Stories from Our Members

Sue Newbury

Once we had children I felt it was time to try church again. I was hoping we could find one place for us all to attend together. So the hunt began.

I grew up in Wellesley and went to St. Andrews Episcopal Church where my parents, especially my Dad, were very involved. I loved our ministers and I loved singing in the youth choir. It was a big deal to get a small brown wooden cross for good attendance at the end of the first year. Each of the following years we received a different colored ribbon showing how long you had been in the choir. It was a proud time each Sunday to walk down the isle singing with the “grown up” choir before Sunday school.

I remember from a young age having to memorize what to say in church, not understanding or believing in some of what I was saying, I would just mouth the words rather than say them out loud. As a struggling student in school, I dreaded going to Sunday school where friends of my parents were the teachers. I always sat in the back of the room and prayed I wouldn’t be called on.

As time went on I felt I was told by the Church what to say, do and think. Once I graduated from Sunday school I only went to church for special occasions.

After I was married and moved to Weston I thought I should get involved with Church again. I soon realized my husband Tare was not comfortable with the Episcopal Church. He was bothered by the memorized ritual that had always bothered me and to come into church each week and ask to be forgiven for our sins when we both agreed couldn’t we just once in a while thank God for a wonderful week? Again, I only went to church on special occasions.

Once we had children I felt it was time to try church again. I was hoping we could find one place for us all to attend together. So the hunt began. Talking to the ministers at First Parish we found out the service my husband had liked while in school was Unitarian. But many people had told me that Unitarians didn’t believe in Jesus. I knew I did. I was then told The First Parish in Weston was a Christian Unitarian Church and therefore Jesus was surely recognized. That was it – we had a fit!

When I came to First Parish I soon found I was surrounded by people from many backgrounds and beliefs; I was self-conscious about getting used to a new and different church and kept wondering if I and others had some of the same questions. Once I began to join some church committees and teach Sunday school I met and made many new friends that I still enjoy today. I had a strong feeling of belonging to a community.

To begin teaching first grade Sunday school, I was quite nervous. I wanted to be sure I was teaching the right lesson and from the Unitarian perspective and not from the little I had learned from the Episcopal Church. I had gone over the lesson with the ministers and had a great hands-on project all set up. So, I began, with about 12 first graders looking up at me, In the beginning God made heaven and earth, whereupon one boy put his arm on the back of his chair and said, “you’ve got to be kidding!” I was very slow to comment. Guess what this boy/man’s occupation is today? He is a lawyer!

When I attended classes offered before or after church or Sunday evening talks I soon realized there are many answers, thoughts and beliefs to religious teachings and worship, not just right and wrong. One class I went to, Gail Haydock had read aloud a passage from the Bible that had been assigned to the group. Once she finished the minister asked us what we thought the passage meant. I was astonished and thought, “What do we think? You’re the minister, it’s your job to tell us,” a common reaction for me from my past. This has been one of the joys for me to be part of this church, to have my own opinions and to hear others. We don’t always have to agree.

For me, our choir is a strong part of why I am here. The time and care put into each Sunday is very obvious, especially the anthems and our call to prayer. As for the sermons, whether it is the whole sermon, the theme or just one word, I always come away with something to think about. Terry’s playing before and after the service pulls it all together.

Having taught Sunday school for almost two decades and having our children go through the system, I knew most of the families in church, and it was great. Recently I realized I was in another phase at First Parish. Once your family have grown and gone onto other things, have you ever walked into church and looked around and found you didn’t know that many people? This happened to me and it was uncomfortable just didn’t feel right. What to do?

Tom suggested the Spiritual Autobiography class and Holly Haynes with a twinkle in her eye gave me a friendly challenge. To my surprise, I had the most unexpected wonderful experience. I met the nicest group of active new younger members of the church. As we shared some of our life and religious experiences, once again I felt a part of a community. It was good and feels so right.