Several members of our church have volunteered to tell their stories on this website. In reading them, we hope you’ll see what a wonderful and diverse community worships here!
Sue and William Field
Sue and I came to Holmdel Community Church in 1994, having moved to NJ from Massachusetts where we had been attending a United Church of Christ congregation. When we arrived here, we were pleased to see a welcoming community with mixed ages, a vibrant Sunday School, and lots of smiles. It wasn’t long before Sue volunteered for the choir and dragged me into it as well, leaving our two young children as “choir orphans”. They both began to sit with the Schumachers, an elderly man and his wife and sister, all of whom loved children. This was the start of one of the things we love so much about the church: it’s a great place for intergenerational friendships to grow.
This has been particularly true in Sue’s experience with the crafty folks of HCUCC – it has been delightful watching our girls develop friendships with people the age of their mother…And of their grandmother! Victoria’s request for the celebration of her 16th birthday? Lunch at Applebees with her crafty lady friends. And an ice cream cake.
The friendships aren’t the only thing that makes this congregation so important to us. After our older daughter moved away to college the church began to explore what it meant to be “Open and Affirming” and to ask whether we should adopt that position in the United Church of Christ. The congregation asked me to lead the discernment process, and it was only after they asked me that Elizabeth felt safe in telling me she was bisexual. I immediately added her to our list of speakers, and Elizabeth came out to the congregation from the pulpit. The reaction to Elizabeth’s presentation was a very gratifying standing ovation, and it has been deeply satisfying to participate in the process as we all, as a church, moved to openly embrace people who have traditionally been excluded from Christian worship.
Our younger daughter was facing health issues at the same time. She was struggling with problems relating to her severe OCD and consequential clinical depression and anxiety disorder. Severe mental illness is still a significant stigma in our society and it’s common to hide from your friends and neighbors when dealing with it. When Victoria was hospitalized for an extended period, Sue made one announcement and passed out the address of the hospital…whereupon Victoria received dozens and dozens of cards, gifts, and letters of encouragement that helped sustain her through a very difficult time. She is doing very well now, thanks in part to the love and support this fabulous community of Christ has offered. We are all grateful for the congregation being there through hugs, cards, and emails when we most needed them.
My own involvement with Holmdel Community UCC has led me to engage more with the wider church. I currently serve on the board of directors of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ (www.cacucc.org), and I recently finished serving 6 years on the board of Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministries (http://www.rutrinityhouse.org/), a college chaplaincy of several denominations that serves the Rutgers New Brunswick student population. Sue has been deeply involved in forming small groups to make crafts for our annual country bazaar, led the Joyful Noisemakers children’s choir for several years, and contributes to adult education programs, food pantries, and other outreach.
Holmdel Community UCC is our home and its congregation is our family.
Emily and Katie Bauer
I started coming to Holmdel United Church of Christ with my family when I was in 5th grade. My family originally attended a Methodist church, but my parents decided to change churches and we ended up choosing Holmdel UCC. Back then, I enjoyed coming to church because I liked going to Sunday School and Youth Group and getting a chance to hang out with my friends. Now that I’m 28 years old, I continue coming to Holmdel UCC because of the members and what Holmdel UCC stands for. I like that Holmdel UCC is a church that is open and affirming and that anyone, no matter where they are on life’s journey, is welcome here.
The church has made a difference in my life because it has been a place where I can continue on my spiritual journey. It is also great to now see my daughter learn about Christianity. I teach Sunday School to 3rd and 4th graders and I am on the Christian Education Committee. I see this as a way of helping other children learn about their religion and move forward on their journeys. I also bake quiches, pies, and other treats for the Country Bazaar and the Turkey Dinner. My daughter sings in the Joyful Noisemakers, the children’s choir, and participates in the Christmas Pageant.
One thing I love about Holmdel UCC is its open and affirming message. Since I am a single mother, I want a church where both my daughter and I can feel comfortable even though we are not what some people would consider a “normal” family. The difference being a part of this church has made in my life is that it has given my daughter and me a religious and supportive community to be a part of. I am glad my parents joined the Holmdel United Church of Christ when I was in 5th grade, and I am glad that I am back in New Jersey so that my daughter can be a part of this church as well.
