Dana Snyder-Grant has given the UUJA permission to share the following testimonial given March 2014 at First Parish in Concord (MA).
Hello. My name is Dana Snyder-Grant.
First Parish has become very precious to me over the last 10 years, and so even though this is scary, I’ve decided to stand up here and talk about four things: being Jewish, being disabled, how Pastoral Care has become a calling, and why First Parish has become a home for me.
I was raised Jewish, and coming to a place many call a church was very scary. First, I felt I was betraying the millions who died because they were Jewish. I figured that joining a place with deep Christian roots meant I had to leave Judaism behind, or risk rejection.
But that hasn’t been so. First, I can be Jewish and Unitarian Universalist, or, as some call it, Junitarian. No one here has asked me to give up what it is I value about my upbringing. A few weeks after I started coming here, Margaret Stewart asked me to sing the Chanukah blessings at a service. I love sharing those beautiful melodies. Soon after, I started the Jewish Awareness affinity group that’s still going on. It’s helped me sort through what Judaism means to me, what I like about it, and what I want to leave behind. And I keep finding this overlap between Judaism and Unitarian Universalism: the natural empathy for the marginalized and downtrodden, the notion that doing what’s right is more important than what you happen to believe, that behind all our diversity, we are one.
I’ve had MS, multiple sclerosis, for more than 30 years. That’s why I look a bit drunk when I walk. Meeting new people is scary because some people like to fit me into a box they have for ‘disabled people’. In all my dealings with First Parish members and staff, you have been welcoming, supportive, and seen me as a person first. (Pause)
Because of my journey with MS, a big part of my social work career has been with people with illness and disability. After I was invited to talk to the lay ministers about that work, I knew I wanted to be part of their warm, caring circle. Compared to the counseling I was used to, pastoral care was more about simply being present with people, using my heart and soul, more than my head. I know how hard it is to ask for, and accept, help in this culture. But I’ve learned here that it is a blessing to give and to receive. Two years ago, I added pastoral singing to my activities, by joining the By Your Side singers, our pastoral care choir.
That’s the most important thing I’m doing in my life.
First Parish has let me become more myself, by helping me find new ways to express my care, and new confidence that I’m fine just the way I am. I want that miracle to happen for others, and so Jim and I give what we can, with our time and money, and are proud to be members of First Parish.