In our Annual Report we highlighted many Spotlight stories of churches who boldly reached out to the community to help those less fortunate. Here's a recap.
Open & Affirming to Special Needs
Christ Congregational Church, UCC, in Brockton holds an inclusive worship service for people with special needs and their families. The worship service is full of joy, providing a place for children from the congregation, and children and adults from the community. The singing, the participation, the core message that everyone is valued and loved fill the room. The pastor said: "You know it is worth it when we call people forward to receive communion saying 'all are welcome at this table' and people come with tears in their eyes."
Poco a Poco
The First Congregational Church in Stoneham shares its chapel with the Spanish-speaking congregation of Iglesia Adventista (The Stoneham Spanish Seventh-Day Adventist® Church). When it became clear that the chapel was in need of refurbishment, members from both congregations worked side by side; and little by little they managed to bring new life to an old space. Although Iglesia Adventista had been using the chapel before the renovations, the two have signed their first mutual agreement for lease of the facility. That action brings stability to both churches' planning efforts and established genuine relationships between the two congregations who now consider themselves fellow travelers on their faith journeys.
Power to the People
The Monterey United Church of Christ used the power of empowerment to double the size of membership in their small church. Because they felt empowered to dig deep and express their own ideas, they came up with programs that made visitors feel welcome and accepted. One member said, "Hearing others speak thoughtfully and openly -- even making themselves vulnerable in a way -- inspires trust and creates a sense of community." And that's what makes the visitors stay on to become members.
BBQ for the Homeless
When the members of The Eliot Church of Newton, UCC became aware that approximately 66 families were housed in two local motels, they decided to get the community involved and hold summer cookouts for the families. The church provided a meal, fellowship, and open space in their playground and adjoining park for the children to run and play. Volunteers from the community, including other religious and charitable organizations, helped with transportation, food, games, and crafts. The pastor believed that with more reaching out to local communities in need that the church can be renewed in mission, energy and spirit.
More than a "Sew-Sew" Group
Anyone over the age of ten is welcome at both the Wilbraham United Church and the Federated Community Church in Hampdento join sewing sessions where folks create simple dresses for the Dress a Girl program. This is a program of Hope 4 Women International that supplies new dresses to the poor around the world. The church group has shipped more than 80 dresses that reached vulnerable young girls living in utter poverty.
Pastoral Care Communication Place
The First Congregational Church of Dudley offers more than news in their newsletter. The pastor believes that "PJ's Place" (which is a weekly print and email communication) clearly keeps the congregation engaged throughout the week. It has become a great vehicle for including newcomers -- as proven by its readership numbers, which are double the membership of the church. "People yearn for a place.... my hope is that when someone gets that email, they get a sense of place and grounding. It's not a physical place in the general sense of the word, but it's a place for readers to feel connected... to the church, to the community, to God."
Note: See www.macucc.org/spotlight for full stories
Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...