Hello. My name is Jennifer Izzo. I live in Acton, with my 3 teenage sons and husband. I first started coming to First Parish in the final years of Gary and Jenny’s ministry. I was fortunate to hear Gary’s so-called Greatest Hits sermons. They blew me away. I had been searching for a religious community that would provide a spiritual and moral foundation for my family, but the churches that I visited left me feeling cold. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered UU-ism. It was exactly what I was looking for.
All along my journey of growing up and older, this church has met me where I am and given me exactly what I needed at the time. In the early days of my coming here with little kids, I needed to sit in the back and observe. I needed to be alone and to rest my frazzled, overwhelmed mom self. I knew my kids were being nurtured and cared for, and I could just be. The first time that I encountered that weekly moment of silence, I was alarmed and embarrassed: what is happening? (It seemed to last longer then.) Over time, that weekly moment of silence in the service has become my centering moment for the week, a chance to come back to myself. FP showed me a new way of being spiritual, one that worked for me, based upon all of the world’s great religions and philosophies, including ancient earth-based religions.
As time went on, I felt the need to form friendships and become part of the community. The church was ready for me. For example, the church allowed me develop friendships with other moms who were different than me, but also shared the same values. I saw these amazing women bringing their kids to RE every Sunday and wanted to get to know them. The Women’s Parish Association had my back and sponsored the formation of a Mom’s Connection Group. The church resources were readily available for whatever events we wanted to plan, such as a mother-son cooking class in the church kitchen, and a holiday cookie swap in front of the fireplace. I also participated in the Women’s Retreats for several years, and made lasting friendships.
Another example of being given what I needed at the right time was the programming for children. My boys participated in RE when they were young. My non-UU friends no doubt grew tired of hearing me talk about the amazing youth programs here, such as Neighboring Faiths, OWL and others. All 3 of my boys participated in the Dedication Ceremony organized by Amy and Howard a few years back. The parenting workshops associated with that ceremony were excellent. My family also went to Ferry Beach several times, where I got to watch my sons run around and climb trees.
As more years passed, I felt the need to contribute, to become involved in the church in more meaningful ways. That’s when I got recruited to run the church auction. I ran the auction twice. And I’m happy to announce that Liz Rust and I are co-chairing the next auction on November 4, 2023. Save the date!
Back to the topic at hand. After the outcome of the 2016 federal election, I was angry and scared and I needed support and action. FP rose to the occasion by sponsoring 2 buses for the Women’s March in Washington DC. The church’s send-off was so warm and supportive. (Remember those yellow scarves!) I was new to protest activities and made some mistakes along the way, but my fellow organizers were kind and patient and taught me a lot.
Around this time I also got hooked up with the amazing group, Advocates for Women’s Empowerment (AWE), with its fearless leaders Suzie and Lora. AWE gave me an outlet to protest, volunteer and be heard.
During the pandemic, Bruce let me organize yoga classes outside on the church grounds. There wasn’t even a question – the church said yes. Just as the church has said yes to my slow return to normalcy, post pandemic. I appreciate that the church community accepts without judgment where we are all on the recovery journey after Covid.
All along the way, whenever I needed something, FP made it possible. I’m now in a time of transition again. My children aren’t involved in RE anymore – teenage years and the pandemic interruption to routines put an end to that stage. It makes me sad, but I take comfort in knowing that they had a solid foundation. I’m not as active in the groups that I used to belong to. For now, my involvement is mainly limited to serving as clerk of the Standing Committee. Which, by the way, is planning a Talent show on April 1!
I take great comfort in knowing that FP will be here in the years to come. Because I have grand plans! There are a lot of things that I want to do here – like small group ministry, book club, Beloved Conversations, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, and RJAG, to name just a few. I want to meaningfully participate in social justice initiatives. For now, I appreciate that the church meets me where I am. It gives me an outlet to do good through my annual pledge and contributions to Share the Plate each week.
This place for me is a rooting. I am rooted in history and place, and in spirituality and community. Everyone in this building is a good person, trying to do the right thing, to make the most of their lives and to deepen spiritually in whatever way makes sense to them. I’m grateful and honored to be part of this community.