Reverend Dana Allen Walsh
dana [at] southchurch.com
Reverend Dana Allen Walsh is a pastor, teacher, and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is the first female Senior Pastor of South Church in Andover in their 300 year history. Prior to her call to South Church in 2014, Dana served for eight years as Minister of Hancock United Church of Christ on the historic battle green of Lexington. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the University of Mary Washington. Dana was raised in Trumbull, CT where her spiritual journey began with the Catholic Church until she felt her call to ministry through youth service trips.
Dana is a seeker of the sacred in the ordinary. She sees traces of the divine in deep conversations, in the chaos of parenthood, and in the intergenerational joy of church. Dana believes that church is where we remind each other of who God has called us to be in this world: people of hope and people of courage.
Dana resides in Andover along with her husband, Sean and two children: Leighton & Emerson. You can find Dana fueling up with a latte at Caffe Nero, hiking an AVIS trail with her dog, Bono, or rifling through the clearance rack at Chic Consignment.
“For every event in life, there are many different angles. When you look at the same event from a wider perspective,
your sense of worry and anxiety reduces, and you have greater joy.” – The Dalai Lama, “The Book of Joy”
In the second week of September, we were supposed to kick-off the church year with our annual special event: Homecoming Worship. Yet, our plans were disrupted by the largest national gas crisis our country has ever seen. While enduring torn-up roads, no heat, displacement, and construction of new gas pipes and meters, our worship life focused on a six week series on JOY. At first, it felt strange to preach about joy in
the midst of real hardship and trauma, but I believe it helped to shift us from a short-sighted focus on discomfort and uncertainty to a wider angle lens to see the goodness and faithfulness of the Spirit at work in our midst. There was such strength in how this church embraced and loved one another: cooking meals, providing shower facilities, providing induction stovetops, giving out gift cards for groceries and restaurants, and opening your homes to one another.
Our faith reminds us that joy is a way of seeing the world. True joy does not require waiting, it is available right now. But it begins with seeing the world through a lens of faith, looking for the hope on the horizon and seeing each other with mercy. When I widen my perspective to view this program year, its evident God has been at work in our congregation. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
- We added two new staff members to our team: Cathy Meyer, our Minister of Music and Andy Brien, our Facilities Manager. Truly they are both a gift from God. Andy arrived a few weeks before the gas crisis (thanks be to God!) and he navigated us through replacing more than $125K of church appliances and equipment. He is diligent, knowledgeable, and conscientious. Cathy brought with her a bold vision of what might be possible at South Church and has pulled kids, choir members, bell rings, singers, soloists, and instrumentalists by divine centrifugal force into the music program. We now have choirs for kids from birth through high school where our children learn to sing and perform and grow in their relationship with God and one another. Our worship services are thematic and coherent because of Cathy’s solid theology and great collaborative skills.
- We launched a new initiative to give away “loose money” in our offering plate each week. The Board of World Service has carefully selected a different mission partner each month (Habitat, Lazarus House, Bread & Roses, Giving Garden, etc). On average over the past five years, we would collect $6,000 in loose offerings a year. With this new offering plate giving initiative we’re collecting $6,000 every three months (an average of $2K a month for each mission partner). South Church is giving away more money than ever and we’re doing it in a new way. Through our missions’ budget, our Samaritan Fund, our support of the UCC, and our offering plate, we gave away $123,000 in 2018. South Church is one remarkably generous community!
- In the fall, Amie Hellauer & I served on the Family Selection Committee for Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity. The work of selecting the four families who will be our new neighbors on Lupine Road was some of the most difficult and profound work I’ve done in ministry. We are so lucky to soon be able to welcome four very hardworking families as our new neighbors. So far, one duplex has been framed and the foundation has been poured for the second duplex. I’ve been working with the interfaith communities of Andover and North Andover to build engagement in the first Andover Habitat build and to fundraise for a unit that will (hopefully!) be sponsored as a “House that Faith Built.”
- Our Next Chapter Exploration Team (ONCET) led our church in comprehensive strategic planning work with the help of two consultants: Rev. Renee Liabraaten and Jim Hartrich. (You can read more in the ONCET report). It was a joy to do this work, as we witnessed the passion and love that our members have for our church and the depth of their investment in our shared future. As a result of one-on-one interviews, focus group conversations, and a church-wide workshop, we now have a Vision & Mission which will guide our future work together along with three exciting initiatives that we hope to live into in the next program year.
The lens through which I look back on this past year is with gratitude. God has been so faithful to us. And as I look ahead, I see a future full of possibility. I truly believe that with God, all things are possible. I’m eager to witness what God does in our midst and how the Holy Spirit leads us to “boldly embody God’s love and compassion.”
Dana Allen Walsh
Reverend Alex Shea Will
alex [at] southchurch.com
Alex lives in Medford and spends much of his free time playing and coaching rugby, and watching soccer. You can read more about Alex and follow his blog at alexsheawill.com.
As I was reflecting on what to write about this year, my first thought was: “Hm, I don’t think we did anything new this year!” Can you believe I actually thought that? How short a memory I must have!
