About Our Church

Raynham, Massachusetts, United States
The First Congregational Church of Raynham, UCC, better known as the Stone Church, was founded in 1731. We can be reached at: stonechurchraynham@gmail.com 508-822-6177 We are located at 785 South Main St., which is Route 104 in Raynham. We are at the corner with the flashing light. Sunday Worship Services are held at 9:30 AM.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Current Announcements

Advent and Christmas 2014

Christmas Cantata Dec. 21

The Jubilation Choir will present a Christmas Cantata entitled “Morning Star” on Sunday, December 21 during the 9:30 AM service. The cantata will be repeated at 7:00 PM to make it more accessible to people in the community.

 Christmas Eve 
Candlelight Services 7:00 PM Family Service 11:00 PM Communion Service Sunday Vesper Service January 4 
A Celebration of Epiphany We will hold an evening worship service on Sunday January 4, beginning at 6:00 PM with a light supper of soup. This will be followed by a worship service, focusing on the Epiphany, the revelation of God to the world as told in the story of the Magi or Three Kings. Come join us!

   Ecumenical  Lenten Services 2014

The Greater Taunton Clergy Association follows a long tradition with  Ecumenical services on Thursday evenings during Lent.  The service are held in a different church each week, with the preacher coming from another area church. The public is cordially invited to attend these services as we make our Spiritual journey through the season of Lent.

The evening begins with a pot luck supper at 6:30pm.  Those attending are asked to bring a dish to share as well as their own place setting. The service is held at 7:30 PM.  An offering will be received at each service to benefit the work of Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and the St Francis Samartian House Shelter.

Date       Host Church         Preachers

March 6 West Congregational Church Rev Raefield Perteet
415 Winthrop St. Taunton   Rev. Christana Wille McKnight

March 13      Pilgrim Congregational Church          Rabbi Anne Heath
 45 Broadway, Taunton

March 20      Union Congregational Church          Rev .Walker Farrar
265 W Britannia St. Taunton

March 27      Antioch Ch @ Memorial Methodist    Rev .Fr. Lenny  Nelson
 176 Somerset Avenue Taunton

April 3 Liberty Christian Center        Bishop Michael Lunsford
159 Winthrop St.Taunton

April 10    First Congregational Church of Raynham      Rev. James Tilbe
785 South Main St. Raynham  - Remembrance of the Boston Marathon Bombing

An Ecumenical  Good Friday Service will be held at St Thomas Episcol Church on April 18 from Noon-1:00 PM followed by a light lunch of clam chowder and hot cross buns. Pastor Greg Wheaton will be the preacher.

Keeping the Faith Campaign Begins!

With the vote of the congregation on September 22 authorizing this fund raising campaign, we are ready to start! This will be a quick program, with our pledge collection period ending with a celebration on Sunday, October 20. The goal is to raise $200,000 to provide funding for needed renovations and repairs including:
Renovations at the Rogers House
New Organ
Replace old furnace at the church
Parking lot crack repair and sealing
Repairs to fire sprinkler system
The campaign also seeks money to reduce the debt the church owes from building our addition. The concern is that this debt could cripple to yearly church budget.

Kick Off Brunch
You are invited to the Campaign Kick Off Brunch after worship on Sunday, October 6. We will share an Italian buffet as we begin the process of collecting pledges for the work we need to do together as a church. The brunch is free, but we need to know how many people to expect. So call the church at 508-822-6177 or email stonechurchraynham@gmail.com to let us know if you are coming! And don’t worry, the brunch will be over before the Patriot’s game!

We hope that every member and friend of the church will help make this campaign a success by pledging what you can. You will be contacted, either in person or by mail, to give you an opportunity to pledge. We hope to have the pledges back by October 20. This gift can be paid all at once or spread over a three year time period. The option of automatic pledge payments from your checking account will also be available for your convenience. Think of this, if 100 people gave just $2 per day, the church would exceed the $200,000 goal of the campaign!

Celebration Sunday
We plan to gather again over brunch on Sunday, October 20 to celebrate the pledges received for the “Keeping the Faith” campaign. Please join us!

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This sermon was preached the Sunday after the terrorist bombings of the Boston Marathon on April 15.  Our prayers are with all who were affected by this tragedy!

