Each year the Massachusetts Conference Church Development Council recognizes two ministries that exemplify innovative and impactful ministries. Here are this year’s recipients.
On their website, South Church, Andover
, says, “We value our heritage and cherish our memories, and we also focus on what it means to be the church today. We continue to evolve as we explore new and relevant ways of following Jesus’ model of sharing God’s extravagant love.” South Church demonstrates Jesus' model of welcome, acceptance, and sharing the good news within and beyond the church walls. Immediately evident in their worship and program offerings is the spirit of inclusion. The pulpit greeting is very specific and will often juxtapose differences to show a vast spectrum of welcome. The worship bulletin puts people at ease with notes about seating (sit where you feel most comfortable), children (we celebrate the noises of small children; they remind us we’re alive) and song (we sing with joy and spirit, without fear of judgement).
South Church offers contextual learning workshops so that people can use their own experiences to engage with topics such as “Living into our covenant with God and each other,” “Exploring the sacraments and the idea of membership”, and “Creating vital and sustainable worship”. In additional to traditional social justice, mission, and affinity groups; South Church offers faith-filled experiences for people wherever they are on their faith journeys. “Theology on Tap” takes place in local establishments and features sacred conversations over beverages. One recent Bible Study was entitled, “Who wrote the Bible? (and other questions you were too afraid to ask).”
Reverend Donna Spencer Collins affectionately known in the Haverhill community as Mama D, was hired by a Search Committee of First Congregational Church Haverhill in May 2014. The Church had closed its doors and sold its building and gave half its money to different local UCC Churches, and city non-profits. With the other half the remaining church members dreamed of starting a new Church for a new Haverhill. Pastor Donna moved here to help lead this New Ministry Initiative, Phoenix Rising
in earnest in September of that year exploring and making connections with many.
On Easter Sunday 2015, she led Phoenix Rising’s first public service at the “Worshiping Oak Tree”, located at the Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill, because Pastor Donna had discovered that Phoenix Rising UCC could trace its roots back to John Ward, the City’s founder and first minister who led worship in 1642 under the branches of this very tree. Phoenix Rising UCC could trace its genealogy back to John Ward and that location. As winter approached they gathered in a barn on Terra Farm in Plaistow, NH. From there they moved to 192 Merrimack Street in downtown Haverhill. The grand opening was September 18, 2016. The gathering has grown 20 fold in just two years. The active congregation was awarded the “Rook of the Year Award” from the Haverhill Chamber of Commerce in March; receiving city, state and federal citations. Pastor Donna says, “It is hard work but it is such a wonderful exciting time in our life together! We find ourselves wondering what is going to happen next!
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