Churches recognized for bold initiatives

6/13/2015

The Church Development Council of the Massachusetts Conference presented two churches with "Bold Initiative Awards" at the 216th Annual Meeting this weekend.

These awards recognize "churches and/or individuals who have taken bold steps to help their churches become more healthy, faithful and effective in the changing landscape of religion in our society," the council said.

"We look for churches that are engaging in deeply transformational discernment as they look both inward to their church and outward to their community. We look for models of churches that have found that place where their core values, passions and resources meet the needs of people who are longing for authentic community, to make a difference in the world and to be deeply rooted in the presence of God."

Following are the descriptions of the recipients:

The Haydenville Congregational Church

The Rev. Mr. Matt Carriker presents a Bold Initiative Award to a delegation from The Haydenville Congregational Church.

A decade ago the future of this church was uncertain. It was an increasing challenge to care for the building and maintain a sustainable budget. Years of delayed maintenance had left the church in rough shape. Worship attendance was in the single digits. Then the church captured a vision of what they could be. Something true to what they had always been and at the same time; something new. They reached beyond their walls and widened their extravagant welcome. Under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, they adapted their worship style and their programs to better echo the spirit and longing of those within their community. They claimed an open and affirming approach that offered an authentic and deeply expressed invitation to all. In the last decade their worship attendance has increased over 15 fold. That is mirrored in an increase in church school participation from 4 to over 65. But reaching out to those in need beyond their walls is more important to this church than drawing people in. That is a bold act of faith that we celebrate.

Common Ground - First Churches of Northampton

The Rev. Mr. Matt Carriker presents a Bold Initiative Award to Sarah Buteux, with  Rev. Mr. Todd Weir looking on.
Sarah Buteux had a vision about how we might do church differently. It grew out of her observation that people could come to church - even take communion - and leave without ever having a meaningful interaction with another person. After a visit to St. Lydias, a dinner church in Brooklyn, Sarah returned ready to adapt the model to the passions and values of the pioneer valley. Care for the earth, the local food movement, self-sufficiency, and spirituality are all core values in her community. Sarah combined these into a ministry that weaves the do-it-yourself ethic of preparing a community meal with wholesome local produce. Worship begins as people gather in the kitchen to prep and cook. It continues as people gather in song and prayer and communion that is woven into the meal at the table. A time of conversation and reflection continues as all ages share their experiences and wonderings around faith. Typically enough food is prepared to share with other local groups who are feeding the hungry. First Churches in Northampton embraced the ministry of Common Ground as part of its understanding that there are many ways to gather in worship and service to our God.


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