First Congregational Church of West Boylston

First Congregational Church of West Boylston

Video Interview with Rev. Julie Cedrone

Interview with Rev. Julie Cedrone

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 they impact your mission and ministry activities? 

  • We formed a Racial Justice Team in February 2020. We worked with New York advisors who asked, “What would we look like in 2030 if we lived out our racial justice commitments?" Some of our racial justice attention focused on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod but the George Floyd murder really increased efforts and concerns. The church Council asked "should this team have a council representative?" We ended up going from a team to the Justice Board so that every activity would flow through a justice perspective  
  • Our congregation was concerned with food equity. We continued hosting community supper and developed a take-out and delivery system. Thankfully we received a grant to provide a stipend for 2 volunteer leaders because coordination required so much more time. 
  • We started launching zoom teach-in services for 120 households beginning March/April. 

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

  • Using Zoom creatively was interesting. We utilized Sanctified Art so members could look at beautiful artwork instead of just reading words during parts of service.  Deacons gathered prayer requests in the chat and included the requests in the prayers 
  • Terrible music quality required patience and kindness. We worked with “Power Sound” and purchased 2 projectors, 2 cameras, and new mikes, in order to live stream in higher quality. The livestream quality improved tremendously, and we continued to stream the service even as people returned to in-person service with masks.
  • We invited special guest preachers 
  • Creative bubble 

What were the low points, failures, or frustrations? 

  • Constant Tech Failures at the beginning were very challenging. 
  • Children and Youth Programming stopped. It was very difficult to engage families with young children. The majority of families were NOT doing Zoom worship. 
  • We have grappled with unresolved “1619” issues re: old conflicts and working to include new programs to support this Multi-Racial Community. 

What were the high points and successes? 

  • A lot of the church efforts have been cutting edge, and it has been challenging but rewarding to work through the hard stuff.  
  • We began to look at systems through the lens of Racial Justice. 
  • We have refined Hybrid Worship and have found ways to access the strengths of both remote and in-person worship.    
  • Staffing Moves were needed.  
  • Feeding the Community was something we celebrated.

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

  • Lessons: Resiliency – We have learned that we are adaptable and that we can cope with changes. We have learned more about what we are able to do together.  
  • We have come to a point of understanding that our church is bigger than the building. 
  • Outdoor Worship – Our Worship without Walls on Wednesdays in Summer was a great addition to our service schedule.  
  • We were able to muscle through so much while paying attention to self-care.  
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