SPOTLIGHT: Greenfield Church Reaches Out to the Community with "Free-Bees"

SPOTLIGHT: Greenfield Church Reaches Out to the Community with "Free-Bees"

Lessons in caring for the environment are learned through Beekeeping-inspired Festival

This month the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield held its 6th Annual Bee Fest with myriad activities inspired by former pastor Lorenzo Langstroth (pastor of the church, 1843-1848), who is known as the "Father of American Beekeeping."
In 1852 Langstroth patented a new 'moveable frame beehive' that allows beekeepers to collect honey without destroying the hive. "He literally revolutionized the world of agriculture with his invention," said Sandy Thomas, a member of the church.  "It was brilliant and is still used by 85% of beekeepers around the world."
A monument dedicated to Langstroth was installed on the church front lawn in 1942 for his contribution to the agricultural industry, and each year you will find Sunday School children surrounding the monument and eating honey sandwiches in his honor. (You can read more about Langstroth in the American Bee Journal.  Look for the June issue article titled "Celebrating Langstroth" by William Blomstedt.)
If he were alive today, we might guess that Langstroth was so focused in helping to protect the environment and the homes of these small creatures of God that he would have preached a sermon during this year's A New Awakening: Season of Prophetic Climate Witness -- the transdenominational Christian movement for climate solutions.
Members of the Greenfield Church have chosen to lift up his achievements with a community-wide bee-inspired festival for both adults and children.   There is a "Pollinator Parade" through Greenfield Farmers' Market (set up adjacent to the church) where children march dressed in bee, butterfly or flower outfits. The festival's activities include bee crown and wand crafts, bee games, a bee piñata filled with bee finger puppets and other treats, bee magnets and gift bags, and even a spelling bee. Woven throughout the activities are lessons that engage the children and teach them how to care for the environment, to help them feel positive about pollinators (not scared of bees and bugs), and to have fun.
Adults can attend the "Langstroth Lectures" to hear about bee health and habitats, bee research at UMass, colony collapse disorder, and how to help promote good pollinator health.  Appropriately, the church's music director, Leea Snape, plays a rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" to kick off the lectures.
"This event is our gift to the wider community: the energy goes well beyond the borders of our church," said Thomas. Over 40 volunteers from the church and community staff the event, and the cost of the event is usually covered by the sale of gift baskets. "The remaining proceeds are then donated to worthy causes that feed hungry people such as local nutrition assistance programs and Heifer International," said Thomas.  "It's a way to pay it forward and the community LOVES it!" (In fact, the church has donated 17 hives to Heifer over the last five years.)
The church has partnered with local businesses to sponsor the event, so festival goers can sample some of the farmer's market offerings, visit the Franklin County Beekeepers demonstration hive, taste international honey from around the world, watch a local dance studio's children perform their springy-bee dances, and win bee-themed prizes.
The event was publicized via newspaper articles, cable TV, radio, fliers, website, Bee Fest 16 facebook page and other social media, a Chamber breakfast, and through theMassachusetts Beekeeper Association.
"This year was even more special," said Thomas.  "We installed a permanent exhibit in our narthex to this American hero, and it was dedicated by his great-great-great grandson, Dr. George Langstroth Cowan, who traveled from South Carolina to be at the event.  Dr. Langstroth kept bees and his daughter (the 4th generation) is an active beekeeper, so Langstroth's legacy continues."
"This has become a signature event for our church," said Thomas.  "It is such an honor and we all deeply feel it is our responsibility to keep his rich legacy alive in our church and town."
"Caring for the environment is a spiritual practice and should be nested with prayer and worship, and planted with service and giving," said the church's current pastor, Rev. Corey J. Sanderson.  "Our Bee Festival allows us to practice creation care as an expression of our faith while reaching out to the larger community."
One could definitely say that the Second Congregational Church event made quite the buzz in Greenfield.

Pictured left: Four former pastors who attended Bee Fest (Rev. Dennis LeBlanc, Rev. Armand Proulx, Rev Langstroth (portrayed by actor Marc Hoffman) and Rev. Corey Sanderson. The gentleman in the blue coat is Dr. George Langstroth Cowan, Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth?'s triple great grandson.  

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