October 23, 2017

A Letter of Thanksgiving to Parkway UCC

A Letter of Thanksgiving to Parkway UCC
November 2015

1529In 2007 a rag-taggly family of two women, 6 children (ages 7 yr to 15 yr) and many assorted pets arrived in St. Louis from Denver. They came to start over—their “financial bubble” had burst a year ahead of the national/global impact; foreclosure and bankruptcy loomed. Extended family was here and it felt safer to be among them.

The first year was rough—many problems with the hours, job distress and disruption for both Brenda and Pam, major surgery/hospitalization for Brenda, a knee injury for Pam, an unwelcoming church and the finalization of foreclosure in Denver and bankruptcy here.
Then in summer of 2008, they found a “gay, family-friendly church” on the internet—Parkway UCC. From the 1st visit the kids felt “at home” and so did Pam. Our church family became the main support system for our family. Here is a short list of things given us and done for us with many left off the list I am sure:

  • A very loving and warm welcome of all of us.
  • A children’s program that made going to church a privilege the kids worked for rather than a Sunday morning “have to.”
  • An anonymous payment of our mortgage that got us through an untimely job loss.
  • Church monies that made it possible for the kids to experience “and fall in love with) Camp MoVal and to participate in youth activities like mission trips and fun days.
  • Someone to stay with and care for the children and pets so Pam and Brenda could watch Messeret graduate from Army boot camp out of state.
  • Prayerful, compassionate (with a very welcome touch of humor) great pastoral care and guidance through many ups and downs from Kevin.
  • The chance for Pam to participate in making music.
  • Wonderful opportunities to pray (Centering Prayer) and learn (TABS, TED) for Pam.
  • Monies and time and effort put forth to help Pam and Brenda’s son and his new family—repairing their home.
  • A spectacular baby shower for baby Dante.
  • A phenomenal outpouring of love and effort in providing an unforgettable wedding for Pam and Brenda November 14, 2013.
  • A member stepping forth to mentor one of the kids having a hard time.
  • The fifth of a cello and much encouragement for a young musician.
  • Deep friendships that sustain and nourish Pam every single day—open hearts, listening ears of gracious, wonderful people who are generous and kind.

I am sure that there are many, many other things which have been forgotten or overlooked, but, I could not go through another season of Thanksgiving without thanking God for you all and expressing my gratitude for your continued AWESOME support and love.

THANK YOU PARKWAY UCC!

Love from Pam, Brenda and the Walker (Watkins) clan

Parkway UCC: the Church that Keeps on Being Given

unnamedParkway UCC: the Church that Keeps on Being Given

Kris & Tom McKenzie

Kris and Tom McKenzie were brought up in very different religious environments. Kris’s entire religious experience has been under the guidance of the Evangelical and Reformed/United Church of Christ Church. Tom grew up under Roman Catholic guidance. Kris’s mother was very active in church life; her father went to church only for his children’s baptisms, confirmations and weddings. Both of Tom’s parents were very committed to Catholic Church life and raised their children accordingly.

When Kris was 15 she and her family moved from Iowa to St. Louis, MO. After almost a year of searching, her mother, Fran Rasmussen, decided to become a member of Parkway UCC. Fran gifted the opportunity to experience Parkway membership to her 2 youngest daughters, Mary and Kris. Kris has remained a member although taking several years “vacation” from church after her parents retired and moved out of St. Louis.

Tom has always lived in St. Louis, MO. When he was 15 he was questioning the Catholic faith. He spent most of his young adulthood searching for a church that was a good fit.

Tom and Kris met and in 1985 married at Parkway UCC. A couple years later their first child, Laura, was on the way. Both Tom and Kris wanted their children to be raised with strong religious experiences, just like they were. Kris offered the gift of Parkway UCC to Tom. He accepted the gift and embraced it.

As time passed Parkway UCC was gifted to the McKenzie children by their parents. Both Laura and Lucia were baptized, confirmed, and given faith based experiences at Parkway. Laura, 27, has lived away from St. Louis most of her post high school life but still considers Parkway UCC her church home.

Lucia, 24, remains a devoted member of the Parkway UCC family.

Lucia often offers the gift of experiencing Parkway UCC to her friends. It is hoped that those who have accepted the gift of Parkway UCC find it a warm and welcoming experience just as the McKenzie family has all these years.

Saying Yes to PUCC

tomandmarySaying Yes to PUCC
Mary and Tom Maxeiner

We discovered Parkway about the same time Parkway had gotten ready to discover us. We returned to St Louis in the winter of 2006. Our first morning in our new home we couldn’t get out of the driveway because of snow, but by noon the snow was gone.

