Member Stories: Dave and Alice

Spend any time with Dave and Alice Kidder, and you cannot help but be moved by their passionate commitment to service and social justice. Their work both within and outside of First Church in Cambridge stands as a testament to the transformative power of Christian service, whether that be their involvement with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), Saturday Night Sandwiches program, nonprofits such as Solutions at Work, the Palestine/Israel Task Team, Building the Beloved Community, or GBIO’s joint coalition on gun violence. But even after many years, this journey of faith and service continues to deepen and surprise.

Dave and Alice, you have been a part of this church since 1993. What first drew you in?

Alice: We were looking for a socially-conscious church, one that was concerned with homelessness, poverty, and other big issues of the day. We wanted to belong to a community that applied its faith in the world.

Dave: We definitely found what we were looking for.

How so?

Dave: There are so many ways to live out your faith here. One of the most meaningful ministries I’ve gotten involved with is the Saturday Night Sandwiches program, which is part of the Outdoor Church, a ministry to persons experiencing homelessness. I and others at the church prep several dozen brown bag meals, and then that evening we distribute them to homeless persons in Harvard and Central Squares. Before I got involved with Saturday Night Sandwiches, I never could have imagined myself engaging in that kind of ministry. But there I was and it was this incredibly powerful experience that has now become a regular part of my life.

Alice: Just last Wednesday, I participated in an interracial “Soup and Stories” meeting at the parsonage that focused on the topic of gun violence. This issue seems so intractable and yet I definitely felt the movement of the Holy Spirit in our meeting…opening our minds and hearts to hear one another’s stories and ideas, to consider others’ perspectives. I think our conversation opened the way for meaningful future encounters and possible progress on dealing with gun violence.

Dave: At the same time, this congregation recognizes that perhaps with so much work to do in the world, we have at times neglected our own spiritual lives. So there are now a whole series of internal conversations on “Going Deeper,” with the goal of helping one another nurture our personal faith lives...not in a way that is devoid of a connection with service and justice, but that actually provides a firmer foundation for it.

Can you give us an example?

Dave: Our Senior Minister Dan ran a book group based on Howard Thurman’s writings, in particular Jesus and the Disinherited. It brought together a whole bunch of issues on race, culture and the church. Now, in my life there have been very few theologians that I’ve wanted to read more of. His work refocuses on Jesus as the speaker for the disinherited. Christians have done so much with Jesus over the years to fit him into a slot that’s more comfortable than as the spokesman for the disinherited. It helped me refocus on the real Jesus of the Gospels.

Alice: I share Dave’s experience of Howard Thurman. I have always believed that God wants us to forge loving relationships with neighbors near and far, especially those for whom disability or prejudice are problems. I believe God calls me to work for justice and peace. In his writings, Thurman is able to put words around this call to serve that I have felt my whole life as a Christian.

It sounds like even after many years of following Jesus, you are still learning and discovering new implications of the Christian life.

Alice: Yes, and being part of this church is a big reason why. The preaching here is so different from how the media often portrays Christianity. These are not “hellfire and brimstone” sermons. They focus on a greater interfaith understanding, awareness of where we can grow as a congregation, and taking joy in God's forgiveness and mercy. That kind of preaching creates a safe space for people of many different backgrounds and viewpoints. When you encounter so many different perspectives among the pastors and members, you are constantly learning and opening your mind to new things.

Dave: As we seek to go deeper, there’s a presumption that our way of getting there is necessarily more intellectual. We are in Cambridge, after all, and we like an intellectual challenge. But more and more I see people hungry for a spiritual challenge. The great thing is that this is a congregation that knows how to talk with one another and create a safe space for conversation.

As you grow more deeply in faith, where do you sense God’s presence in your life these days?

Alice: God is a daily presence in my life. I feel close to God when singing in church, particularly in the company of my friends. God accompanies me when I go about my social justice work, and as I meet so many other people who are trying to follow God’s call in their lives too. God has answered so many prayers for me. The richest blessing is being able to share my faith journey with a loving and wonderful husband.

Dave: I sense God’s presence in worship most often in music. It happens every time we sing the 23rd Psalm. And in the Sandwiches program. In everything that Alice and I do in social justice. I think we’re trying to carry out God’s will for us. I see God’s presence in the folks that go out with me and the folks that we’re serving, and I know that this is what we’re meant to do.