First Church Congregational
63 South Main Street, Rochester NH, 03867 (603) 332-1121
Our Pastor Eliza Tweedy
Eliza was raised in Acton, Massachusetts. She earned a BA with honors (French and Spanish, Magna cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999, and a MA (French Studies) from New York University in 2001. She graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a M.Div. in 2009.
Following graduation Eliza served as Youth Coordinator at First Congregational Church in Sharon, Massachusetts.
She is the first woman to serve as Pastor of First Church in its 284 year history.
A Note from Eliza
We've had a hard few months here. The conversations that this congregation has begun to have about mission and vision and finance have been open and vulnerable, thoughtful and loving... and often uncomfortable. The necessity of having these conversations reminds us that the future is unknown and uncertain; with that before us, it is normal that there would also be anxiety among us.
Anxiety is an interesting creature. It craves company. It resists resolution. It spurs us to action. Unfortunately, those acts often create chaos and thereby more anxiety. These are some of the ways we do anxiety badly:
We leap to the worst-case scenario, the glass-half-empty, and because anxiety craves company, we share that scenario with our neighbor. Whether we were seeking reassurance or affirmation, we give life to our fears by expending energy into them.
We sometimes numb ourselves to the anxiety. We all have behaviors that are numbing: watching television, eating comfort food. Or we simply avoid situations where we might encounter anxiety, and so allow it to grow unchecked.
Or we can "hot potato" anxiety, by throwing that hot potato of blame onto someone else. We can suggest that someone else should have taken care of our financial health years ago, that sports on Sunday led to the decline of the church. We look for the a scapegoat onto whom we can project our anxiety.
Or we can extend ultamatums, seeking whatever control we can find in an uncertain situation.
But each of these responses just creates chaos -- either for others or for ourselves in the future -- and doesn't resolve our anxiety, because it doesn't get to the root of why we are anxious.
The church is changing. Not just First Church specifically, but American Christianty as a whole. For a myriad of interconnected reasons that church scholars will study for generations, the shape of our modern faith and practice is not what it was even 20 years ago. The church is changing without our permission, without our consent, for reasons beyond our control. So we are anxious.
But how we deal with our anxiety, as a community, is our choice. We can do it badly, as most humans instictively will. We can become reactive, knee-jerk: gossiping, choosing pessimism, scapegoating, avoiding. We can let the anxiety control us.
Or we can learn to recognize when we feel anxious, and choose to respond thoughtfully. We can name our anxieties - the changing face of the church, the questions around our building and pastoral leadership, the need for outreach and evangelism in a time when opening the church doors on Sunday mornings is not enough - and choose to repond to them with hope and promise.
I believe we can learn to respond well.
Because I know you, dear Church. I know your capacity for love and for grace. I know your willingness to show up for each other in hard times. I know your ability to be the Body of Christ, the presence of the divine here in the world. The church is changing, yes, but you know that God is still with us - I see this knowledge in you, as we pray and worship together. There are new faces and new ways of being, but the Holy Spirit moves within us and binds us in new and unexpected friendships. Wherever, whenever, however we worship, God is present in you.
And if God is with us, we have the strength to overcome the voice of anxiety. We have the strength to choose optimism over the worst-case scenario. We have the strength to choose courage over numbness and avoidance. We have the strength to resist blame and seek opportunity, to resist the urdge to controll and allow ourselves to be guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit. God is with us, and so we have the strength to be the church that has hard conversations, makes difficult decisions, chooses hope.
God is with us, and so we have the courage to change.
Thanks be to God.
Yours in Christ,