Conference bestows honors at 214th Annual Meeting

6/17/2013

The Massachusetts Conference honored a number of individuals and churches at the 214th Annual Meeting June 14 - 15 in recognition of their ministries. A look at the honorees follows:

Barnstable award
Christine Burns (left) and Reed Baer (right) accept a Bold Creative Initiative Award from Paul Sangree (center).
CCU Lowell
Elaine Cavanaugh (center) and Nancy Butcher (right) receive the award on behalf of Christ Church United in Lowell from Donna Spencer Collins (left).
Wally Hall
Wally Hall (left) of the First Congregational Church of West Brookfield, UCC, receives a Haystack Award from Lisa Stedman.
Gina Lynch
Gina Lynch (left) of the FIrst Congregational Church of Brimfield receives a Haystack Award from Bert Marshall.

Bold Creative Initiative Awards

The newly formed MACUCC Church Development Council seeks to encourage and support our local churches to build spiritual vitality through bold, creative initiatives. This year’s Award recipients are two examples of how this may be lived out.

Reed Baer (pastor since 1998) and Christine Burns (called as associate pastor in charge of the Saturday contemporary service in June 2012) are pastors at West Parish of Barnstable, United Church of Christ, on Cape Cod.  In response to declining worship attendance and membership, particularly among young families, and as a result of an all-church visioning retreat held in January 2011, West Parish launched a weekly 4:30 PM Saturday contemporary service in the Meetinghouse on October 1, 2011. Informal, 45 minutes long, with weekly communion and the lighting of prayer candles, a rock band playing both hymns and “secular” music, and geared to all ages (children remain in worship for the entire time), the service has attracted new, previously unchurched families, without “cannibalizing” the Sunday service.  The new service is still very much in the “grow and learn” stage, as participants find new ways to reach out together in service to the local community, learn what stewardship is all about, and seek supplemental ways of faith formation for children, youth, and their parents.
 
Christ Church United, UCC, in Lowell, MA, shares a vision and a calling to be the body of Christ in this place, with a heart bigger than its building, and an outreach that extends far beyond its walls.  CCU Lowell is led by the Rev. Peter A. Lovett.  Peter models a down-to earth discipleship for the 21st century that has helped him catalyze growth and change.  Pastor Peter enjoys ministering in fellowship and solidarity with two other pastors in this multicultural faith community. Together, they embrace Christ’s call to live out their faith in mutual love, mission and discipleship enjoying the bounty of an extravagant welcome and generous hospitality.  CCU Lowell has three worship services on Sunday:  10am English in the Sanctuary with Rev. Peter Lovett, 10AM Lao Worship in the Chapel with Pastor Ted Rasakham, and 3PM Spanish Worship with Iglesia Hispana and Pastor Danezza Torres. This trinity of worshipers, also enjoy joint services where each group brings their unique expressions and spirit of worship.  The youth of all three groups gather together in the confirmation process. Their willingness and ability to blend a variety of ethnic communities, worship expressions and outreach is a model for our MACUCC churches.  

Justice and Witness Haystack Awards

Wally Hall – First Congregational Church of West Brookfield, UCC
 
For more than 15 years, Wally Hall has brought youth from his church and surrounding towns to Washington D.C. in the summer to serve the homeless in our nation's capitol. Working with seven soup kitchens and other agencies benefiting the homeless, and staying together dormitory-style at a local church, Wally has influenced hundreds of young people, teaching them about the needs of others, and that our individual acts make a difference. The most immediate impact is to feed and comfort those who are hungry in D.C. But the lasting effect of teaching the many young people involved is perhaps even more profound. 

Likewise, Wally has spearheaded the youth delegations to Centro Shalom in Chile for the Massachusetts Conference, inspiring faithful service on the part of countless youth. He is tireless in his organization and enthusiasm, and his hunger for justice and infectious. His open world view helps others to understand that we are truly united in our love and in our work for peace and justice.

Gina Lynch – First Congregational Church, UCC, Brimfield
 
Gina Lynch, Disaster Relief Coordinator for the town of Brimfield, has worked tirelessly since June 1, 2011 when a fierce tornado ripped through her town, causing massive devastation, human and animal injuries, and the loss of a life. Her responsive assistance has been pragmatic as well as therapeutic.  She has not only coordinated repair groups logistically, but also understands that personal healing comes from inviting volunteer workers to listen to life stories.
 
