My home congregation, First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts, the Unitarian Universalist church I grew up in, just celebrated its 375th birthday. My dad, who is still a member of that congregation, attended the festivities. In fact, he was one of the honored guests at the birthday banquet last night:— he was one of 16 people who have been members of the congregation for 50 or more years. He and my mother joined First Parish not long after I was born, and there’s a story behind that.
My mother had grown up Unitarian, had been the Superintendent of the Junior Department of the Sunday school of the Wilmington, Delaware, Unitarian church back in the 1950s when they had something like 600 kids in their Sunday school, but when she and my father moved to Concord, she did not go to church. The minister at that time called on her to find out why she wasn’t coming to church, and she told him it was because she had an infant (me) and a toddler (my older sister Jean), and there was no child care during the Sunday services. So the minister recruited a woman named Betsy Connelley, along with some other people, to serve as volunteer staff in a child care service they called “Pooh Corner” (and before the wiseacres in the audience ask, it was named after Winnie the Pooh, and the name had nothing to do with the diapering process). Once there was child care, my parents could attend Sunday services, and 50 years later, my dad is still a member there. Moral of the story: provide great child care in your congregation.
Dad told me that one of the honored guests sitting with him last night was none other than Betsy Connelley. She still remembers me, and asked me dad to say hi. One of the best things about congregations is the sense of continuity they can provide; they are communities in which human connections can be held for generations.
So here’s to First Parish in Concord on its 375th birthday!