By Ardyce Curl

Tom Hackley and Emily Bettencourt first visited People’s several years ago and began attending regularly when they moved into the area in 2018.

Emily grew up as a Catholic.  When she was a Peace Corp volunteer she lived with a Jewish family and had friendships in her Muslim host country.

“Living with those who reflected and modeled their faith in daily life through kindness, compassion and living relationships, kept me yearning for a spiritual home,” Emily said.

In 1976 she joined the Ann Arbor Unitarian congregation. She considers herself an evolved Catholic with roots in the Christian tradition.

Emily’s special interests are reading, plant-based cooking, maintaining a Buddhist practice, exercising and walking in the woods. She enjoys traveling and living in new cultures and cities.

Tom was confirmed in the Episcopal church and attended other liberal Protestant churches in Chicago and Minneapolis suburbs. He was a member of a UU church in Ann Arbor and was active in the UUDoM Youth Adult Conference (YAC) there.

Tom said, “I was. member of the Ann Arbor UU Congregation from 1982-2002, and the Berrien UU Fellowship from 2002-2018.

“I had contact with youth and adults from People’s and attended a few youth cons here.” Tom said. “And our Kalamazoo grandchildren,* attended here before we moved to town.”

Tom and Emily were married in 1985 creating a blended family. Emily has two sons. Tom has one and they have five grandchildren. They found People’s because of family and friends’ connections. Emily said People’s was part of their retirement plan when they considered moving to Kalamazoo.  She said here they find peace, love and inspiration.

Tom said they were looking for a home, new challenges and new friendships.  “We wanted to continue our religious affiliation and to build our spiritual and social community,” he said.

He added, “I feel like Goldilocks. This church is just right.  It’s easily accessible, plenty of opportunities for involvement and activism, beautiful music, inspiring minister, wonderful, welcoming, unpretentious people.”

Tom has been part of the Green Sanctuary Committee and the Net Zero Task Force and helped bring the solar project to life. He is working on developing a plan to reduce People’s carbon footprint and is bringing awareness of climate crisis solutions to the congregation through the weekly “Climate Corner” tips.

He said, “I’d like to see the youth empowered and find their voice in the church community.  I’d love to see an effort to create an intentional, cooperative, inter-generational diverse and sustainable community as a means for people to live fulfilling lives with a low impact on the earth.”

Both Tom and Emily are in the same chalice circle.

Emily said, “I’d like to be more active in building a more racially diverse church community.  I believe that change starts with me, and I’m looking for a way to make those changes.”


Tom, 75, is retired has worked in Urban planning, meteorology, picture framing and teaching technology. He was a docent for the Chicago architecture foundation several years.   Emily, 77, is a retired social worker. *Their grandchildren are Hannah and Hayden Lane-Davies who are now in their third year of college. 

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