Gina rose to the occasion in a time of devastation, confusion and loss. She was able to organize and mobilize volunteers and create a system that was efficient and effective. At her direction, a Facebook page was set up, needs were posted, and donations began to arrive.  She coordinated making hot meals at the church, and when volunteers went out into the field, they were given a hand-out listing all available resources. She created message boards so that people who came in could be matched with help from those who were offering showers, housing, hay and fencing for horses, and more.  As donations began to arrive, she organized the volunteers to sort and create boxes so when people came in for food there was a little bit of everything. Because of  her knowledge and effort, she had a system in place even before the Red Cross workers arrived. The Red Cross recognized Gina's work and named her the go-to person for relief efforts. They designated Brimfield Church as the regional field site, and all efforts flowed from that little white church on the hill, a beacon of hope to this very day.
 
Bishop Munoz
Bishop Ulises Muñoz of the Pentecostal Church of Chile received a Special Haystack Award for his work following the earthquake in his country.
Special Award:  Bishop Ulises Muñoz – Pentecostal Church of Chile
 
Mark8: 4His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ 5He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’   At around 3:30 in the morning of February 27th 2010 Bishop Muñoz, his family, most of his parishioners and pastors were fast asleep.  But not for long. At 3:34 the Bishop and the rest of Chile were awakened by an earthquake. It lasted for 3 minutes. The earthquake was quickly followed by a tsunami, bringing in its wake destruction apparently greater than that caused bythe earthquake. The earthquake was stronger than the one experienced in Haiti and about the same strength as the one in Japan.  In spite of its strength the results were less catastrophic than in Haiti or Japan but they were catastrophic - 486 died - one and a half million homes affected - about 200 million left homeless.   None of those figures were known to the Bishop as he got up from his bed at 3:35.  He did not know of the lives lost when he checked on his family.  He had no idea about physical destruction to homes and churches and business when he left his home to check on his church and his people. 
 
News was not easy to come by,  but what news there was, wasn't good. The Bishop began to learn of the lives lost, including the father and pregnant mother who died in a nearby community leaving two daughters orphaned and homeless. He learned of all the destruction of property, including a nearby town where 80% of the homes were destroyed. And he heard about the many church buildings that were damaged, some beyond repair. The Bishop Muñoz is a man of great faith, but from conversations with him I know there was a moment, if not many moments, when he experienced hopelessness over all that took place since 3:34 AM February 27th 2010.  He also knew that this situation was made even more difficult because of the financial position of most of the members of the Pentecostal church of Chile.  The majority of the Bishop’s flock are not rich by any means.  They do not live the life of luxury by any standards For the most part they are laborers – blue collar workers.  Many of them work in the field – tending and harvesting crops which you and I often enjoy.  Though he knew something had to be done the bishop wondered what could he do - what could his church do.  He was aware of the limited resources at their disposal but Jesus spoke to his heart and asked him and his church, “How many loaves do you have?” 
 
And he and his leadership listened and took stock. They had been raising funds to remodel and expand the cathedral church in Curicó. That was money they could use and so they put their plan of remodeling and expansion aside and used those funds as seed money. 
 
“How many loaves do you have?”  The bishop knew that the blue collar folk who make up his church knew how to build – how to use their hands.  And there were folk in the church who had other skills necessary. “How many loaves do you have?”  Eventually the Bishop and others said we have enough loaves to build 200 – 300 cabins for our people and others without homes.  We can construct them in Curicó and other sites and truck them to where they are needed and assemble them there.   And that is just what they did.
 
The Massachusetts Conference has been in partnership with the Pentecostal Church of Chile for nearly 30 years.  Over that time we have witnessed and heard of many stories such as this one, of the Bishop’s faithfulness.  He is a man who lives out the high calling – who inspires others by his spirit-filled life – who walks the talk.  And so it is with a grateful heart and praise that we are presenting Bishop Muñoz a special Haystack Award at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. 

 



Users of this website are invited to post comments in response to news articles and blog posts published here. In order to maintain a respectful community, we insist that comments be polite, respectful and tolerant of opposing viewpoints. We reserve the right to remove comments that are hostile, hateful or abusive to others, or that constitute personal attacks. In the interest of transparency, we highly recommend that users comment using their full names. For those who feel a need for more anonymity, however, we will allow posts using first names and last initial.

comments powered by Disqus