First Church Somerville UCC
First Church Somerville UCC
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Meet Some Firsties

Our Stories

Polly Laurelchild Hertig

I was a flip-flopper, a religious snarkfest queen (the Spanish Inquisition! church members lynching Black folks in the deep South! Indigenous Peoples murdered and enslaved for generations, for the glory of God!) and yet secret lover of God despite myself.

God = Good (if somewhat absentminded and offhand in Her/His attention to details: what's up with genocide and war and child abuse, God, eh?). Churches = corrupt/founts of hypocrisy.

Or so I believed, having been doused in some doozies thanks to my ultra-right-wing John-Birch-was-too-liberal Texas Tea-partying relatives, in the crazy branch of the family. I will spare you the details, but I came to First Church Somerville via my drag queen best friend/housemate, who dragged me (get it?) in the back door to help him/her with the first-ever Drag Gospel Festival. Figures that the only thing that would get me into a church on my own volition was a drag queen in six-inch heels with two-inch fingernails and fifteen-inch hair.

Seeing everyone from Pastor Molly (straight white married-to-a-man mother of two) decked in her finest version of drag with a little bowtie and button-down shirt, to my housemate Serenity Jones singing and dancing in full drag regalia on the altar, altered my ego enough to let in the love of other humans that powered this congregation. 

Four or five years and several committees later, UCC coffee hour is now part of my DNA, and hey, the sermons are pretty life-altering too. But the thing that keeps me coming back even when I back away from time to time, is the love and the people. Oh, and guess what! Pastor Molly also was the remarkable conduit (as was Serenity Jones/James Adams) for my becoming executive director of the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, serving God's own "strangers at the gate" through a UCC church in Worcester, MA. God truly does work in mysterious ways. Thanks, Serenity Jones/James Adams!

Thanks, First Church Somerville, beloved community indeed! Thanks, Pastor Molly! 

John Olson

I've been a scientist all my life. As a child, I loved to learn about stars and galaxies and evolution and earthquakes and magnetism and computers and mathematics and everything.

Understanding that our atoms were forged in stars billions of years ago, that we are literally and concretely stardust, elevates and inspires me more than any quaint zodiacal myth.

Understanding that all life on earth from the smallest bacterium to the tallest sequoia share the same cytochrome enzymes, that all life is literally and concretely one, fills me with awe greater than the grandest cathedral. But I had no one with whom to share that awe; no place to feel that inspiration.

I had abandoned the idea of a spiritual life, because I thought I could not love God and our beautiful insights about the world. I thought that a church would require me to pretend to believe obviously false things. But First Church Somerville welcomed me and my scientific skepticism; and slowly, warily, I came to know that I could be fully a scientist, and fully a Christian, in this community.

Miss Serenity Jones, Drag Queen in Residence

I have been coming to First Church Somerville since the summer of 2005. What a transforming spiritual journey it has been for me! Seeing that strange looking building on College Ave for the first time, adorned with that great big beautiful Pride flag over the front entrance; my immediate reaction was “Why this? Why now?” It had been 20 years since I slammed that Conservative, Christian, Fundamentalist door behind me; in order to embrace what I knew deep down was the gay man God intended and created me to be.

I walked through those church doors not fully knowing why, or what could possibly be inside there for me. At the time, I thought I already knew who I was, and all I needed to know about God and “His” church. None of which was all that impressive. But I did know one thing for certain- that no matter where I was in life on a philosophical or spiritual level, Jesus always seemed to make the most sense to me. His simple message of love, compassion, forgiveness and redemption was the one common thread of faith I could hold onto through my life-long struggle with identity, sexuality, and where I belonged in this tragically complicated world.

Over the years at First Church, I discovered freedom- the freedom to openly and honestly explore those big questions I was once brought up to believe were inappropriate to ask or even think about. At First Church, I discovered a way to truly BE who God meant me to BE; and NOT who someone or something else says I “should” be. Life at First Church has supported me through many challenges such as mental illness, grief, loss, heart break, financial instability, homelessness, aging and vocational discernment. First Church has also given me the joy and freedom to use the creative spiritual gifts God gave me and wants me to use to serve Her. God is my Drag Mother. She is FIERCE HONEY!... and so is First Church Somerville.

Missy Sturtevant

I grew up in a UCC church that always loved me and supported me for who I was. When I went off to college, I did what a lot of people do who grew up in a church: I took a break. Sometimes I'd try out other churches, but mostly I took that time to sleep in. When I moved to Somerville for graduate school, I was looking for a church to have some time for myself and balance out my long days in the library.

I knew the UCC would welcome me no matter what, always. Their "God Is Still Speaking" campaign signifies open doors, radical welcome, and a challenge for us to look at our ancient faith in new ways. First Church Somerville really lives out the idea that "God Is Still Speaking". One message I heard loud and clear at FCS is that I am loved and welcome as a queer person. FCS is actively engaged with the queer community, through the annual Drag Gospel Festival, vigils for important queer rights, and through Molly and Jeff who incorporate my community in their sermons often. FCS is a church that recognizes privilege and is dedicated to creating safe and welcoming spaces for all.

FCS also recognizes the wisdom in each person, rather than being top heavy with power. It's truly a community where it feels like the community itself shares power. We are creating the Kingdom of God here on Earth in our Beloved Community.


