Florence Congregational Church
Saturday, July 11, 2020
A Place to Connect

July News from the Pastor

Graduation finally!


            As I write this article I prepare to journey north to Bangor Maine.  Finally, after three years in the trenches, I will receive my Doctor of Ministry degree—a study approved and blessed by the Cabinet three years ago at the May 2010 monthly meeting.  Reflecting back on that meeting, it has truly been a blessing of discovery and nurture.  This study has been influenced and encouraged by many people including two support teams: the Florence Congregational Church Site Team and the Bangor Theological Seminary Cohort group (my nine classmates), and three church bodies including members of the Florence Congregational Church, the Rockland Congregational Church, and Warren Second Congregational Church.  The degree study culminated with the submittal of the D.Min. Project Report by Bangor Theological Seminary in May of this year.  Two seminary professors reviewed the Project Report and deemed the project complete and satisfactory.  I am very grateful to Doug Loux who has generously donated countless hours to editing the monthly five to seven page essays, a short twenty-page project report, a fifty-page project report, and the last D.Min Project Report of one hundred fifty pages.  A copy of this report is available for members to read.  I am deeply appreciative to all who supported this effort and hope the effort brings great reward to the ministry we have been called to as members of the Florence Congregational Church. 


            You may recall some of the particulars of the D. Min program from my newsletter article three years ago.  “The main goal of the study is to provide an opportunity for the pastor and church to work together on a project, which will benefit the church, God’s kingdom, community, and pastor.  What follows is a portion of my application essay describing my initial thoughts for a church project…


            My hope is multi-fold.  I am looking for some new energy and creativity.  Call it recharging the batteries, renewal, refreshment, or rejuvenation.  I am interested in theological dialogue with students under the guidance of professional facilitators.  Secondly, I hope that a focused D-Min study will present an opportunity to engage and empower the membership of Florence Congregational Church to serve the Kingdom of God in new creative and visionary ways…


            My growing need to find renewal includes a desire to engage in a process of discovery and exploration with the church.  I believe that the cultural changes observed here in Northampton are but a microcosm of social changes occurring all over the United States.  I also believe that we must begin anew to ask questions, seek answers, and make changes that offer transformation (aided by the power of the Holy Spirit).  Where does (will) the Christian church fit within the future emerging world?  Within the diversity of Northampton?  Within the college population?  In particular, will the “mainline” Christian Church respond to the needs of today’s young people?  Does a “traditional” church offer opportunities to worship for those immersed in today’s digital world?  How can we present the Gospel without “dumbing it down”, and without gimmicky marketing?  How can we draw young people into the church? What can we do today to meet the needs of people moving into the future, while honoring the traditions and work of those of the past?  Will Florence Congregational survive as a traditional mainline protestant church in the ever-changing demographics of Northampton?  Is there a potential “niche” that would attract a diverse population to the church? 


            I began to contemplate the unique history of FCC, especially the diverse theology of its founding members.  Could the fact that nine different traditions were represented in the 26 original members be useful in developing new creative ministries today?  Maybe the seeds of the past, planted anew, will bear fruit to present and future generations.  Maybe some of the old ways will die (as a seed does), to allow something new to sprout and grow the Kingdom of God in a new and beautiful way.  Finally, perhaps this journey will bring renewal while transforming my theology yet some more–with some “old” adopted theological beliefs and attitudes dying to nurture new theological perspectives.”


            The church Site Team wrestled, conversed, debated, and prayed over many of these questions.  Our predispositions, biases, and long learned ways of doing things were challenged.  We read several books together, drew together at Lucille Temple’s cabin in Ashfield for a Sunday afternoon retreat, traveled to Mont Marie in Holyoke to share time on a spiritual walk on a labyrinth, and spent time traveling with the magi at a Christmas retreat at Genesis Conference Center in Westfield in December.  The team shared hours of time together talking, reflecting, and wrestling with new ideas.  We squirmed a little as we dug deeper theologically evaluating scripture and its significance in today’s world and context. 


            We did not find answers to all the questions noted above, however, we did learn a lot about who we are and aren’t.  We also discovered and have recommended that we need to look at how we portray and engage ourselves as the Florence Congregational Church in the ever-changing community of Florence within Northampton.  In an effort to continue this work, Moderator Phyllis Maggiolino proposed two ad hoc task teams be formed at the May Annual Meeting: the Asset and Finance team, and the Vision/Mission team.  These groups of five each are actively engaged in the tasks and give reports at the Cabinet each month.  We welcome your thoughts, insights and help. 




      Pastor Irv

Florence Congregational Church • 130 Pine Street, Florence, Massachusetts 01062 • 413.584.1325


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