A native of Bristol, Connecticut, Andrew Jonathan Welch has recently returned to New England after thirteen years of studying and working in the greater Washington, DC area. A pianist, conductor, composer, and educator by trade, Andrew brings to his ministry at Allin Congregational over fifteen years of professional church work across sundry denominations, and believes in the meteoric power of music to guide ministry and transform lives.
In addition to his work in church ministry and music, Andrew is an avid runner and cyclist, autodidactic learner of German, and a passionate, though amateur, gourmet, who is currently cooking his way through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. As of mid-November, he is a resident of Oak Hill in Pawtucket, RI where he lives with his partner Cynthia, a surgical medicine resident at Rhode Island Hospital.
As you know, Autumn is “Stewardship Season” at Allin Church! In step with leaves falling and the air becoming cooler, our worship typically includes testimonies of faith and hope both of which are planted and nourished through the ministry, programing and community of this church. We tell our stories as reasons for giving back to the church -committing ourselves as stewards, if you will, of this institution, its community, and our outward ministry as God’s divine grace to Dedham.
This year, however, has been very different than any other year! By directive of the state and in caution and care for our community, on March 13th we closed and locked our doors for what we thought at the time might be a couple of weeks, while we waited for this virus to pass us by. And as we did we smiled hope at one another saying, “See you at Easter!” Easter came and went, though, as did Mother’s Day and then the program year. We jumped into digital worship and some of us didn’t, imagining this too would pass, and we watch each week as the virus did not pass.
It has been nearly 8 months and we are only now realizing that what we thought were temporary changes have become semi permanent. And so we grieve: the loss of seeing one another regularly, the loss of know each other – our stories and trials, the loss of participating in the life of the church. For some, I imagine it feels as if March 13th was the day the church closed.
I can assure you, however, that that is not the case, and in fact, these past months we’ve been busy doing the work of Christ now, maybe more than ever – though our ministry and discipleship looks a bit different than it did! Since March your deacons have put in overtime organizing and helping plan worship, attending to the social needs of the community of Dedham and connecting in around our new Director of Music, Andrew Welch. Prudential members have met regularly to write and rewrite our COVID safe guidelines, attend to the needs of our church buildings, and communicate around budget growth and need. Music ministry made some very difficult decisions this summer regarding our music program and then hired Andrew Welch to lead us into this new world of digital worship. Pastoral Relations has been checking in on me and you insuring communication stays healthy. Christian Education has been busy building up a search process for a director who will help us reclaim our children and youth programs in the social distanced, digital era of the church.
As your pastor, I have made every attempt to stay atop new worship styles and technology while representing Dedham Clergy on several newly formed task forces including the Dedham COVID Relief Task Force and several efforts to address racial inequity creating opportunity for education and action around antiracism work. And in the in-betweens, I have spent too much time memorializing and burying your loved ones and those of the greater Dedham community.
Stewardship, too… has been researching what “Stewardship Season” might look like when we cannot gather, communicating with our conference and local UCC representatives and imagining how we might know and be God’s love into and through 2021.
In short, Allin Church as actively doing the work of Christ and has been with the energy and faith of true Christian disciples. We are committed to continuing our ministry into next year and we hope that you will join us with your financial pledges and donations. Making a financial commitment to this church and its ministry no long necessarily means heating the building and paying for grounds maintenance but instead continuing Allin’s presence in and care for Dedham residents during this frightening, economically challenging, emotionally damaging, and socially and politically divisive time. Yes, the church needs your pledge or donation for 2021 but the down of Dedham needs your support for this institution also – now more than ever.
Friends, in the past 8 months we have humbly made our mark in this town and I have no doubt our presence, advocacy, leadership, and charity are essential to the spirit, soul, and stability of the residents of Dedham. Please consider making a generous pledge or donation to our faithful efforts!
Rev. Cheryl Kerr
I’ve been thinking a lot about this town and this country and the stress we’re all under due to politics, COVID, and racial tensions. I’ve been concerned about erupting emotions after the election that is just a couple of weeks away. I’m fearful that anger and frustration which is barely being controlled will find its justification to explode at the announcement of the winner of our presidential election. I’m afraid people will be hurt. I’m more afraid that people will die.
When I bring this fear to God through prayer I ask, what can I do to sooth this angry and participate in peace? A dear friend of mine, a Boston Police Officer, told me that all officers are on call through the week of the election and that they would be running 12 hours shifts. I thought, they are being called in to insure peace on the streets of Boston. Surely there is a way, as faithful Christians, to help.
Every time I pray this prayer – ask these questions – I come out of my prayer humming the song I learned as a child, Make Me an Instrument of your Peace, the lyrics of which are the prayer of St. Francis of Asissi, an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, philosopher, mystic, and preacher of the late 12th century. It feels as if, beloved fellow followers of Christ, we are called now more than any other time in our lifetimes, to be God’s instruments of peace. It seems that, instead of fear and worry, frustration and debate, we can instead implement peace, love, pardon, union, truth, faith, hope, light, and joy. It seems, dear Loves, that our lives and journey of faith have been building to the very moment in history when the world – this nation – this town needs what we have and know and are more than ever before.
Friends, I invite you by your faith to join me over the next weeks in choosing to be not what the world calls us to be – that is, Democrat or Republican – but instead, an instrument of God’s peace.
Pray this prayer with me today, tomorrow, and every morning upon waking as a reminder of how Christ is calling us to be in a world that is broken in a way that only hope and love can heal.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
ALLIN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, UCC WORSHIP IS GOING ONLINE!
In light of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 CoronaVirus, Allin Church is moving our worship from the sanctuary to Facebook as of Sunday, March 22. Please JOIN US on our Facebook page at 9:45am creating a virtual community of faithful, beloved, and probably a bit lonely folks.
For worship THIS SUNDAY, we have been invited to join the Hancock UCC community in Lexington’s Live Stream. They will even be welcoming us verbally in their broadcast! Just click THIS LINK at 10am Sunday morning, March 15th.
In addition, “Follow” us at Allin Congregational Church, UCC on Facebook for daily meditations, “Challenge Questions”, silly memes, and other fun and thoughtful i-community building opportunities!
Finally, we are concerned about our most vulnerable members/friends of Allin Church and the greater Dedham community. If you are healthy and NOT in the CDC’s dictated “vulnerable community” we could use your help making friendly and casual phone calls, picking up groceries, art supplies, and library books or otherwise attending to the needs of those who are most at risk. Email me at email@example.com and/or the church at firstname.lastname@example.org to join our CARETEAM! If YOU are within the vulnerable demographic or would like communication or even just a buddy for the coming weeks be please send us an email at the above addresses and we will reach out!
And, most of all, let’s stay healthy, connected and hopeful. There is no way to do something this unprecedented alone. So we will rise together!