Editor's Note: Throughout the past year, many churches took advantage of Conference resources to help re-energize their churches and congregations. Here are a few we spotlighted during the year. Read the full stories at www.macucc.org/spotlight.
Bridgewater Pastor Says Super Saturday Session Helped Church Become Less Static
Central Square Congregational Church, UCC in Bridgewater, had a 20% increase in membership (over two years) after the church took action to become more accessible and welcoming to all, and to get more involved in the community. The pastor, Rev. Beth Stotts, credits some of her inspiration to a Super Saturday workshop on Whole Church Evaluations. "That workshop I attended changed the direction of my church," she said. "I had my six deacons in that workshop with me and it sparked conversation about the ministry of the church which continues today. That workshop made ministry a responsibility of the whole community, not just the staff. It really changed our focus, and put a different lens on what we're trying to accomplish in creating God's church."
Crossroads Steered Agawam Members To Talk About Church
During their Crossroads process to help discern their future, Agawam Congregational Church began expressing deeper spiritual lives through group prayer programs. They are using these prayer and discussion groups to help explore how the spirit of God wants to work in them and through them to help emphasize ministry rather than maintenance. The pastor, Rev. Dr. Gregory Dawson, feels that because of the Crossroads process, those in the church who are now serving as leaders are becoming more excited and vocal about a need to reach out to the community and he is looking forward to what God has in store for them.
Saugus Church Experiences the Covenant Among our Churches
When the First Congregational Church, UCC in Saugus, experienced a 2-alarm fire, the Conference vision statement of "...nurturing the covenant among our churches to make God's love and justice real" was put into action. In addition to being contacted by an Associate Conference Minister and members of the Conference Disaster Resource and Response Team, fellow UCC clergy friends from about a dozen different churches and Community of Practice groups reached out and offered support,donations, and prayers.
Super Saturday Workshop Inspired a Small Change That Made a Big Difference
At last year's Super Saturday, Pastor Paul Sangree attended a workshop led by Alex Shea Will, Associate Pastor at South Church in Andover, on being a more welcoming church. The workshop inspired the Westborough church to change the look of their bulletin by adding a section on the first page called 'Some Notes to Help You Feel at Ease this Morning," in an effort to embrace a theology of welcome. Sangree believes this probably had something to do with the many new people joining and participating in the church starting last fall, which helps to retain new disciples who may walk through their doors.
West Tisbury Church Pastor Inspired by Conference Partner Coaching Program
In an age when the dominant narrative about church is one of decline, the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, UCC, is finding new life. A significant dimension of their renewal can be attributed to the church's small group program called "Mapping Our Faith Journeys"-- inspired after the pastor, Rev. Cathlin Baker, participated in the Conference partnership with the Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) coaching program. Through this study project, the church has experienced an increased spirit of welcome and more overall vitality. Relationships have been strengthened, and some have been inspired to find links between their past spiritual experiences, and their desire to become part of a new, socially-engaged church community.
Do you have a story to share? How have Conference resources and programs helped make a difference at your church? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane is the Spotlight and Publications Editor for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