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Come as a stranger, leave as a friend

Filing cabinets are good for holding onto stuff. They hold documents and notes and all of those things that smell wonderfully aged…things I’ve been ankle-deep in since I began my position as our Historian. The things I find in our filing cabinets…they’re like timestamps upon yellowing, fragile pages of two-centuries-old (or older) books. They’re echoes from those who inhabited our pews before us, and they provide wonderful and inspiring information about our church that needs to be compiled and shared. Over the next few years, I will endeavor to do just that.

But…history isn’t all about old stuff, right? It’s living and breathing, as I mentioned last month. I asked about your own stories and experiences at MCC, and I’m excited to hear them (you may remain anonymous if you wish)! I’ll put my email after my name below for your convenience. Reach out, and we will spend some time getting your experiences written, because together is the best way to tell the history of our church. Where do we start? Well…how about with our new Pastor?

Pastor Val Seaver took the reins as the new spiritual leader of Marlborough Congregational Church on January 1, 2023. She was voted in unanimously by 100 votes at the Special Meeting held to decide the outcome of her pastoral candidacy at MCC on October 30, 2022. Even more historically significant is the fact that she is the first woman to ever be elected to the position of Pastor at Marlborough Congregational. We are living in, and are contributing to, truly historic times! Never forget: Making history is just as important as observing it.

So I asked Pastor Val a few questions regarding her own experiences at Marlborough Congregational Church. I wanted to know what it is that we have or do which our history will reflect as setting us apart. Or…how are we making history? She responded enthusiastically: “PEOPLE!!! Marlborough is unique in its volume of people. Most churches are losing people and Marlborough was and is so robust and continuing to grow.”

She’s absolutely right. UCC churches are seeing a decline all over the place. According to the United Church of Christ 2021 Statistical Report, the UCC overall reported 773,539 members in 2021, which is down from well over 2 million people when the UCC was founded in 1957. According to that same statistical profile, the average membership number of a given UCC congregation in 2021 was 163.

Where does MCC stand? As of December, 2022, MCC members number 438! Among the UCC, our membership falls in the 4.8% group, which counts UCC churches with members numbering between 401 and 600. Why are we so robust? Well, perhaps it’s as Pastor Val says: “PEOPLE!!!” She remarks “Everyone is very mindful of a new face and are very welcoming. One of the hardest things to do is to walk into a church for the first time…MCC makes it easy.” Come as a stranger, leave as a friend. We say that phrase every week, but it is my experience that we absolutely mean it.

MCC has also been innovative in its mission for outreach and care of the community at large. Pastor Val mentioned the Drive Thru Cafe, Hebron Harvest Fest, Apple Fest, the Tag Sales, and the Thrift shop as aspects of outreach and community engagement that she has witnessed MCC doing particularly (and consistently) well. Looking back into MCC’s history, the events and outreach we have engaged in, and continue to engage in, are only possible because of those who give of their time. From the testimonials and enthusiasm shared weekly at MCC during Joys, it’s very easy to see that our story will continue to include so many wonderful examples of  this church giving back, and so generously at that! Pastor Val had this to say about volunteers at MCC: “I love to volunteer with members, and I am always blown away by their commitment to helping the church. I literally step back sometimes and just look…it fills my heart. Volunteering with members is one of my most favorite things to do…it is the US at our very best.”

            Speaking of history and telling our story…I asked Pastor Val what she thought might be a good way to celebrate our history over time. We DO celebrate some portions of our history through special days, whether through tradition or on days like Pilgrim Sunday, but those represent only tiny threads in our tapestry. So aside from displaying photos, items, and documents, where might we share some of the amazing history? Pastor Val suggests: “I think the best way to celebrate our history is to have more pot luck dinners!!! We have wonderful cooks in our church and I think we could use the time to have history programs to educate all of us about the history of the church and also the history of the world at that time.”

            Whether it’s through food, fellowship, or whatever other exciting events MCC comes up with in the future, I have no doubt that Pastor Val will be invested in incorporating Marlborough Congregational’s history into the life of the church. As she looks ahead, Pastor Val has an understanding that it isn’t just the future that she will need to be a steward for: “I am looking forward to digging through the archives and learning some of the fun details of our church history, I think there will be some good sermon material in there!” Amen, Pastor Val…and with such an incredible wealth of historical material present at our church already, you might not even have to repeat yourself.

Hey, I’m history!

Steve Pozzato Email: History@marlcongchurch.org

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