Here are some of my highlights from the year:
- We finally took the jump and began integrating our new church management software Realm. We rolled out Realm as a part of our giving season, encouraging folks to make their pledge online and – if they were feeling extra bold – set up a reoccurring gift through Realm. I want to thank everyone for letting us try something new. I know it was not always easy, so thank you for helping us step into the future.
- I worked with the Giving Committee this year as they led our congregation through a reimagined pledge campaign. We went from a six-week to a two-week campaign, introduced Realm, and shared daily testimonies and devotionals via email. We learned a lot through this journey and look forward to applying what we learned this coming season.
- We announced the launch of the South Church Mobile App. Featuring our weekly podcast, devotionals and bible studies, prayer request forms, event calendars, giving opportunities and more. Our new app allows folks to stay connected to church seven days a week at the touch of a finger. If there are things you’d like to see on the app, just let me know.
- We began our Live Stream of Sunday worship. In just a few short months, our live stream became a staple of our Sunday worship. I have received numerous emails and texts from folks who are able to worship with us no matter where life has taken them on Sunday morning. We even have a family who began pledging – in part – through their relationship with us via live stream. A big thank you to Tom Appleton, Derek Holbrook, Dave Meldrum, and Lucas Bacchi for getting this going and for their constant and faithful stewardship of the A/V Ministry.
- We gathered for the first time as the South Church Mental Health Support Group. Parents of children living with mental health concerns came together for the first time this year to know one another by name and find support.
- We celebrated our first Congregational Care Sunday in worship. Dedicating a whole service to the ministry of care, the service culminated with folks signing up for one of our care ministries. Thank you to everyone who signed up!
There is so much more I could write about: Our 18 confirmands, beer and carols (part 2), the continued ministry of our small groups, numerous pastoral visits and memorial services, and so much more. Thank you for another year of faithful, fun, and meaningful ministry together. I look forward to another year of ministry with each of you and our amazing staff.
With love, Pastor Alex
Minister of Visitation
Sherry was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, the oldest of 6 children. She graduated from the University of Nebraska as a French horn major with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. She married Philip Tupper from Wilmington, MA, moved to Andover and is the mother of 2 children and grandmother of 3.
Sherry taught music for 11 years before moving to Montreal with her family. While in Montreal, she served as a pastoral assistant at the Beaconsfield United Church of Canada, Beaconsfield, Quebec. Upon her return to Andover, she was invited to join the pastoral team at South Church where she served 18 years at Director of Outreach Ministries before retiring. Her responsibilities included warming up the hand of fellowship, tracking visitors and leading the Inquirer’s classes for new members.
In 2009 Sherry became a widow after 42 years of marriage. In 2010 she was invited out of retirement by the Senior Pastor to join the pastoral team where she presently serves as Minister of Visitation.
Sherry has held a wide variety of positions in the church including, Senior Deacon, Superintendent of the Church School, and Director of the Children’s Choir. Presently, she knits for the Prayer Shawl Ministry, sings with the Sanctuary Choir, leads a women’s Bible Study and coordinates “Prayer Partners” – South Church’s Intercessory Prayer Group.
Outside interests include Gordon College in Wenham, MA where she serves on the Council of 125, president of the Board of The Salzburg Institute of Religion, Culture and the Arts (a 6 week summer school program in Salzburg and Vienna for college students), alpine skiing, kayaking, sailing, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and international travel.
The past 9 years with you have confirmed the call I felt when accepting this part time position in March 2010.
My primary responsibilities continue to be in the area of pastoral care. The official job description is to assist the Senior Pastor and represent the Senior Pastor and South Church in visitation and in assisting with the coordination of pastoral care and visiting needs. This involves visits to hospitals, nursing homes and member’s homes. I also work in collaboration with the Deacon’s care and Calling Committee.
Some of the highlights of this past year have included –
- Assisting with Sunday Worship Services
- Serving as staff liaison to the Board of World Service and attending their monthly meetings
- Facilitating the Prayer Partners Ministry, our own South Church Intercessory Prayer Group
- Participating in the South Church Choir and other small musical groups on special occasions
- Visiting and praying with you in the hospital, nursing homes, in your homes and by phone
It has been my privilege to serve you and with you in the ministry of South Church this past year. A special word of thanks goes to Dana Allen Walsh and Alex Shea Will for their support and encouragement. It has truly been a joy to be a part of the outstanding and caring staff of South Church and to have my life touched in such tender ways by the congregation of this beloved church.
Your sister in Christ, Sherry Tupper
Minister of Music
cathy [at] southchurch.com
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! – Psalm 150
Musicians at South Church have breathed new life into the Music Ministry this past year, coming together to celebrate all the ways in which we praise the Lord! Our Music Ministry focused our year on the words from Psalm 150 – Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! There were many ways in which we leaned into this scripture, with people of all ages, singing and playing instruments, filling our time together with a joyful noise.