Kathleen and Liam Seward

We were both raised in Christian (Episcopalian and Roman Catholic respectively) environments but had drifted away in adolescence and early adulthood.  After the birth of our first child we began looking for a spiritual home.  We had four criteria.  The first two (good music and friendly people) we found in a number of churches.  However, it was in the third and fourth criteria that First Church stood out: actively encouraging our spiritual questions and welcoming all marriages. 

Shortly after we started attending services regularly, Kathleen gave birth to our second child.  Church members stopped by with prepared food, both ministers contacted us to see if they could help with anything, and a church member who worked in the hospital where Kathleen delivered even stopped by to see how we were doing.  This was all before we were “official” members.  This demonstrated for us that the members of First Church don’t just “do church” on Sundays.

In the years since, we have found ourselves comforted by the church, we have celebrated with our fellow parishioners on many occasions, and the church has challenged us to live up to our ideals.  We have also been able to have some spiritual questions answered and new ones have developed.


Nancy O’Connor

First Church Somerville is unlike any other church I've known. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and stretched me to question my worldview and what kind of person I want to be in it. Although I grew up in a UCC church I have never really felt a connection to God and my spirituality like I have since I arrived at First Church. 

The sermons have spurred difficult and meaningful conversations with my husband on a weekly basis, I overhear my children singing the songs they learn in Godly Play, and when I have needed them the First Church Community has been my net. 


Megan Lim

I wanted to find a faith community to raise my daughter in, but I had struggled since I was a teen with the exclusive and sometime hateful messages of many churches. I wanted to raise my daughter in Jesus' love, not in worldly hate and judgment. 

When I saw FCS's rainbow flag out front, I looked it up on the Internet. It seemed like the church that I had always dreamed of, but never knew existed.

I love that First Church is kind of weird. I love that we welcome all. I love that we are actively working to become more racially diverse. 

First Church is a place to be loved and accepted. It is a place to grieve and to celebrate. It's the church where my children and I both grow. 


Andrea Ranger

First Church Somerville has made such a difference in my life ever since I started going 9 years ago.  And if that sounds too heady, trust me, I do not cheer about things I half-heartedly believe in.  The community of First Church Somerville is authentic and nurturing, and now as a 45-year-old seeker, introvert, biophilic, lesbian woman, I feel at home here.  

I never thought that I would openly admit to people that I'm a "church person"...cue images of Saturday Night Live's church lady with Dana Carvey.  Eew!  What is so powerful about the people who lead the church and the community who attends is that it collectively invites people to share their broken places, loneliness, failings, and yes, successes and pride.  There's room for everyone whether you're mortified that you're even going to church or feel that you don't belong there.  You do.

9 years in, I'm still not perfect, but I have a happier, more grounded, and full life from my relationship to First Church Somerville and the people who've become my church community, and more importantly, my friends.  I am grateful I found it and it found me.


Rebecca Roberts

I believe that things happen for a reason. Sometimes we may not realize the reason right away or understand, and perhaps we never will, but FCS is part of my life for a reason.

I was brought to FCS one morning by a group of encouraging friends who were and are studying ministry.  I was fascinated by their discussions about religion and God and became curious about my own belief. I was raised Catholic, but as I became a young adult, the Catholic Church became my past.

The experience I had that Sunday with my friends was truly incredible. I savored every moment of the sermon and it didn’t take a long time for me to realize I had to come back.

FCS helped me find hope during a time when I felt lost and lonely. It began to change me. It was as though all my worries, questions, and disappointments weren’t so heavy. I started praying every day, and found peace and comfort knowing God was listening.

Since then, just shy of a year, I have continued to grow with FCS. This church is a magical place where I feel I am human, vulnerable and open, and not afraid to shed tears. This community is amazing, supportive, and encouraging. It has become very special.

No matter what my day brings me, I know I can find good within this church.


Sue Donnelly

I literally stumbled upon First Church Somerville some 16 years ago while jogging around Somerville.   I was a  Christian since childhood but hadn't had a church home in a long time. I walked in that Easter morning and have never really left.  Back then FCS was nicknamed the Friendly Church- and it was. But it is so much more than just Friendly. I've found it to be the real deal- a spiritually fertile and Holy Place.  A place where I could take root and grow from a single 24 year old know-a-lot graduate student to a 40 something taking it- one- day- at-a- time wife and Mom to two children.   My husband, Jason, and I were married at First Church. Our children Ruby and Abraham attended church as week old babies, were baptized here and call First Church home. Jason is now a theologian and a college professor. And I'm a practicing physical therapy supervisor.  As working parents we are super busy- like everyone else seems to be these days. And yet, making time for First Church is a priority, a welcomed necessity.

First Church is where I keep learning how to be a Christian, a parent, a grown up; often practicing my new self first at church and after out in the wider world.

And I'm pretty sure it's impossible for me to be a Christian without a community.  That's like trying to be a running foot without a body.  First Church is a home where all my working and awkward parts can belong to a meaningful growing whole, what I know as the body of Christ. right here on College Ave.

Patricia Pepper

How did I get to First Church? I was worshipping at another church and struggling with my connection to God and that church. I kept getting this tug from God to find a church home where body and soul were more closely united. Then, I went to the ordination of a friend. At the ordination I heard God’s voice, as clearly as anything, saying that I needed to find a new church home.

I did not want to listen because I was “comfortable” at my old church, although not happy. But God persisted and I leaped into my search.

My daughter worshipped at FCS after college and before she relocated to the West Coast. As I was visiting various churches I kept returning to FCS and found myself crying during worship—and then I noticed other people crying. I said, “This is the place for me.”