By Karen Methot
There was great excitement on August 23, the day Massachusetts Conference launched its Be the Church
Banner give-away and contest. The first 20 churches to respond who could meet certain criteria would receive a $125 banner at no cost to their church, in their choice of rainbow or plain, vertical or horizontal. By the next day, all banners were claimed. Over the next 10 weeks, each church found that perfect spot to hang its banner, and people -- church members and not -- started to react.
The giveaway and story contest was the brainchild of Associate Conference Ministers Kelly Gallagher and Wendy Vander Hart, who have seen positive community reaction to these banners in area churches since the United Church of Christ Be the Church
campaign launched in 2016. They wanted to provide even more opportunities for that UCC light to shine!
And so it has, as reported by some of the newly banner-ed Conference churches.
According to Rev. William Burhans of the First Congregational Church In Winchester UCC
, town residents had a spirited discussion about the newly-hung banner on the Winchester Facebook page. While some had concerns that the banner (and a “hate has no home here” sign) might be a political message, overall the comments were positive:
- “I love this sign. It makes me want to be a better person.”
- “I love this! It tells me that just mechanically “going” to church an hour on the weekend is not enough. Instead we need to 'be' the church and live life with these messages. Well done!”
- “I don’t go to the church, but they always have lovely signs that promote a very welcoming environment and their movie night is open to the community.”
- “A wonderful statement of principles.”
Rev. Joan MacPherson of Main Street Congregational Church UCC in Amesbury
had some quick responses to their banner from the community. “A gentleman from the local Quaker meeting came in to talk because of the sign – he really liked it!” she said. “And a woman that I chatted with at a local coffee shop said she took a picture of it and sent it to her friends.”
Cindy Benson, Director of Christian Education at Payson Park Church in Belmont
, said a church member was surprised and delighted to see 'words of social gospel and justice' on their church. Another said she was glad to see the church “wrapped in words of love.”
Rev. Nancy Elder-Wilfrid of United Congregational Church of Worcester
said she hears good feedback too, including on social media. After posting a photo of the banner on her Facebook page, she had this reply from an out-of-state follower: “I’d come to your church if I lived there and saw that sign.” She hopes Worcester residents feel the same! “Clearly, our world needs to know that this is who we are as a church,” she said.
Do you have a good story about your own church's
Be the Church banner? Please share it with us! We will have a drawing from among the stories submitted, and the winning church will receive three free passes to a future Super Saturday AND have their story highlighted in our newsletters! Send your story to Karen Methot no later than Dec. 1. This contest is open to ALL churches displaying a
Be the Church banner outdoors.
Churches shown here: Millis Congregational, top right; Payson Park, lower left. See more photos of banner-winning churches here.
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