Jay and I started coming to First Parish about 12 years ago, when our kids were young. Over the years I have had the opportunity the experience many aspects of First Parish. I was very involved in RE when the kids were young. As most parents do, I taught classes for several years. I led the Coming of Age program for two years. I worked at First Parish for about five years, both in RE and in the business office. I’ve sung in the adult and contemporary choirs with Beth and Gail, and attended the women’s retreats. I’ve made many friends here and have always felt very connected to this church.
Even though I had been here for several years, at the end of 2013 I experienced First Parish in a completely new way. My father in law Jack Barnes died in November. Jack had suffered with Alzheimer’s for several years, so his death was not a surprise. We had been saying goodbye to Jack for a long time. But Jay had been very close to his dad and it was a very difficult time. Many of you called us to ask how you could help. Howard immediately agreed to do the memorial service for us, even though we barely knew him and he had never met Jack. The staff at First Parish jumped in to help with all of the details. Cassy created and printed out orders of service, and Nicole Miller Sheehan coordinated the entire reception for us so we could spend time with our family. We had our first experience with the Pastoral Care group. Dianne Clapp spoke with Jay in the days preceding Jack’s death as well as after. Knowing she was just a phone call away was very reassuring. Several choir members came to the funeral to help lead hymns and others gave me a big hug during Wednesday night’s rehearsal.
The night of the memorial service we had a dinner in the Parish Hall for family and friends who had come from out of State. It started to snow heavily in the afternoon and we were all concerned about the roads. Despite the horrible weather, Barry Copp came to First Parish to be our Sexton for the night. Barry was a generous and comforting presence and never once complained about staying late and having to drive home in the snow.
We were blown away by the number of cards and notes we received. Even people we didn’t know reached out to with caring words, simply because we belong to this community. Jay even received a note from one of you a year later, on the anniversary of his dad’s death. During this time was when I realized that First Parish isn’t just my church; it is my community. A community of loving, caring people to celebrate with and to comfort each other in hard times. I am very thankful for all of you and for this wonderful congregation and community.