WESTFORD: Diversity and compassion are important issues for our newly settled minister, Rev. Rebecca Lockwood, at the First Parish Church United (FPCU). Carrying on her family’s involvement in the ministry, Rev. Rebecca has used her unique background to bring a strong interest in linking church to community and welcoming all to the FPCU church.
Growing up in a loving blended family in Raymond, Maine, she gained 2 more brothers where they grew up “with a lot of love and some healthy annoyance”. During her pre-teen years, she was influenced by her ministerial family and summer camping experiences at a nearby UCC camp. She has two aunts, who were ordained United Church of Christ ministers and an uncle who was ordained as both a Presbyterian and UCC minister. Their professional experiences in both a California and Midwestern church gave her broader insights into her own personal spiritual explorations. When she was 12, her aunt even designed her a lovely pastoral embroidered stole, gently encouraging her into thinking about the ministry as a possible journey for her.
Another strong influence was her UCC camping experience for many years at the Camp Pilgrim Lodge in West Gardener, Maine. She spent all of her teen summers there, first as a camper, then a photographer, then a counselor. She remembers during those weeks, feeling “free”, and loving both the warm fellowship created by their close community working together in all areas and being surrounded by nature. Exploring nature brought her “closer to the Sacred”, and learning to kayak, canoe, having daily hikes, chapel and vespers, brought her close to her fellow campers and she felt those loving connections. Because of the strong foundation of the community, it was a place to hold challenging conversations around theology, purpose, and social justice issues.
After graduating from high school, she attended Hartwick College in Oneonta (NY), and majored in comparative religions. While there, her advisor, who was the last to be taught the ancient Indian Sanskrit language, had a strong interest in Buddhism, and encouraged her to explore and study more of the mystical Eastern religions. This eventually led to a closer study of Gnostic(mystical) Christianity with a focus on the Gnostic Gospels, non-canonized scripture. These ancient texts, like the Gospel of Thomas, widened her religious journey, and after research and exploration, led her back to looking at Christianity with a different perspective.
At this time, she also began to study creative art forms such as ceramics, embroidery, knitting, and watercolors. Using her hands and being creative “allows me to process life and offers a chance to play”. She wanted to bring that same joy to church life and worship.
Following her undergraduate studies, she enrolled in Andover Newton Seminary in MA and after 3 1/2 years, received her Master of Divinity. She then became an intern at the Hancock Congregational Church in Lexington, MA, and enjoyed their thoughtful, welcoming church that was so dynamic, she stayed an extra year.
Choosing a church to start her pastoral work, she knew she wanted to be an associate in “an open and affirming church that cared deeply about each member.” St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Carmel, Indiana called to her, and after she accepted the call, became their Associate Minister of Missions and Education that focused on social justice. She really enjoyed their flourishing youth program open to 4th through 6th grades, and how it grew to include high school students with their storytelling matched to psalms. She was officially ordained there and served for over 5 years before deciding to relocate back to the East coast and New England.
Several factors influenced her decision to accept the FPCU call. Returning to New England was “in her bones” with its strong family ties, and the church’s strong outreach program appealed to her interest in being involved in a church that was an integral part of a community. She noted that the history of this church, organized in 1725, as well as the Strawberry and Greens Festivals, First Responders’ Dinner, refugee help, and continuing commitment to the Lowell Transitional Shelter were all reasons she came to this church.
Outside of her church duties, she also actively participates in the diversity programs in the Westford schools, Black Lives Matter, and the ecumenical Westford Interfaith Clergy group, and looks forward each year to their annual interfaith Thanksgiving service that draws many members. Skiing with her family, adopting a rescue dog named Stella, and enrolling in a ceramics course at the Pottery Mill in Lowell, she has brought her quiet energy, creativity, and openness to the FPCU church in Westford.