My name is Peter Genovese and I have been coming to the Holmdel UCC for my whole life. I was both baptized and confirmed here. I’m also part of the youth group program run by the church. Throughout my 15 of years coming here, I have made plenty of friends inside the church community. The church has always been a welcoming and comforting place for me. The Holmdel UCC is more than just a church, it’s a family. Its members are incredibly friendly and are always there to help.
The youth group would have to be one of my favorite things about the church. It’s geared towards teens and kids. It’s a great combination of both religion and fun. I know that most teen’s idea of fun is not going to church, but over the years I’ve learned to love this church and all of the great aspects of it. The Holmdel UCC is also an amazing place because it helps the community in so many ways. We partner with Calico Cat and Food Pantry, Bridges and many other great charity organizations. These activities are not only a way to gain community service hours, but also a great way to help out the community.
All in all, the Holmdel UCC is an amazing place where people of all walks of life can come to find God in a friendly and welcoming setting.
Val and Kris Hansen
Church is our home away from home. It’s our extended family. Church is a safe place where you can let your guard down and be yourself. When times are tough, you can lean on the caring friends that surround you. Holmdel UCC is full of amazing role models for our children. Adults young and old gather from different backgrounds with different life experiences. They want to be a part of your life. They want to walk on life’s journey together with you.
My husband Kris and I had been searching for a long time for a church to help raise our four children in. Kris was raised Protestant and I was raised Catholic. We never felt welcome in any of the different churches we visited over the years. (There are a lot of us and we are a little loud and distracting.) One day, while my husband’s father lay dying at home with terminal cancer, Kris felt a deep longing for church again. On a whim, he walked into the Holmdel UCC down the street from our home.
He came home begging me to come and see this wonderful place for myself. I was tired of trying out churches but after just one visit I was hooked! Now Kris and the kids call me “church lady!”
My children love going to Sunday school! My oldest son is now in Confirmation class and attends youth group. Some friends and I have organized a monthly “club” for children not yet old enough for youth group. Called Club UCC, we meet once a month to do crafts, play games, and watch movies together. It keeps their friendships developing and gets us moms together for a good time too.
It doesn’t take bribing or promises for toys to get my kids to come to church on Sunday! We all love going so much. We wait all week for Sunday to come!
I have seen God’s love reflected in the faces, the voices, and the actions of the many wonderful friends I have made here at Holmdel UCC. If someone is sick or experiencing a loss, or if someone is having a tough time or is feeling nervous about making a change in their life, our church members bend over backwards to lend their support. There are so many shoulders to lean on when you need them. They are also some of your greatest fans, waiting to share your joy and successes. At Holmdel UCC, we share beautiful and meaningful moments together all of the time – like one big happy family!
Bob and Lynn Liebenow
Hi, I’m Bob Liebenow. I moved to Holmdel in 1948 when my family decided to buy a farm. I was 10 years old at the time, and started learning how to drive tractors and trucks, milk cows and do general farm work. I attended Red Bank High School, and after graduating in 1956, I joined the navy and served for three years. I married Lynn, and we have two adult children, Jim and Jana. Jim and his wife Debbie have three grown children, and Jana and her husband Alex have two children
As a boy, I attended Sunday School here and later joined the church. I have remained active since that time. During those years, I have served on many committees, was the Church Moderator, and have sung in the choir for 50 years.
Hi, I’m Lynn Liebenow. My family moved to Holmdel in 1944. Bob and I live in the house my grandparents had built in 1942. I have attended this church since the age of 4, and have been a choir member since my early teens. Bob and I were married in this church, our children were married here, and a couple of our grandchildren have been baptized here. This is our faith home, and we feel blessed to be part of this congregation filled with so many friendly, caring and wonderful people.
In our lifetimes we have seen the church evolve from being self-centered to reaching out to help those in need. We have stayed involved in the church because of the friends we have made here and the joy of the Sunday services.