The United Congregational Church of Holyoke monthly community meal included an authentic Turkish dinner cooked by a group of Muslim families, followed by a film about Ramadan, and conversations among church members and local community friends
By Chuck Morkin
Editor’s Note: In 2017, the United Congregational Church of Holyoke UCC voted to do a self-study that could turn it toward a healthy future. A conversation between Transitional Conference Minister, Don Remick, and Pastoral Team members, Chuck and Bobbie Morkin, raised the possibility that the “New Beginnings/Churches Alive” program would be a good way forward.
The Conference Churches Alive program is designed to nurture and provoke the vitality of churches who want to deeply explore and discern their future. Churches explore what they are and have always been gifted to be. The program looks at the church’s context and possibilities for mission and ministry, and helps discern God’s Call for the next chapter of the church’s life.
Here’s an update from Pastoral Team member, Chuck Morkin.
In the two years since that vote, members of the church have attended training sessions, explored conversations over meals, attended two rounds of house meetings, and heard a presentation of the findings. Earlier this summer, the planning committee introduced six mission-focused areas emerging from the house meetings. Church friends and members affirmed the new vision: “Inspiring Community Toward Justice, Peace, and Creativity.”
As a result of the program, people have been enlivened, and are coming up with new ministry ideas, finding partners, and putting effort into making things happen. For example:
- A new “Spirit of the Arts” group hosted an evening of “Tango, Jazz, & a Shot of Swing,” creating a sidewalk café complete with art display in the sanctuary. They raised over $1,800 to help Trans Asylum Seekers, drawing over 100 people.
- We welcomed a group of Muslim families who had offered to cook a Turkish menu for our monthly community meal. Church members and local community friends enjoyed many conversations.
- Members planned an outdoor Family Fun day for the community – complete with bounce house, DJ, bubble blowing, face painting, water balloon toss, and free food. They expected to draw 100 people, but 275 showed up!
Other events that are in the planning stage:
- A spiritual retreat away from the church
- A healthy-eating cooking class
- A concert by the Holyoke Civic Symphony with pastoral team member, Bobbie Morkin, performing the Poulenc Organ Concerto on E.M. Skinner Opus 322
- A festival of lights for the winter
- A reunion of former youth group members from past decades
Our church has a huge facility in the center of Holyoke, and we see is as a mission resource to the wider community. As a pastoral team, my wife Roberta (Bobbie) and I ground our ministry in the biblical principle of hospitality, which combines well with the ideas that were brought forth during the Churches Alive journey.
We’re thankful for the partnership of members and new friends who bring that vision to life with vision, energy, and compassion. We also give thanks for the partnership of The Massachusetts Conference and to its staff who assisted us: former Associate Conference Minister The Rev. Dr. Peter Wells; Associate Conference Minister The Rev. Jill Graham; Transitional Interim Conference Minister The Rev. Don Remick; and our Coach, Rev. Henry Shoenfield. Because of these partnerships and the Churches Alive program, our congregation is already experiencing new energy and excitement.
Note: The church's next Interfaith Discussion with members of the Muslim community will take place, Sunday, November 24, 2019, at 11:00am. Their next symphony concert, which includes the Jewish Chorus of Western Massachusetts, will be held December 8, 2019, at 3:00pm.
You can reach Charles (Chuck) and Roberta (Bobbie) Morkin at the church office at (413) 532-1483 or through their contact page https://www.uccholyoke.org/contact/contact-us/. Visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/uccholyoke/.