As your Lead Pastor, I offered a State of the Communion Address at our Annual Meeting last May. In that address I challenged the congregation to begin thinking seriously and strategically about the coming 5 years and what steps we needed to take to be brave and bold in making plans for the future, plans that would deepen our faith and extend our reach out toward the town and beyond. I mentioned 3 areas of consideration:
1. The development of a spirituality and arts center in Ripley Chapel;
2. A commitment to connect our faith to environmental care and justice, while living more sustainably in our big beautiful building; and
3. Hosting a progressively religious after school program based upon the Philly Project that our youth recently experienced. The Leadership Team had a retreat in June and will continue to work on developing a 5-year plan with these and other church initiatives and activities in mind.
Already there is much excitement building around the completion of Ripley Chapel and the opportunities for spiritual growth, community connection, and cultural engagement that the newly renovated space will allow. With a Ripley Program Team in place to support the effort, there will be worship services, concerts, poetry readings, youth events, healing circles, meditation sittings, free community yoga and more. Keep an eye out for a calendar of Ripley offerings, be a part of the teams putting such events together, come enjoy and please invite your friends and neighbors to join us as well. We believe this space will be a blessing for both our church community and the wider town in the coming years. Ripley is already a destination on the newly established Cultural District of Winchester!
There was such wonderful work done by our Facilities Ministry and the Green Congregation Task Force to bring us to Level 1 in the Green Congregation Challenge put forth by our MA Conference of the UCC. We’ve saved money and lessened our carbon footprint by changing all of our lights to LED and many of our switches to motion sensored as well as finally tending to the steam traps in our radiators. We’ve tried to be more conscious of using washable instead of disposable dishes for church events and begun to include in our worship services attention to stewardship of creation. We’ve also begun the conversation around installing solar panels on our church roof. These are all critical steps to deepening ourselves as a community of faith, living sustainably in our building, and being stewards of this land and facility which are ultimately not ours but God’s. Furthermore, this effort of ours connects us to our town, which is working to be carbon neutral by 2050. I encourage you to read in this newsletter Jessica McArdle’s article on next steps for the Green Congregation Task Force and consider how you might take part in this exciting growing greening movement in our community!
Finally, the religious afterschool program idea has been put on hold. A few weeks after our Annual Meeting, word came out from the town that a town-wide program called “Kidsborough” had been developed by the school board and would be piloted this year. We’ll continue to be attentive to how this program meets the needs of the town and if there are other ways our church might be responsive to town families in a way that promotes God’s love here in Winchester. That our town continues to be concerned about the mental health of our children and youth is something that I believe we as a church need to be prayerful about and consider how we might respond.
These initiatives obviously do not stand alone but are deeply rooted and connected to the on-going activities, ministries and needs of the church that involve weekly worship, on-going outreach, fellowship events, youth forum and confirmation, pastoral care, attention to the facility (particularly the restoration of our steeple!) and much more.
May God bless our Leadership Team as they consider all of this and work to develop a 5-year plan for living into our future together. They will need your help, your prayers and your input all along the way so please stay connected and share your passions, concerns and skills as you are able!
Grace and Peace,