GREENFIELD — As congregants from Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church crossed the bridge from Turners Falls, the police escort changed hands: Montague police to Greenfield police.
In a long procession of cars, the congregants would pull into the Federal Street School, where they were greeted by a bagpipe player and a group of open-armed congregants from Saint James Episcopal Church.
Sunday’s ceremony marked the merger of Saint Andrew’s and Saint James’ Episcopal churches. Some members of the Turners Falls community had been attending their church since its construction in 1921, but nearly a century later, in an effort to re-energize its churchgoers and the community at-large amid falling membership, the two churches have come together to form one congregation in Greenfield.
“We were excited to do this but we also felt the leaving home sort of thing,” said Diane Kurkulonis, a part of the transition team and longtime St. Andrew’s member. “Now that we’re here and the day has come — the weight has been lifted.”
More than 100 people from the two churches gathered Sunday morning for a joint service. The pews in the Federal Street church were filled to the back rows with everyone from young families to elderly couples. Joining them were representatives from the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, the Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield and the Rev. Pamela J. Mott, the Canon to the Ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
“It was a sign of the possibility that we knew was there and we got to see in action,” the Rev. Heather Blais said after the services.
After the Greenfield congregation welcomed the Montague community with hymns of hallelujah, with some members showing tears, Blais provided a brief sermon for the gathered group.
The reverend spoke of the joining of the two churches similarly to that of a marriage of two families or that of the widow and the widower, learning how to function as one: What toilet paper to use and where will the coffee maker go?
“There will be unanticipated bumps and we are going to have to work them out as we live together,” Blais said.
“I assure you I have never felt more joyful, more hopeful for our future than I do today,” Blais preached. “I never felt more respect and admiration for your faith for doing something so courageous.”
The Rev. Molly Scherm of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church described the day as a “fresh start,” though she acknowledged the mixed feelings headed into the merger.
“There’s some sadness among the Turners folks of leaving a sacred space,” Scherm said. “There were 80-year-olds who were baptized there. But I think everyone is ready for the change.”
As the building in Turners Falls is being sold, it is still slated to hold community events. Sunday services will now take place in the Greenfield church, at 8 and 10 a.m. The two churches, now one, see this as an opportunity to help build community.
“This is a chance for us to combine our person-power so that we can continue to reach out to the community, in Greenfield, in Turners Falls and in Franklin County,” said Fred Momaney, part of the transition team and a Greenfield church-goer.
He added, “There’s anxiety of how the change is going to be perceived but today, it was a glorious day.”
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Joshua Solomon at:
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