I am writing this note to say thank you for all of the encouragement and support that I’ve received from the members of FCCW. As many of you know, In November 2012 I took a leap of faith and left the restaurant business, a business that I had been in since high school. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to live a life in which I was judged by myself and others on the amount of sales that I could maximize monthly. I had been away from organized religion for over fifteen years and upon my involvement in worship and Bible study in this church, it occurred to me that some of the decisions that I was asked to make in order to benefit stockholders were probably not pleasing to God. About a year after that, I left a relationship that I had been in for 18 years. As you might imagine these decisions greatly affected my financial status. Two years after that I decided to enroll at Andover Newton Theological School (ANTS) as a full-time student. However, it was not that simple.
My openness to entering seminary began in fall 2013. Over the course of the next two years I had many individual conversations with Judy Arnold, Jena Roy and Marlayna Schmidt, in which I would share my trepidations and they would encourage me to continue to stay open to God. Finally in late fall of 2014, a year after I went to an open house at ANTS, just when I thought that I was ready to face my fears, I had a theological dilemma. I grew up Catholic and gratefully I don’t have any need to bash the Catholic Church. However, it seemed that I was still holding on to some resentments and questions. Jena and Judy pointed me towards St. Mary’s Church, and Father Dick was kind enough to meet with me one afternoon. He asked me about my faith journey and specifically my call. He let me share my heartbreak over the Church’s stance on homosexuality and his compassionate response gave me hope for the future of that Church. Most importantly he told me that I had been a good and faithful Catholic; that he was sorry for my pain and that he believed that God was indeed calling me to ministry. WOW! Finally that nagging in my soul was satisfied. He concluded the meeting with a ritual that he called, “Absolution of the Faith Community,” This was an extremely moving experience for me that gave me the permission that I seemed to need to start seminary
Immediately I started the paperwork and two months later I was sitting in my first class. One day, after I’d already completed three classes, Jena and I were walking around Horn Pond, and as usual I shared my fears and doubts, and the reality that even with the FCCW Chidley Scholarship I wouldn’t be able to afford ANTS. She listened to my ranting and raving, then solicitously said, “I have been blessed in many ways Lisa; I will give you the money for school.” I declined her extremely generous offer, and we debated for a short time until finally Jena relented. She said, “Then my gift to you will be to find money for you.” She explained, “There used to be a fund in Winchester for any member of any church who needed help to pay for seminary. I will make it my mission for the next few weeks to find out what happened to the Jenks Outreach Scholarship Fund!” As you can imagine she found the route to these funds and this gift makes it possible for me to afford seminary. I wanted to take some time to thank the friends & members of FCCW who have contributed to these scholarship funds. Your generosity has overwhelmed my despair.
This fall on September 11th, I will start my Field Education Training at First Congregational Church in Stoughton. This course will keep me from attending worship in Winchester until May 2017. Although I will not be in worship at FCCW I still plan to be on Mission & Outreach and I will continue my responsibilities coordinating The Dwelling Place and The Outdoor Church of Cambridge. While I am very excited to start my Field Ed Training I am uneasy about leaving FCCW and all of you. In six short years the programs of this church have given me a firm foundation in my Christian faith. The questions that I have been able to ask in the sanctity of this community and the thoughtful feedback that I have received have given me the courage to believe that I’m following God’s will for my life.
During my time in Stoughton I will have the opportunity to practice the parts of worship leadership that terrify me, such as praying aloud to God in the presence of others and preaching about Holy Scripture. I will also work with their very small youth group; provide pastoral care and attempt to create and lead an adult Bible Study. These are things that I would not be able to attempt if it wasn’t for your generosity and unconditional love.
God Bless You.