As with a number of members and attenders, I came from a Roman Catholic tradition – a church that was a lifesaver for my Polish parents during and following the war; however, it never quite felt right to me – I always felt like there was an undercurrent of “guilty until proven otherwise.”
The Newman Center on the campus at Illinois State was different – very politically active but hard to replicate away from a university. I knew I wanted to be part of a faith community, one that continued that socio-political activity and provided a sense of community.
While in NC, I found my way to and eventually joined a Quaker Meeting – quite the contrast to the traditional service, creed, and hymns, as it was an un-programmed (no minister or formal service). It was a silent Meeting for Worship.
I returned to this area in 2001 as it was time to return to NH/Maine, and did so without a job. I knew I would not have any trouble finding work as an itinerant pediatric/school psychologist and poured my time into developing that practice. While I always wanted to have an independent, non-office based practice, I had not factored in the sense of isolation that I would feel – working for myself, living out in the woods in Eliot, and consulting to about 6 different school districts and traveling around New England. I knew of South Church and attended a few times, but was not sure I could settle back into a church with music and sermons having been away from one for over 30 years. The pull for connection, and community involvement eventually overrode that discomfort and I have not looked back. Not only not looked back but found that after joining, I wanted to get to know members. As the Journey to Membership class wrapped up, the call for applicants to committees went out (that “right time”) … and within a month I found myself on the Pastoral Associates committee – the behind the scenes support committee. It was a great way for me to ease in and get to learn about the workings of this and other committees and to meet other members … little did I know that within a month I would be asked to be convener – EEEK..the support from Rev. Lauren and former PAs was there – all would be well.
As I think about the “good fit” aspect of South Church, it has many places for everyone to “fit in” at a pace and level that is “just right.” You don’t have time for committee work — help with yard clean-up in fall or spring, or garden sit (the Pocket Garden committee will love you for it!); or add yourself to the Wider Network of Care and signup to make a meal, give a ride to someone, or help with memorial receptions. You want to be part of an ongoing group, to get to know and interact with the same folks on a range of topics? Sign up for the Small Group Ministry sessions that come around again in October – and there are enough to accommodate your location, best time of day/day of week – some of my closest connections started here. Can’t commit to twice a month but still want that connection/intimate discussion – try the drop-in group, or maybe the book club. Moving into another chapter in life – try the aging with grace group…I could go on and on — I know that this is the best fit, at the right time, and that I’m in the right place!
Submitted by Terese Pawletko, Convener of the Pastoral Associates