We didn’t know that was an omen.

We still don’t know anything close to what it means, except for freezing and melting. Getting back to St Louis, where we both grew up, went to the same high school, and dated in high school and college; getting back here was the hard part. Both of us left more or less in our teens for different elsewheres, sometimes in the same state (California) but not in the same colleges or marriages.

From these marriages we have four children, three living on the coasts and one in Memphis. Both our marriages were problematic from the start; but we each felt it our duty to make them work. We had grown up Presbyterian and Lutheran, and married people from Christian backgrounds but practices different from our own. We stopped going to church regularly during our first marriages. We told ourselves, as many did then, “we’re spiritual, not religious.” But Christian shaping played a role in the jobs we both started out in—teaching, and we both shared the social justice concerns formulated so sharply in the late 60s.

Since leaving St Louis we had kept in occasional touch, mostly through third parties. By the 1990’s our first marriages were long ago over. Through a few chance phone calls, we decided to meet up together, and the experience was earthshaking:
Mary was visiting two of her kids in Los Angeles, where I lived, and before she could get to my side of town the Northridge Earthquake struck (magnitude 6.7), That seemed an omen too and before we knew it we were together in Los Angeles until, after some years, Mary persuaded me I had to retire—for many years I had not been teaching but writing proposals for an aerospace company. We wanted to get out of too big, too busy Los Angeles, and we came home, where we have learned that you can come home again.
Living in St Louis for the first time in over 40 years, we started taking Tom’s mother to Christ Lutheran in Webster. We decided we wanted to look for a church for ourselves. We went to various churches, but more UCC than anything—I think because of the combination of politics and worship.

Tom had read UCC writers before knowing anything about UCC in particular. He ran into an Eden professor at the gym, who invited him to a class at Eden. Responding to the PUCC sign (was that the omen?), we attended PUCC services when Margaret Phillips, filling in for Pastor Kevin, was raining fiery justice from the pulpit.

Soon we learned how Kevin’s natural gift for communing with God could help us, too, to “live in prayer.” Kevin has also nurtured in us a desire to live more meaningfully for ourselves and others.

We soon got to know Dick and Florence Simonson, Mary Jo and Jamie Cannon, Pam Watkins-Walker, Sue Stolze, and others —a real large lot of kindness and dedication.

The decision to join Parkway soon afterwards reflected our roles with each other: Tom looks around a lot, but never decides; Mary sees and says “yes” or “no.”

On our ride home from an early visit to Parkway, Mary talked about joining and I saw a Methodist church and said “well, a short while ago I didn’t know much about UCC or PUCC. I don’t know anything about Methodists. Should we look at that church.?”

Mary said, “No. Look at the parking lot—it’s full, and huge. I think Parkway needs us.”

And we have found that we need Parkway even more.

We’ve found personal solace and deep compassion for all here, through meaningful friendships and activities that suit our personalities—centering prayer, choir, bible study, community outreach, and opportunities for artistic and spiritual expression.
That’s how we said “Yes” to Parkway.

Home is Where the Heart Is

Home is Where the Heart Is
Mike & Gerry Rogers

IMG_5109Gerry was raised Southern Baptist and Mike, Presbyterian. After moving to St Louis for Mike’s job at Monsanto in 1980, we attended Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ churches. Several years ago, our chosen DofC church was nearing the end of its corporate life and we decided to look for a new church home. For us, a church’s denomination has always been less important than the makeup of the congregation. We were looking for a congregation that would help us grow our faith rather than one that would try to convert us to their particular beliefs.

In the process of church “shopping” we attended many different services with a variety of worship practices. In one, the pastor announced from the pulpit that Jesus likes Americans best; in another very formal service, we certainly did not feel comfortable or at home. We had been aware of Parkway UCC for many years. One of our two daughters attended PUNS (Parkway United Nursery School). When we saw Pastor Kevin on the TV news supporting the LGBT community, we decided that Parkway UCC was a place we wanted to visit. After attending a few times, we knew Parkway was the church for us. Mike liked the books chosen for discussion by the Tuesday Evening Dialogue group which included titles by Marcus Borg and Thich Nhat Hanh. We both liked the opportunities provided by the Adult Education classes on Sunday mornings, weekly Bible study, fellowship opportunities, Friendship Dinners and the variety of activities for all ages. We soon began attending the weekend LIFE (LIFELONG INSTITUTE OF FAITH EXPLORATION) retreat/study series at Eden Theological Seminary.

