Newly installed First Congregational Church minister already feels at home in Hadley

  • Christina Williams, the new minister at the First Congregational Church of Hadley.

  • Christina Williams, the new minister at the First Congregational Church of Hadley.

  • Christina Williams, the new minister at the First Congregational Church of Hadley.

  • Christina Williams, the new minister at the First Congregational Church of Hadley.

@DHGCrosby
Published: 10/5/2016 10:47:22 AM

HADLEY – Throughout the trials of life, Christina Williams maintains a deep sense of assurance. That peace comes from knowing God as the root of her being, she said.

Williams, 60, was installed as pastor of the First Congregational Church of Hadley during a Sunday afternoon service. She’s been serving the church since January but the service made her appointment official.

While the role is less than a year old for Williams, the Hadley church already feels like home.

As a young adult, she attended First Congregational Church of Hadley with her late grandmother, a Hadley-born woman whom Williams said greatly influenced her spiritual life. It was with her that the new pastor was first introduced to a faith-life at 5 years old.

“She was the kind of woman who walked the talk,” Williams said of her grandmother’s faith.

Williams is from upstate New York but spent childhood summers living in Massachusetts with her late grandparents.

After graduating from Assumption College in Worcester with a psychology degree, she decided to put down her own roots in the state.

But, it wasn’t until later down the road that Williams discovered her passion for leadership within the church.

She’d lapsed in church attendance over the years since college, but found her way back in mid-life years.

Adopted girl from China

In 1999, Williams adopted a baby girl from China.

At that point, the reawakening of her spiritual life was already underway, she said. Williams was meditating and praying daily.

She decided it was time to get back to church, remembering the strong sense of community she had felt during her early years there. She wanted that circle of support for her own daughter.

“It’s a very nuclear time and age with families,” Williams said. “The church provides that ‘village’ feeling,” she said, referring to a community approach to raising a child.

“Other people help take care of your family and mentor them,” she said of the church.

Williams was at a church in Westford for less than a month before she was pulled into leadership, discovering a deep passion for committee roles, small-group ministry, leading worship and working with youths.

“It was just one after another,” she said of the many roles she took on. “It kind of grew exponentially.”

When her daughter Julia reached teenage years, Williams knew it was time to delve further into her faith-charged mission.

She attended seminary at Andover Newton Theological School, graduating in 2013. After that, Williams completed a chaplaincy program at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, a two-year internship with South Acton Congregational Church and served two churches – First Congregational Church of West Brookfield and Union Congregational Church – as their sabbatical pastor. 

Last year, she served her home church of First Parish Church United as bridge interim minister. 

Return to Valley

At the start of this year, Williams returned to the Valley for the Hadley job.

Right away, it felt like home.

“They’re a very warm and welcoming church,” she said. “I just felt this affinity with them because of my own family’s history with (the church).”

Williams said a few people in the congregation still recall her attending as a young adult, decades ago.

When word spread among members that their new reverend followed a gluten-free diet, they immediately opted to serve gluten-free communion bread instead of their earlier offering.

“As soon as I came on board, they just dove right in,” she said of the church body.

Community-oriented

While the First Congregational Church of Hadley is already community-oriented, Williams aims to continue to strengthening those ties.

“The role of church has changed and I see it as going outside the four walls,” she said.

In the past, Williams worked as a street chaplain with Chaplains on the Way, an organization that provides spiritual companionship to the homeless and poor on Waltham’s streets.

She hopes to use those relationship-building skills she developed in that role in her new job in Hadley.

“I want us to be a presence in the community and world,” she said of the church. “To teach, walk with them, ask questions with them and grow with them.”

“My passion is really helping people find their passion, and where that is within their faith life,” she said.

Sarah Crosby can be reached at scrosby@gazettenet.com.


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