben or “To Speak For the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

You know the old saying: “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” It means not being able to see the big picture because of being overwhelmed by the immediate concerns that surround us and block our view. I’d say that’s a pretty good description of my mental state before the sabbatical. In our chaotic world, with its 24 hour news cycle, it’s been difficult to hold on to hope while tragedy after tragedy arises to demand our attention until we feel utterly surrounded by suffering. It has felt like unbridled self-interest, violence and bigotry have gained the upper hand, especially over the last several years.

Little did I know that the trees could help me find the forest and see the big picture again. Like Hildegard of Bingen, I heard God calling me recognize her in the greenness all around me regardless of what else was happening in the world and to notice that my soul was already returning to its green and life-filled state, like a plant greening up after long-delayed rain.

What inspires me so much about green things is that they clearly demonstrate the benefits of valuing diversity and interdependence over competition and artificial homogeneity. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of the oldest, most natural systems on earth resemble the spiritual values of most world religions: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Matthew 7:21, 19:19, 22:39, Luke 10). “None of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself” (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 72). Sounds like a blueprint for diversity and interdependence to me.

2022 Institute of Theology and Disability

In 2019, with the support of the Dennis Lin Fund, I attended the Institute of Theology and Disability for the first time. I went with high hopes that learning from world-class scholars in the theology of disability and meeting my fellow practitioners of inclusive ministry would transform my thinking and my ministry. My expectations were more than met and I have spent the past three years integrating the knowledge, relationships, resources into my work. All of this is to say that the bar was set pretty high when I had the opportunity to attend the 2022 Institute in early June.

My experience this time was quite different but equally transformative. There were fewer people attending on-site but the speakers and worship leaders were more diverse this year. One of my favorite lectures was “Not Your Ritual Object: A Disabled Perspective in Inclusive Liturgy, Ritual and Spiritual Arts”, a talk by Rabbi Ruti Regan on the challenges of creating successful inclusive rituals. By describing common pitfalls like modifying received religious rituals so much that they lose their emotional impact for the community and become something to merely tolerate, Rabbi Ruti showed how some attempts at inclusive ritual can actually subvert the goal of integration and inclusion of people with disabilities. She underscored the importance creating liturgy that does not define people with disabilities solely by their needs or use disability as a spiritual metaphor but recognizes the experiences of people with disabilities as meaningful in and of themselves. Rabbi Ruti encouraged us to look carefully at the stories and practices that already exist within our religious traditions to find the places that lend themselves to inclusion such as the Jewish practice of repeated prayer bows and readings or the emphasis on divine embodiment during Advent in the Christian tradition. I could go on about the many insightful points made by Rabbi Ruti but I won’t for now.

Another thought-provoking lecture was “COVID-19 is Not Like the Measles: The Hidden Impacts of the Pandemic on the Lives of People with Disabilities” by John Swinton. His described the scarcity mindset many people and governments fell victim to during the pandemic, including those of us whose worldview is supposedly shaped by faith in a God who breaks down barriers and encourages love of neighbor. He pointed to hoarding behavior, the unequal distribution of vaccinations and the inflammation of xenophobic prejudice. At the same time, he also pointed to a heightened awareness of the human need for companionship and community and the increased access online platforms have provided for people with disabilities. He charged communities of faith to lead the way in prophetically reimagining the world helping communities to develop practices that encourage greater relational consciousness and remembering the marginalized.

That’s probably enough detail for now! If you’re interested other incredibly meaningful lectures and talks I attended were:

Beyond Saints and Superheroes: A Phenomenological Study of Spiritual Care Needs of Parents Raising Children with Disabilities by Laura MacGregor, Allen Jorgenson, Kayko Dreidger Hesslein and Roz Vincent Haven

Disability Ethics and Theology: A Symposium by Rosemaries Garland-Thompson, Brian Brock, Devan Stahl and Bill Gaventa

Grief, Loss and End of Life Issues with People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities by Bill Gaventa

LGBTQ Inclusion in Disability Work: A Conversation for Community and Allies by Allison Connelly Vetter and Rebekah Dyer

Rejoicing Through a Communion of Vulnerabilities by Adanna James

The Intersections of Black Liberation Theology and Disability Justice by Rev. Harold “Russell” Ewell II

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Continued Faith Engagement of People with I/DD After COVID-19 by Jasmine Duckworth and Chantal Hardwick