Both of our daughters are married with children. Cynthia married a theology student who was exploring the priesthood; they are now Mennonite. Melissa converted to Catholicism a few years ago. We are pleased they have found their paths to God. We have been very proud to have our daughters and their families visit Parkway.

Mike is a chemist at a small company in Maryland Heights. He is a Habitat for Humanity construction leader and helps train and supervise volunteers. He is also on the Property and Facilities Use committee at Parkway. Gerry works part-time at the ARC, a St. Louis based agency that serves developmentally disabled adults and on the Membership Care Commission. We are so grateful to have found Parkway UCC, a place where we feel welcomed, challenged and loved, with plenty of opportunities for worship, fellowship, friendship, service and learning. We love the give-and-take that comes from any discussions, where everyone is respected regardless of their viewpoints. We hope to have many more years of active participation in this fine church.

Parkway UCC Feels Like Home

Parkway UCC Feels Like Home
Kevin Rauscher

rauscher familyKevin grew up in Ferguson, MO, and attended Immanuel UCC. The fellowship at the church was wonderful and amazing but Steffanie and I were not sure we belonged there. Stephanie’s spiritual journey included a grandmother who had a Catholic heritage and a grandfather with a Jewish heritage. During her childhood, feeling exclusion was a reality at either fellowship. The day after our son Nathan was born, Kevin’s mother passed in November 1996 and then in February 2002 Kevin’s father passed. We share this as it affected our decision to leave Immanuel which offered a perfectly good fellowship but the reality is we attended there to enjoy time with my parents who were very active members.

Kevin’s understanding of the UCC was deep and heartfelt but because of that history it was also uncomfortably true that at Immanuel Kevin was living in the shadow of his parents’ legacy. Steffanie had begun to feel she was expected to assume her mother-in-law’s role at Immanuel out of obligation. It seemed appropriate to find a new church, one where our identity as a couple could have a fresh start. We were somewhat familiar with Parkway and felt drawn to the church. Just before Easter 2002 we attended a worship service and concluded we had found our new beginning.

Kevin is a retired Paramedic/Firefighter. A lifelong interest in music performance now drives his daily life. Singing in the choir, playing trumpet, guitar or bass guitar in worship at Parkway is his passion. Kevin plays as a freelance R&B, jazz, and rock as a trumpet player as often as requested with several local groups. As cool as that all is, Kevin is completely excited about Nathan’s emerging talents as a top notch jazz musician playing vibes, piano, and drums.

Steffanie is a nurse and an accomplished healthcare professional working as a Lead Performance Improvement Engineer at BJC Healthcare at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Steffanie’s clinical background is in emergency medicine. Currently she is completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing having completed her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. Steffanie has served actively as Secretary of the PUCC Council and in various other capacities, always creatively and responsibly.

We are busy, motivated people and that tradition is continuing with our son Nathan. Graduating summa cum laude from Pattonville High School, with a GPA of 4.4, we are excited that he will attend Webster U on Scholastic and Musical talent scholarships. 
We love being a part of Parkway UCC. It feels like home to us! 

Four Generations at Parkway

Four Generations at Parkway
Kent Tallyn

IMG_0527My parents, Marge and Milford and their family, John, Kent, and Sue, moved to West County from Alton, IL, in 1960. We began alternating each Sunday between my mother’s church, Alton UCC, and my dad’s church, Brown Street Baptist. After a brief search, they found a warm and inviting congregation at Parkway UCC which had just called a new minister, Rev. Brice Chidester who with his wife, Leola, quickly became good friends. Because of my interest in all things electrical, Rev. Chidester started calling me “Edison.” Many long time members of the church became good friends of our family. I remember Ed Kraus giving each of us kids a quarter on Sunday mornings just for being there. My grandfather Herzberger would occasionally visit and loved to talk to Ed and members of German descent with whom he could speak German. My mother joined the choir and my dad served as Council Treasurer. Mother also typed the monthly newsletter, then went to the Sunday school building, now the Children’s Choir offices, to print copies. I often went with her for I loved sniffing the paper when it came off the mimeograph machine. My brother, sister, and I were active in Sunday school and all were confirmed here.

