Member Stories: the McGraw Family

the McGraw Family


On the day when I first came to United Parish seeking a church, the children were singing. It was those angels who won me over as a then pregnant woman, teacher and maternal soul. We were hooked instantly.

Ever since, music at United Parish has been an important gift to me and my family. My mother in law, Hattie, found joy and friendship in the adult choir for many years. My husband, Ben, has found multiple ways to share his love of music with us during worship. And my children have been a part of the children’s choirs for 14 years, from the time that Annika was 3 and Seanna, though only 1 1/2, could not be kept away. Her robe was very long for her, but she got up and sang her heart out.

The children’s choirs have helped my children to grow from loving to sing in practice but being too shy to sing in church, to being happy and confident now to grace us with their solo voices.

Over this time, many of the songs they have sung have become a part of the soundtrack of our life and have helped to ground our family in God’s love. “In a Bulb There Is a Flower”, was first learned with all its big hand movements. Then it became one of our nightly bedtime songs in a less active rendition, and later the song I requested for my sister’s funeral.

This year when all three of my children came together again in youth choir, I was truly blessed to listen to them join together to share God’s word with us and I pretty much cry with joy each time I hear them.

I have such deep gratitude for all those who have given of their time and talent to help me know God through the voices of all these angels.


My name is Ben. I have been a member of United Parish for almost 18 years. I have three kids of my own, and 48 students who need my feedback. I coach soccer. I’m on the United Parish Human Relations Ministry Team. I cook dinner. I do the laundry. I don’t need more to do. I certainly don’t have time to be part of the book groups about The New Jim Crow, and ending mass incarceration.

BUT. Here at United Parish, surrounded by people who lovingly remind me that if it’s right, I can—and should—find a way to do it. I’ll be at my book group this afternoon.

The community of United Parish, from those just born and baptized, to those at the other end of life, hold me to a high standard. There aren’t that many places in our lives where a community of people work together to put into action what they believe to be right. This is a special community, and it takes a lot of resources to keep it running.

The work that we do here at United Parish and in the loving community that supports and challenges us makes us all better.


My name is Annika, and I’ve been coming to United Parish for nearly 18 years. I am currently on church council and in the youth choir, so I spend a good deal of time here.

I have been pretty busy, and a few of my school friends have asked why I spend a so much of my limited time at church. I’ve realized that this church has taught me to base my faith on sharing. Just as Mary so graciously gave her body and her love, I’ve learned to give what I have. A few weeks ago, it was hours of dishwashing in preparation of the United Parish Thanksgiving meal. Most weeks, it is my time and my voice to rehearse or perform with the youth choir.


Hi. My name is Malcolm. I am in the Rite 13 class and I’m turning 13 in 2 days. I have been going to this church for almost 13 years. So I guess I’m dedicated to church. But I have a good reason to keep coming to United Parish. People have said that my family has a lot of talent, and UP has been the place where we have developed it. I have never been shy and at UP I’ve been given plenty of chances to share my voice.

UP meets you where you are. If you are not ready to perform by yourself, UP helps you and gives you opportunities to work with other people to share your gifts in a way with which you are comfortable. If you ARE ready to do things on your own, there are opportunities to share your talent and gifts. For example, a couple weeks ago, the children’s choirs performed a musical called Cool in the Furnace in which I got to have a role. Those who were less comfortable with speaking could still perform by being part of the choir. This has been a supportive and safe environment for my sisters and me to develop our gifts and share them.