Good morning! My name is Teresa Hubscher-Younger.
You might have heard my name before because I volunteer to help with the Zoom chat with Jan Power. I find that particularly rewarding, because my first experience with First Parish was through Zoom. I explored and joined First Parish during the pandemic.
Like most of you, I felt a bit isolated and alone when the pandemic hit. I work at MathWorks, a software company, in a building with over 2,000 people. I’ve been there for 14 years and many of my friends work there. It was a shock when I couldn’t see the people I normally interacted with daily. I felt a bit unmoored. This led me to looking at churches and wanting to connect with one to get back in touch with myself and a supportive community. I figured my work had made the switch to being virtual, maybe local churches would too?
That is how I discovered First Parish. It was very easy to get the Zoom link and attend. I felt like a lurker in the background for quite a while. People would say Good Morning to each other in the chat and Howard would post questions. I was really, really shy about saying anything. I thought, “They don’t know who I am. If I say Hi, everybody will just be confused.” So, I didn’t say anything.
I loved the services though and longed to be more involved. Then in January 2021, I signed up to study Healing Embodied Racism with Dana Snyder-Grant, CC King, Jiffy Read and Liz Weber. That was an ambitious project to study Resman Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and it was organized as a series of meetings where both smaller and larger study groups would meet. Every Saturday morning became dedicated to exploring my own issues with racism and to support others, particularly members of my smaller group which included Jim Snyder-Grant, Rob Whittlesey and Debra Dunnington. For me, this was a powerful experience.
Feeling confident that I wanted to be more connected to the community, I then signed up for the Congregational Life Committee with Jan Power. If you are not familiar with the CLC, this group is deeply committed to First Parish and improving the experience of people new to the community, and I felt at the beginning that my biggest role was telling everyone what that experience was like for newcomers during the pandemic and advocating for moving people from “I feel awkward” to “I can join in” faster.
I pledged early in 2021 when I wasn’t yet a member and there was no path to membership for me. I pledged because Howard asked me to show my support of First Parish, and I did it. I had never set foot in the church when I did that, but I certainly felt connected to the community.
First Parish built a strong connection to each other, but also to a new online community, because we don’t need to be physically in a church to be in community. First Parish never went on hiatus. It was always in operation, even if the building was closed. Thank you so much for continuing to be the strong church you are throughout the pandemic.
Thanks to the efforts of Lillian Anderson and Susan See I was able to sign the book during the pandemic, I’m now a member and proud of it. I am grateful for the connections I have with some of you and look forward to building more. I want to ask you to join me in saying “Good morning” on Zoom, if you’ve been a little shy about doing that. And I want you to join me in pledging this year. Let’s celebrate the connections we built in 2021, but also what we want to build in the future.