I entered University of Missouri–Rolla in 1970, earned an Electrical Engineering degree and a job at McDonnell Douglas. In 1981 I married Evelyn Salmons in the historic sanctuary at Parkway. We had three children, Jameson, Steven, and Sara, all baptized and confirmed at Parkway. They were in youth groups and attended summer mission trips. Tragically, Evelyn died from cancer in 1994. With considerable help from my parents and many Parkway friends, the children and I made it through the next several years. I then met Diane (who shared a birthday with Evelyn), fell in love and we married at Parkway in 1998. Diane joined Parkway and was active in many organizations, then decided to return to the Lutheran church, the denomination she had long been a member of, but she is still a regular participant in Parkway’s Sweet Bakers.

With marriage to Diane, I gained stepsons Ryan and Mike and seven grandchildren. Son Jameson married April Troup in 2008, and daughter Sara married Nick Endejan in 2014. Nick’s daughter added another grandchild and last December, Jameson and April had a baby girl, my first biological grandchild, named Evelyn Grace in honor of Jameson’s mother. Our grandchildren now number 9!

My father, Milford, lives at Friendship Village Care Center in Chesterfield. We bring him to church as often as possible. It is not unusual to see Jameson, April, and Evelyn with Milford and me in Sunday worship. It has been a rare blessing being a member of the Parkway family for four generations!

My Journey to Parkway

My Journey to Parkway
Cassie Rosenberger

cassieIt’s incredible how fast the past 7 years have flown by! In 2008, I was introduced to Parkway UCC by a Conference Minister through the Illinois South Conference of UCC. I was born and raised UCC, but after moving to the St. Louis area in 1993, I never found the right “community” that I was looking for in a church. In 2008,
my home church was being decommissioned and merging with another church in the town, and I was asked to play.

After the service, the Conference Minister that was in attendance asked me where I went to church, to which I had no answer. She then suggested that I might look into a couple different churches, but most specifically Parkway for the music. Taking that suggestion, the next weekend, I came to the 9:30am service to “test” it out.

Always before, I would go into a church and walk out unnoticed. Not at Parkway! At the end of the service, I was greeted by Pastor Kevin and, after being asked, told him how I heard about the church. As soon I heard his response my playing the flute, I knew I had inadvertently signed up for something before I realized it! It was at that point that he told me the previous flautist had just moved to California the week before.

Funny how God’s hands are in even the littlest of things! It was at that first day I knew this was the church for me. Joining was a short process for me; I felt at home at Parkway, which is not something I had felt while visiting other churches. From the minute I first walked through the door, I was amazed at how welcoming and inviting the membership is and for that I am grateful.

I have enjoyed playing for both services and with the choir—there are so many talented people in this congregation! I love that the church is focuses on the future and growth with the new church building; but also remembers its tradition and history with the historic sanctuary and history tower. Also, as a member of the Evangelism Commission for the past 4+ years, I have been able to participate in and create events, which is something I highly enjoy.

truly feel blessed to have found and been welcomed by such a wonderful church community!

Why We Joined Parkway

IMG_1331Why We Joined Parkway

Pat and Bill Owens

We moved to St. Louis from Natick, MA in 1973. We joined Parkway UCC over 40 years ago by transfer from Plymouth Congregational Church in Framingham, MA. This was the church home of the hymn Battle Hymn of the Republic and our daughter Susan was baptized in that church. Parkway was attractive to us for its youth activities. One of those activities after Pastor Lewellan came to PUCC was Habitat for Humanity when Habitat was in its infancy. Pat went on three Habitat for Humanity youth trips along with Pastor Lewellan. This was in the early years of Habitat and Millar Fuller, the founder of Habitat, visited PUCC twice in the 1970’s. The two oldest of our children were privileged to spend a summer at the headquarters of Habitat in Plaines, Georgia and meeting former President Carter as well as attending his Sunday School classes.

In 198?, Pat served on the search committee that selected John Nourse as our pastor. All three of our children, Pamela, David, and Susan, were confirmed by Pastor Lewellan while the two girls were married by Pastor Nourse.
Bill was raised in Gerald, MO and had all Christian rights bestowed on him at St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church—now St. Paul’s UCC in Gerald. Pat was raised in Detroit, MI and did not have a church home but visited many churches (and denominations) with her friends. Pat and Bill were married in a Bethel Congregational Church in Detroit, MI in 1964.

