2022 Pledge Testimonial – Sara Ballard

My story is a familiar one, and many of you probably have a similar one. My husband Stoney and I first came here so our children could attend Sunday school, but we ended up staying for ourselves.

Our six-year-old son, Rick, told me that when he went to a friend’s house they prayed before meals, and he felt embarrassed because he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. I realized I had been negligent about our children’s religious education and needed to do something!

We had recently moved to Concord, and I heard that First Parish had a great R.E. program, so decided to check out this church. On my first Sunday I was greeted warmly and decided to enroll our kids in the R.E. classes. It was a good decision; I was happy to find a church that had a program that aligned with our beliefs and values, and that wouldn’t try to indoctrinate our children into any creed.

They did have wonderful and meaningful experiences in the R.E. program, but in the meantime, we found that this was a spiritual community we wanted for ourselves too. The key word is community, and we have made many different connections here that have enriched our lives in numerous ways.

I remember something that Jan Devor, a former R.E. Director here, said that made an impression on me. She said that research has shown that for optimal happiness, people need at least three different places where they make connections and friends. That could be extended families, school, work, shared hobbies, and more – but church is an excellent place to do that, and I’ve certainly found that to be true. First Parish is where I’ve found a very caring community of people who share the values I hold most dear, but who also challenge me to grow, ask questions, be open to new ideas, and to be my best self. It has also allowed me to acquire new skills, and confidence in my ability to be a leader.

Over the years I’ve developed deep friendships here with people I have come to consider my second family. The many Ferry Beach and Women’s retreats I’ve attended have been wonderful opportunities to get to know fellow parishioners on a deeper level than can happen at coffee hour. Singing with the choir has been a truly joyful experience that feeds my spirit. Serving on committees that work to support the church or make the world a better place has given me a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. Being involved with our Transylvanian partnership has been hugely rewarding and has expanded my worldview; before coming here I never would have imagined I would have the opportunity to make good friends on the other side of the world!

These are just some of the many ways that I’ve made connections at First Parish that have enriched my life. These connections have been especially important and sustaining during these past two difficult years of social isolation during Covid. I’m so grateful to have found my church home here and can’t imagine my life without it. That’s why Stoney and I are happy to make a generous pledge each year to support this wonderful institution and the important work it does. I hope that you will all feel inspired to do the same.