Focusing on meeting the needs in our communities . . .
Two years ago, we celebrated our 275th anniversary as a worshiping community of faith operating from the same hillside site. We looked at where we came from and how we got where we are. This past year, we turned to look at where God is leading us. The central insight of the past year has been that there are things we can do with the cooperation of another, nearby congregation that we just couldn’t do on our own.
Community UCC, located in the neighboring community of St. Lawrence, was born out of the dissolution of the Schwarzwald Union Church back in the early 1950’s. As we celebrated our 275th anniversary, we invited them to participate in one of our joint worship services. In response to that event, the same question was raised in both congregations; “Why are two congregations of the same nomination, located less than 3 miles from each other, trying to go it alone? What could we do, together, that would enhance the ministries of both?” Out these questions was born our “Partnership in Ministry” with Community UCC. Even before we could put the structures of our partnership down on paper, groups within both churches were reaching out, inviting cooperative participation in each other’s activities. The possibilities just seemed to explode into existence.
The “Partnership” was approved at the Annual Congregational Meetings of both churches. A “Ministries Council” was established with five members from each church, and the council began searching for more ways in which the two congregations could work together, cooperatively.
For our church, the Partnership has meant the re-establishment of some efforts which had been allowed to die due to a lack of support and participation. By working together, we re-established the “critical mass” necessary to complete these projects.
This past year, we have developed a combined Confirmation Class. In recognition that we join not only a local congregation but the universal church of Jesus Christ, we will have two ceremonies for confirmation. One recognizing the confirmands’ infant baptisms and thus joining the universal church, and another service with their own congregation recognizing that they’re becoming members of their local church.
Maybe the most exciting and enjoyable joint effort was our combined Church Picnic. Our participants exceeded our best estimates. We ran out and bought more food and barely got everyone under the picnic shelter for worship. The event was also unique in that Schwarzwald celebrated an infant baptism witnessed by both congregations. The two pastors presented a dialogue sermon identifying some of the possibilities we each saw God placing before both churches, individually and cooperatively.
This year, as we continue to look forward, the Ministries Council is focusing on outreach ministries and the needs of the people of the communities we are serving. Our “in house” cooperative efforts are well established, and with the strength we have gained, we now seek to serve others as well as our own members. From the beginning, these efforts have been generated and sustained by the prayers of many.