We are blessed to have 7 grandchildren, 6 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. Our oldest daughter, Pamela, and her husband, Grant Doty, are members of Parkway along with their three sons, Ian, Nathaniel, and Alexander. Our son, David, and his wife, Amy, live in Seattle with their son, Brady. The third child, Susan, and her husband, Matthew Ring, as well as their three children, Colin, Owen, and Catherine, live in Chesterfield and are active members of the Central Presbyterian outreach church in the “valley.”
To us, being members of Parkway UCC and its family has been a blessing. Pastor Lewellan, Pastor John, and now Pastor Kevin have always been there when we needed them as we, as all of us, are often in need of spiritual support. In addition, Pastor Kevin is helping us continue to grow in our faith.

Our Journey to Parkway

bowermasterOur Journey to Parkway 

Cynthia & Tod Bowermaster

Our family has been a part of the Parkway UCC family for over 15 years! We moved to St. Louis from Honolulu, Hawaii in 1995, and at first lived in Clayton across from Forest Park. When it came time to buy a house and think about school districts, we headed west, settling in Kirkwood. Shortly thereafter, we began looking for a church. We were raised Presbyterian and Lutheran, and had belonged to a Lutheran church in Hawaii, but had always admired the UCC and what it stood for, especially in regards to social justice. The second church we visited was Parkway, and this was back when services were still held in the historic sanctuary (fall of 1998). We were immediately struck with how incredibly friendly everyone was, and loved Pastor John Nourse for his wonderful sermons, kindness and humility. It was also exciting to see that construction across the street was going to usher in a whole new era for this dynamic and growing church. We both felt that we had found our new church family, and it didn’t take us long to decide to join! It was so thrilling to be there for the first services in the new sanctuary. The next few years saw the addition to our lives of Kathryn and Ryan, who were both baptized by John Nourse, and we are so grateful that they continue to grow up in the nurturing warmth of Parkway. They both attended PUNS from “Mommy’s Day Out” through “K-Plus Adventures” with Barb Kuhlmann. One thing that has always struck us about this church is the large number of bright, capable, compassionate people, who serve as wonderful role models for our family. After Pastor Nourse retired, Tod had the privilege of serving on the search committee that chose Pastor Kevin, and we so appreciate all of his gifts and the example he, Carmen and their family set for the entire church. We joined the choir when our children were small and have watched them grow up from the vantage point of the choir loft! Voices of Grace grew out of Stephanie Polster and Cynthia’s wish for a Middle/High School choir for our teens to sing in. Three years later, what a treat and privilege it is to work with these young singers. We feel so fortunate to be a part of such a loving and committed church family!

Thoughts on Inclusivity

Thoughts on Inclusivity
Polly Winkelmann

rainbow_people_640Growing up in South St. Louis County during the fifties and sixties, I’d not yet heard the words “diversity” or “inclusivity.” I did not encounter people of different colors, cultures or creeds in my neighborhood or my school. We were Protestants and Catholics served as our “Other.” I would be a young adult before having my first Jewish friend. If I knew any gay people they were not “out of the closet” and disabled students then were educated in separate buildings. The St. Louis I grew up in was divided into neighborhoods devoid of diversity. I joke with a Jewish friend that I simply had no reason to be in her neighborhood in my youth, and she admits that South St. Louis County is still a place she requires GPS to navigate. Sadly, St. Louis in 2015 still stands out among large metropolitan areas for its lack of diverse neighborhoods.

Though I lived in several mid-American communities after I left St. Louis in 1972, it was not until I moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1989 that I finally had the opportunity to live and work in a rainbow of diversity. Many of my daughters’ friends were first or second generation Americans and I taught at a school with few Caucasians among the students or staff. My experiences there enriched my life and broadened my perspectives. I no longer experienced “Melting Pot” as a textbook term, but as the pulsing heart that has and continues to make a vibrant, vigorous America.

 Obviously, many positive social changes have happened since my youth. I’m proud that the United Church of Christ has been a leader in not just promoting inclusivity in their congregations, but also in taking progressive stands on social justice issues dating back to colonial America.

During the years that I have now belonged to Parkway U.C.C., I have seen it try to live into its creed of being “intentionally inclusive.” I believe that our move to become an Open and Affirming congregation was more than just “politically correct words.” I feel we offer a sincere welcome to both gay couples and their children. In recent years Parkway has also taken steps to make itself more handicapped accessible with the addition of an automated front door and automated restroom doors.

Could we do more? The answer to that is always “yes.” How do we achieve more racial diversity given our geographic location? Does our “extravagant welcome” include the transgendered population? What should our role be as the St. Louis area seeks to heal following Ferguson and the issues it raised? Our Parkway youth already encounter a more diverse world than I grew up in. My hope for my church and my hometown is that the “diversity” of the future will truely exceed my imagination.