We are graced by members who work tirelessly for the continuation and success of over twenty-three different projects and programs. The current members of the Outreach Ministry Team are: Benni McComish ’16 (ends June), Beth Davis ’17, Sherwood Guernsey ’17, Phil Smith ’17, Judy Wright ’18*, Ann Clark ’18, Peter Lugthart ’18, Colin Williams ’18, Julie, McDonald ’19, Tenley Smith ‘19. The efforts supported by the Outreach Ministry Team range from very local efforts, such as the Shawl ministry and Meals-on-Wheels, to international missions in the Sudan and Haiti. Both through support providing the space in our building, and through grants decided by the Outreach Ministry Team, First Church is able to play a crucial role for many non-profits. Here is a list of the many projects that we have supported recently:
- ABC House Clothing Sale*
- Berkshire Food Pantry
- Berkshire Food Project
- Berkshire Mediation
- Contribution for Ethiopian girl (Sara) — Sunday School project
- Equus Therapeutic
- Family Life Support Center — Louison House
- Hearts with Haiti
- Higher Ground*
- In My Backyard
- Local Teens — JavaJive/J café
- Meals on Wheels
- Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation
- Sudan Relief Task Force
- Turner House Veteran’s Home
* These groups as well as HooRWA, and Counseling Center of the Berkshires, are our Mission Partners, located within our building helping us to maintain this local landmark.
Within the church there are also projects that also impact both local and international needs:
Alternative Gift Fair
The Williams College Students for Social Justice at Williams College organize an Alternative Gift Fair held on the Saturday of the town’s Holiday Walk weekend, in the church sanctuary. This annual event brings together people who sell items such as cloth bags from Guatemala, Sudanese Lentil Soup Mix, jewelry from different parts of the globe, and fair-trade chocolate, coffee and tea. Holding this event on the Holiday Walk weekend gives them access to local people who are trying to find special gifts for their loved ones.
An organizer from First Church collects tags from the Salvation Army and Louison House to decorate the church’s christmas tree in the vestibule. Many people in the church participate in this effort, including some who need help from an “acquisition angel” to get their shopping done. The tree’s location in the vestibule allows community members, who are passing through to also participate.
As a member of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, First Church sends delegates to events both in our neighborhood, our conference, and the wider UCC. In 2011 we were pleased to send a group to the national UCC Synod in Florida.
“A Helping Hand for Helping Hands” (aka Helping Hands) provided grants to executives, staff members and other representatives from not-for-profit human service agencies that serve Northern Berkshire County. Grants were awarded to upgrade their ability to “meet human needs and alleviate suffering.” Helping Hands grants have enabled many individuals to receive training despite severe cuts for continuing education in budgets of area non-profits. Recent awards have gone to Target Hunger-North Berkshire, UNITY, Northern Berkshire Neighbors, Williamstown Council on Aging, Interfaith Response Coordinator (which eventually became Higher Ground), and Williamstown Community PreSchool. In 2012 it was decided that these grants could now be considered as part of our regular Outreach processes. Contact the Outreach Ministry Team for more information!
Shawl Ministry Report:
Approximately ten First Church women knit shawls for the “Knitting into the Mystery” work. The shawls are knitted with love and filled with prayers of healing, peace, thanks, and celebration. Happily enough, this quiet mission provides warmth to the knitter and the receiver. Usually five meetings are held annually to gather-in the shawls, create a list of recipients, conduct the Pass and Pray circle and offer the shawls for dedication at occasional church services throughout the year. From time to time generous donations of enough yarn for one shawl of a single color are accepted. New knitters are always welcome. The Shawl Ministry Team recently led our church’s participation in the UCC’s Rainbow Scarf Project. This national project to bring the issue of bullying of LGBT youth collected and distributed 10,000 rainbow colored scarves to those who attended UCC’s National Synod. First Church was delighted to send 47 of those scarves for this effort!
Communications Task Force
Occasionally throughout the year there are opportunities presented to First Church to advertise in local newspaper supplements. Given the changing landscape of media in our time, it has been decided that some group at First Church should be attending to the reasons for advertising, and the best methods to achieve success. Are we using our website to reach out to the community? Do we need to purchase advertising with our limited resources? Can we use social media better for these purposes? These are all questions that need to be discussed, and a plan to pursue the end goals needs to be followed. This is the job of the Communications Task Force.