A brief history of summer… (at NHCC)

The story of our parish and that of Newton Highlands’ growth and character have long been connected. Of course our parish and this community are all on the intersection of what is historically Massachusett and Pawtucket land, not to be forgotten. In recent times, just over 150 years ago, as the area was evolving anew, the first Mayor of Newton, James F.C. Hyde assembled with a small group to establish our church, as a departure from what was First Congregational Church in Newton Centre (now closed). The Hyde Window is on the north side of our sanctuary.

Throughout our history lay leadership of the ministry has been a high value. One former Moderator (Jim MacDonald) reported that seventy-five years ago a lay member would preach once a month; frequently it was the Moderator! For twelve lay sermons each year. Of course, the value of this leadership remains at the core of Congregationalism, and now the United Church of Christ.

About forty-five years ago the practice of our parish morphed into a new model. By the middle 1980s, when Jim Antal was pastor, his practice — supported by the church — was to take 10 full weeks away in the summer. His successor, Weldon Palmer, continued this in general. The arrival of Ken Baily brought the belief that this was too much time apart, and Ken arranged for one month of vacation and six or seven lay led services each summer. Times change, as they should.

For summer 2023 the plan is for three of our active, well-respected lay leaders to guide worship, along with two staff colleagues (Wendy and Jan), and one beloved musical group (Norumbega Harmony). This will be the second summer when all the UCC clergy in Newton gather in our sanctuary to celebrate communion, on August 6. For years that was the date of the picnic at the parsonage, which was suspended during covid. Now it is a time for neighboring churches to unite, and this year the Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor will be our preacher.

It is true that things quiet down not only in our parish but in our city each summer. That said, it is also a time when committees and staff organize for the fall and the seasons that follow it, catch up with everything from our Annual Meetings (each June), and follow the Commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. That is, we all cease and rest and pray, as God desires.

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