November & December 2022
Wading River Congregational Church
North Branford Congregational Church
North Branford Congregational Church
Sunday, November 6
I was honored to worship and receive communion with members of Mendota Heights United Church of Christ (#23), a Minnesota congregation new to the NACCC that recently voted for dissolution at the close of 2022. The contemporary sanctuary, with ample natural light, is graced with stunning banners depicting Christian scenes and symbols. These beautiful pieces of art, stitched by two members, are seeking their next church homes. NACCC congregations are invited to adopt them.
While in the Minneapolis area, I shared meals with ministers from Plymouth Congregational Church and First Congregational Church of New Richland and paid a visit to Meetinghouse Church in Edina where I chatted with their senior minister.
Wednesday, November 16
Dessert and conversation with Connecticut’s North Branford Congregational Church (#24), a provisional member church that will be formally received into the NACCC at the annual meeting in June. A trivia contest introduced interesting historical facts. For instance, centuries ago, a call from the pulpit led 60 men to serve as troops under General George Washington.
The congregation was busily preparing for their annual Holly Fair. Members are growing in faith through a weekly discussion of The Chosen television series. The congregation’s ecumenical outreach efforts include volunteering at a local shelter and providing essential items to individuals released from prison. In December, they will host an ecclesiastical council of the vicinage as a step toward ordination of their preacher.
Friday, November 18
The day started with a ferry ride to Long Island, NY to visit Wading River Congregational Church (#25), another provisional member of the NACCC. Friday is one of the days that the thrift shop is open. Donations of clothing and household items make this resource an expansive effort of the church, involving many volunteers from within and beyond the congregation. Over dessert, they reflected on past experiences in youth ministry and their strong presence in the local community. Recently, the congregation updated the meetinghouse to be more accessible to wheelchairs. As a new member congregation, they were eager to learn more about the NACCC.
In recent decades, both new member churches raised up individuals who were called to seminary and ordination.
Blustery winds on the Connecticut shoreline whooshed in the background as I enjoyed apple cake (more sweets – yum!) with the strategic planning team of Stony Creek Congregational Church (#26). Like their neighbors in North Branford, the church was abuzz with preparation for their holiday fair. The two NACCC congregations planned to encourage fair patrons to attend both events held in the vicinity of one another on the same day.
The congregation collects donations to support a local food pantry and supplies for migrant children and their families. A high point of the year is the community Christmas pageant with seven outdoor nativity scenes and live animals. The strategic planning team reflected on how their outreach engages people in various settings, not necessarily on Sunday morning.
Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, New York (#27) hosted a Saturday night gala harvest celebration as one of many special occasions to mark their 175th anniversary. Their storied history includes an identity as the “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad. The Plymouth Hymnal which was the first to include words and music on the same. During the COVID-19 lockdown, members wrote essays about Congregationalism as a means of staying connected and compiled them into a book, Fifty Pandemic Blessings.
After extensive commentary on the apple pie baking contest submissions and dancing into the evening, members returned for breakfast and conversation on Sunday morning. Living history is a vital expression of ministry for Plymouth. Their Underground Thrift store shares its proceeds with organizations that fight human trafficking.
At the worship service that followed, I was honored to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Plymouth at the pulpit where I had served as a seminary intern from 1988-91. My journey to ordination as a CFTS fellow was shaped by Plymouth, a church that is now part of my Listening Tour through the NACCC.
December 4, 2022
December 4 marked the completion of Listening Tour stops for 2022 with worship at the Methodist Congregational Federated Church of Demorest, Georgia (#28), where I have been a member since 1999. The Rev. Joyce Acree presented me with newspaper clippings celebrating the congregation’s generosity to a local soup kitchen and a free medical clinic. The church, which has close ties to neighboring NACCC-related Piedmont University, was buzzing about the announcement of the new president, Marshall Criser, who begins on January 1, 2023.