Emelia Attridge was recently called as the new Pastor of our First Congregational Church succeeding the Rev. Lisa Stedman who served with distinction in that capacity for 9 years before accepting broader responsibilities for the United Church of Christ throughout New England.
The First Congregational Church is an integral part of the United Church of Christ. Their mission is to create community through the love of God in many ways that include protecting the environment, rejecting racism and embracing diversity, forgiving often, sharing earthly and spiritual resources and caring for the poor.
Pastor Emelia’s endorsement by the First Congregational Church’s Search Committee is very heart warming. In their words: “Wise and loving, Emelia is open and affirming of all people and has a heart for the work of social justice. She is a person of deep faith and believes in the power of God at work in the world. She has a sweet spirit and bright smile. But behind her good humor is a sought-after leader, and we as a Church will be fortunate to have her serve as our pastor.”
Among those who’ve first-hand experience with Pastor Emelia: “She is smart and thoughtful with a nuanced theological viewpoint. She is open and affirming of all people and has a heart for the work of social justice in the world”.
Emelia’s initial direction was to make a career in the Arts while she was very active in her Congregational Church in Manchester, N.H. as well as in ministry work at Emmanuel College in Boston. After college, Emelia was the Youth Minister of First Parish Church, Congregational United Church of Christ in Manchester-By-The-Sea. While working for the Church’s youth ministry after college, she heard the call which she felt was so right as it confirmed her love for the Church and the belief that Church makes a difference. “The Church’s message is one of love and inclusion in the acceptance of all and it’s what the world needs even more today.”
Art was extremely important to Emelia. She believes that “God as Creator, gives us the gift of being co-creative in many things, including art and music as well as co-creators of community and justice because we’re made in the image of the Creator. We can exercise prayer through our art and music”. For Emelia, it was a very natural transition to devoting her life to doing God’s work.
As a Millennial herself, Emelia faces Church leadership in the midst of cultural change and a decrease in Church attendance across mainline Christian denominations. “As a young person myself, I know that my peers are ultimately seeking opportunities for meaningful experiences to connect, to belong, to create meaning and community. Church at its best does that. The role of the Church is to meet people where they are. It’s where God shows up as people meet people and faith formation begins. People experience God in different ways and we need to build on a faith where everyone can connect to God in their o
wn style and this passion to do so will meet their needs”.
In Emelia’s message to the members and friends of the First Congregational Church, she said that she was both humbled and thrilled to be their new pastor. She is passionate about vibrant faith formation, deep question asking and faithful engagement of our spiritual lives in community which has deepened her faith journey as a young adult and proven to her that faith can thrive in the church today. She feels that Reading’s First Congregational Church is compelled to do the same as congregants are searching for hope and understanding in a complex world today where instant and often conflicting communication is so prevalent. She cannot wait to begin her work, get to know each parishioner and begin their spiritual journey together.
Pastor Attridge has had the opportunity to meet the members of the Reading Clergy Association at their July meeting and looks forward to hosting the next meeting. She has talked briefly with her predecessor, Rev. Lisa Stedman, who wished her all the best and that she couldn’t be in a better community to share her faith.
Emelia is somewhat familiar with Reading being a Youth Director at First Parish Congregational Church in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA and Acting Minister at Hancock United Church of Christ in Lexington. Her impression of our town is that it’s a close knit, vibrant community whose recent growth has virtually made it self-contained. She plans to meet our Town Manager, Bob Lelacheur, members of both the Select Board and School Committees and looks forward to attending upcoming activities like the Fall Street Faire, the Arts Festival, Downtown Trick or Treat and the Tree Lighting Ceremony.
First Congregational Church has many upcoming events that will speed Emelia’s pastor introductions. They include being at their table at the Reading Street Faire on Sunday, September 8th, and doing their "Homecoming Sunday" on September 15th at 10am when their summer worship ends and a new year begins as the congregation returns to their sanctuary located at the corner of Woburn and Sanborn Streets. At that service, their Handbell Choir will be playing an intergenerational worship service focusing on the theme of "Joy." In addition, their Olde Redding Faire will be held on Friday, September 27th and Saturday, September 28th and Emelia is looking forward to her first experience of this beloved community event.
She wants to learn much more about our social justice causes as Reading Embraces Diversity (R.E.D.) and be involved in the youth of our country who certainly have taught us a lot after the Parkland, FL tragedy. She strongly believes in letting our students be more active in church and community activities.
Emelia’s message to the Reading Community: “I am passionate about social justice, and I’m very interested in learning more about the needs of the community of Reading, and how we as the First Congregational Church can help to meet those needs. I have had the opportunity to start to meet local clergy, and plan to be involved in community causes. For example, I have heard about Reading Embraces Diversity as well as Reading Cares, and the ways in which members of our own church are very active with volunteering locally, especially with the Reading Food Pantry. What attracted me to this congregation was their dedication to an extravagant welcome, their sense of community and belonging, and the warmth and acceptance from its members. There are good things happening here, and I’m enthusiastic to see what good we can do in our community and our world”.
Pastor Emelia has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature from Emmanuel College with a minor in Theology and Religious Studies. She has a Master of Divinity degree from Boston University in 2018 and was approved for Ordination by the Hillsborough Association of the NH Conference of the United Church of Christ. She is a former Arts & Crafts Director at Horton Center in NH and is an avid volunteer of outdoor ministries for Horton Center and Pilgrim Lodge in Maine.