Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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A Pastoral Note: Hilary Hopkins

February 2, 2023

Dear First Church family,

And now, even sadder news following my message from earlier today. First Church member Hilary Hopkins died this morning surrounded by loved ones. Her death followed a series of complications related to the scheduled heart procedure she had yesterday. Her husband John, daughter Susannah, son-in-law Craig, and I were there to say our goodbyes, tell her we loved her, and give thanks for the remarkable gifts she shared with all of us. She was 84 years old.

Hilary loved First Church, and First Church loved Hilary! She was among our most devoted leaders these past many years of her involvement. Many of you know that she was an avowed and proud atheist, yet one whose wide-open heart and mind led her to find profound resources in our community, in our worship and music, in contemplative practice, in studying scripture, and in the ancient rituals of our tradition. She could translate and often teach the “talk” of our faith. More importantly, she walked the walk of it — by her daily witness to the wonders of creation, her amazing gifts of compassion as often expressed in the beautiful and deeply moving pastoral care team letters so many of us received, in her sending literally thousands of get-out-the-vote postcards to swing voters in other states, in her humble weekly service to the food pantry, in her group leadership and committee work, in nature walks, in her wry humor, and so much more. This news comes as a shock to us all, and it will surely take some time for it to settle in. We will miss her dearly. Please watch for information about forthcoming services. As you can imagine if you knew her, Hilary had plans, even for that.

For now, we invite you to gather with us at 9:30 this coming Sunday morning to share our grief, stories, and love for one another and for dear Hilary. Given her passion and remarkable gifts for teaching, Hilary often planned and led our pre-worship learning sessions, so this time feels especially fitting. This will be a hybrid session, led from the Harter Room and on Zoom.

Please continue to pray for Hilary’s family and dearest loved ones, including many at First Church. Give thanks for her, and for our community, and for God, who is our solace, strength, and peace, a very present help in trouble. In the words of the banner Hilary hung in her front door window for all to see, “Together, we will see it through.”

Yours in faith,