SPOTLIGHT: New Focus on Serving the Community

SPOTLIGHT: New Focus on Serving the Community


Foster Memorial Members Are Taking Off Their Bibs and Putting on Aprons

By The Rev. Barbara Schenk, pastor at Foster Memorial, UCC, Springfield

Like many churches, Foster Memorial Church, UCC, in Springfield is facing changes in the church, its neighborhood, finances, and membership. Pastor Barbara Schenk – along with a leadership team called “Seeds” – is engaged in reading books, and participating in online courses, webinars, and Association and Conference-sponsored events to help the church navigate the waters. 

The Seeds team often refers to Center for Progressive Renewal Co-Director Mike Piazza’s image of the need for congregations to “take off our bibs and put on our aprons” to focus on serving, not being served. (See Pastor Schenk’s blog article for more background information about Seeds.)

“Just as our name Seeds implies, we look to germinate new ideas that will grow our church and make it relevant in our community,” writes Charlene Corris, an active Seeds member.  “As we have immersed ourselves in this group, each of us has become interested in certain areas of outreach and development.”

A recent altarscape focused on One Great Hour of Sharing special offering.

A recent altarscape focused on One Great Hour of Sharing
special offering

Charlene had been praying about how she could help forward the Seeds team efforts when the answer came into her heart at the church’s Annual meeting in February. As budget woes were being discussed, Charlene raised her hand and offered to form a “Foster Events Team.” Thirteen people volunteered to join this team that same afternoon and more have joined since then.

“The mission of our Foster Events Team is to provide opportunities for our church to engage members and our wider community in family events that are affordable, entertaining, and relevant, as well as provide exposure to our church and our facilities as a meaningful place in our community. These events will raise revenue to help our church through difficult times while we grow in number as people come to know us,” said Corris.

Their first event was a Movie Night held in February. The next event planned is a Community Tag Sale on the church lawn and a Craft Sale in the fall. In between, the team will be helping out with other church activities, including a new photo directory and Foster’s Relay for Life fundraising dinner.

One of the goals of Seeds is to offer small group opportunities with different subjects of focus.The first small group event, Poetry Sharing, was held in January.

At that event twenty souls gathered to share and listen to poems they brought with them. “We laughed much and shed tears over birds, mice, Pinocchio-ochio, loss, love, reasons of spirit to keep singing  and to walk away from lawnmowers. We heard some poems written by the participants that were heartwarming,” reported Barbara Nason, facilitator, in the church newsletter. 

A second Poetry Sharing event was held at the end of March, featuring “Little Boy Blue,” recited by three year old Joey, three original poems and a wide variety of poems held dear to those present. Beginning in April, Poetry Exploration gatherings will be offered for folks of all ages on the first Monday evening of the month. People are invited to come and share poems, or just listen and learn more about poetry in a very comfortable, non-pressured atmosphere.

Another new small group is the Visual Arts team, who create ‘altarscapes’ for Sunday worship, working on themes with Rev. Schenk. The team presently has 10 volunteers from age 11 on up. Three members of the team recently participated in a Super Saturday workshop led by Rev. Jonathan Chapman and came back greatly inspired and motivated. Rev. Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio is also a source of great inspiration. A recent altarscape focused on One Great Hour of Sharing special offering (pictured above).

These and many other new teams and programs have an eye to the future and invitation, striving to live out the words of extravagant welcome in Jesus’ name.

You can contact Rev. Schenk at the church office at 413-782-2112 or

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