Starting with our youngest musicians, our Children’s Music Ministry was restructured into three ensembles to include 35 youth of all ages: the Cherub Choir (ages 0-5, choosing one of two rehearsal options per week, attending with their parent or caregiver), the Carol Choir (for elementary schoolers), and the Youth Choir (for middle schoolers). (High school youth continue to be welcomed into the Sanctuary and bell choirs with two special opportunities in December and June to sing anthems specifically with their own age group.) Each ensemble sang approximately once per month in worship, ending their year with a combined anthem on Mother’s Day and a special performance at Edgewood. In addition to learning anthems for worship, rehearsals were also filled with playing instruments (Orff, bells, and percussion) and games to teach musical concepts as well as what it means to be a worship leader. Praise the Lord!
The Sanctuary Choir has grown substantially this year – we have 33 on our roster and several more that sing with us occasionally. As a result, we have had to purchase additional copies for most anthems that we sing in worship. It has been a joy to bring back people who haven’t sung for years, as well as to have singers who are new members to South Church – several from each Newcomers group. Praise the Lord!
With so many talented instrumentalists within our fold, we have been blessed with special music in worship with instruments of all types in many genres. Soloists have provided special music throughout the year, and weekly during Advent, Lent, and summer. The Pentecostal Pickers have added a few singers, incorporated more contemporary music in our repertoire, and work hard to match the themes of worship, providing a more cohesive message over each service. Our handbell choir, the South Church Ringers, took on a new name this year, donned new garb (pashmina scarves in three liturgical colors and new gloves), and welcomed many new ringers that we are now up to four octaves! Praise the Lord!
To further our music experiences in worship, we have had extensive work done on the organ by the Andover Organ Company, including regulation of the keyboards, re-leathering the Great and Swell pallets, and restoring the Pedal stop action motors. To help offset the high cost of this much-needed project, we were fortunate to receive several private donations and hosted an organ recital with donations to benefit the Music Reserve Fund. Praise the Lord!
None of these things could have been done without the never-ending support of the Music Committee: Nancy Miller & Graham Long (co-chairs), Candy Dann, Marty Mason, Ellen VanArsdale, and Deb White. I give thanks for these individuals who work so hard to keep our Music Ministry inspiring, organized, and engaging! Praise the Lord!
Building on the foundation laid this past year, we are planning a year ahead of more outreach events for adults and children, with the intent to welcome new friends through our doors. We are excited to see how the Holy Spirit moves us to Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord!
Grace & Peace,
Minister of Youth & Families
jenn [at] southchurch.com
Jennifer Murray leads youth group, works with the confirmation team and assists in worship. She is a recent graduate of Andover Newton Theological School. Outside of South Church she loves to read, drink coffee and spend time with her family and friends. Jenn is thankful for the progressive, loving and open welcome that this congregation offers.
Serving in the combined role of Youth and Family Minister this year has been such a gift and an adventure. This year brought so many new experiences in both the programs that were offered and in the spiritual formation of young people and families in this congregation.
Our Sunday school teachers and Family Ministry board created a brand new Christmas pageant that brought a familiar story to life through the voices of people from every age: from cherub choir songs, to children and teens speaking ancient words from Scripture, to a baby Jesus in a red tutu (Thanks Avery Craig!) to learning all over again about God’s surprises in this world.
The high school mission trip went through a big change this year in the decision to go to a new location. 43 youth and 13 adults traveled to Keezletown, Virginia for a week of service, love and growth. Our spiritual theme this year was, “Mountain High and Valley Low.” There was so much joy shared by the group and incredible courage shown as they blazed a new path together. These amazing youth and adults built a bunkhouse, replaced doors, crawled under houses and met God in people everywhere they went. They opened themselves up to see the Holy in every mountain and every valley.
This summer, Cathy has brought an amazing VBS program to our church that children as young as two years old and youth up to 18 are invited and encouraged to participate in. It’s a week of faith and growth through: science, art, service and fun! If you haven’t signed up yet, now is the time.
We’ve also been undergoing a Curriculum Review process this year. Sunday School teachers, Family Ministries and parents have shared conversations and spent time in discernment. What we thought would be a simple choice of a new curriculum led us to a much deeper place of planning and growth. We’re excited to work together as a congregation as we think more deeply about the role that the congregation plays in the life of our children and the ways we are all called to contribute. Further, our next curriculum will incorporate modern learning strategies and even more engagement with movement, technology and family faith practices. We’re going to take all the things that are already amazing about our Sunday School and emphasize and build on them this year. Be sure to stay tuned for more information and to participate!
This coming weekend, our alumni and young adults will be participating in a weekend mission trip to Augusta, Maine. They’ll clean gutters, paint buildings, clear trails and discern what it means to say Yes to God in our lives and our communities. I’m eager to share how we’re growing in the ways we serve our twenty-somethings here at South Church.
This year has been so full and so beautiful. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!
With love, Jenn
South Church has an Advocacy Panel who are available to receive any concerns, complaints, or allegations regarding misconduct, harassment, or abuse of any type. The Panel consists of two trained church members – Donna Schroeder and Eric Stubenhaus – who will treat every concern with seriousness, respect, and confidentiality. In order to contact the Advocacy Panel, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.