Agape Spiritual Community

Agape Spiritual Community

Written Interview with Rev. Matt Carriker

During 2020, our nation faced two pandemics—the health pandemic of COVID 19 and the pandemic of continuous Racial Injustice.   As you think about these two pandemics,  

How did/(are) they impact your mission and ministry activities?  

Both impacted our mission, though the effects of COVID were more acute, rather than the chronic pandemic of racial injustice. Racial injustice has been more chronic and of course didn't start in 2020.  We’ve been intentional about engaging with T J Harper, who served as the Associate for Racial Justice for the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ. The town of Waltham struggles with its diversity in that ethnic groups are siloed, so, we’re trying to work better together. The events of 2020 have prompted us to ask the important questions of how we can better engage with the LGBT community and POC communities.  One thing we have done is partner with Chaplains on the Way, including work on for the Nalgene Bottle Project. 

How did(is) your church continue to be engaged in innovative, creative, and unfamiliar ways during the COVID-19 shutdown?  

We've done meditation/teacher training to help to get the community to think of themselves as Contemplative Activists. The first training was in April of 2020 and meditations proceeded every other week through June, with classes on various forms of contemplation offered in the fall. Waltham Public Library has partnered with the church with a monthly book club and has worked with the staff around a mindfulness/self-care intro for the library staff.

What were the low points, failures, or frustrations?  

People are stretched so thin.  For instance, it’s been hard to give someone a ride to the grocery store. “Safety comes first” has been a difficult thing to learn when people are reaching out for help, but we’re not able to help as well because of safety issues. Waltham tends to be more of a transitional space for folk who come in and move out. 

What were the high points and successes?  

We have been planting some seeds about Agape partnering with a school and have asked, "what if we had a school attached to the church?” During April of 2021 a member approached and brought the idea of a Mindful Camp for the community.  The member agreed to be the Program Director while another member agreed to be the Outreach Coordinator. 

The pastor's Paternity Leave allowed the church to find itself and to find its identity.  We saw more leadership initiative and broader leadership. 

What lessons, learnings or changes will your congregation carry into the future? 

The leadership and direction have felt more like a team effort and we have needed to innovate with technology. There's this idea that we are feeling as though we are in a consistent liminal space.  How might we make our worship experience have more of a retreat-type feel to it?

Video Interview with Rev. Matt Carriker

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