A Sermon by Rev. James A. Tilbe   Preached  April 21, 2013
Psalm 23  "Not Just For Funerals"

I decided to skip dessert on Thursday evening.  I probably should do that more often.  It was a particularly good decision three days ago.  I went to Boston as part of a Red Cross spiritual care team to attend a service of the Old South Church.  It was a very moving service of remembrance and healing.  And it was good to be there to support a congregation that had been through a terrible time, since the church is located just a stone’s throw from the scene of the Marathon bombing.  After the service I went to supper with one of the other Red Cross volunteers.  I offered to drive him to his hotel so he wouldn’t have to get a cab.  We drove through part of the MIT campus, I dropped him off and left Cambridge at 10 PM.  About 20 minutes later gunshots were reported in an area I had passed 2 blocks away from as MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was gunned down by the terrorists who had attacked the Boston Marathon.  Twenty minutes. Two blocks. Much too close for comfort.  If we had taken time for dessert, we might have been in the middle of it.  Of course I had no idea that something was about to happen there and didn’t realize how close I had come to the terrorists until later that night, as I was glued to the television coverage of the manhunt and the gun battle that occurred in Watertown.

The last week has been one terrible journey.  We have been shocked, frightened, disgusted, angered, moved to tears and sorrow.  There was a moment of triumph when the second terrorist was captured on Friday.  But the fact remains that there is a lot of anguish and sorrow to work through.  Nearly 200 people were injured, many of them will suffer from their wounds for the rest of their lives.  And for those who were witnesses, it is something that is seared into their brains.  Even those who only saw it on TV, and we saw the explosions again and again and again, will carry those images forever.  As someone once said, “You can’t unsee what you have seen.  You can’t unhear what you have heard.”

Still, Boston as a city, Massachusetts as a state and the nation as a whole are determined to move forward, to carry on.  As Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church said at the prayer service Thursday, “We are shaken, but not forsaken.”  As we have made our way through this week there have been times when we have literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

I read the Twenty Third Psalm at time after time, year after year.  I read the Twenty Third Psalm at each funeral.  People expect it.  However, when I preach on the Twenty Third Psalm at any other time, someone is bound to say, “I thought that was just for funerals.”

Actually, the Twenty Third Psalm is a wonderful affirmation of faith.  It speaks about our relationship to God and the goodness of God toward us.  It speaks to our everyday living of life, not just the end of earthly life.  The Psalm speaks about the way God cares for us, just as a shepherd cares for the sheep.  The shepherd offers guidance.  The shepherd gives protection.  And  the shepherd ultimate leads the sheep to safety.  That is what our God does for us.  God gives guidance, leading us along the way of life, finding refreshment in the cool pools of God’s grace, leading us with God’s mercy.  God watches over us, night and day.  And ultimately God leads us to the heavenly pasture, where no harm can ever come to us, no pain can ever afflict us and no sorrow can burden us.

But along the way there are difficult times.  The psalmist knows that and acknowledges this.  It’s not “If I walk in the valley of the shadow of death” but instead “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.  The assumption is that this is a valley we all must face.  We face it in times of danger.  We face it in times of sickness and injury.  We face it when those we love have died.  We face it when our own lives have run their course.  We cannot avoid the valley of shadows, but we are never alone.  God is with us.  We are not abandoned.  Jesus walks with us, leading us through that valley, to a place of light and peace.

When lions hunt on the African plains, they usually hunt in groups.  They send the oldest male lion out to one end of the clearing, while the younger lions wait at the opposite end.  The old lion is lame and tired.  He cannot run any more.  But he can roar.  As he lets out his loudest, scariest roar, the deer or gazelles in the clearing panic.  They run away from that awful sound.  They run right into the jaws of the other lions waiting for them at the opposite end of the clearing.  If somehow they were able to understand this, and run toward the roar, they would be safe.  But in running away they are doomed.

The Twenty Third Psalm is about turning toward life, the good and the bad, the happy and the scary.  It’s about running toward the roar.  The psalmist affirms that God’s goodness is with us, even when we have to face the unimaginable.

The rest of the Twenty Third Psalm speaks about the gifts of God, adding detail to the wonder of God’s extravagant goodness.  God promises rest for our weary souls, refreshment beside still waters, protection in the times we must walk through the dark valleys of life, comfort in God’s constant presence.  And best of all, God promises a home that will last for eternity: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  It is possible to go on and on.  The wonder of this Psalm is that all these promises are described in a few short lines.

While God has given such great gifts, when God has made such promises to us, there is a response that is necessary on our part.  The response is gratitude.

In his book on the Twenty Third Psalm, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote about a friend who began writing the words “Thank you” on memo line of checks.  These words of thanks appeared on every single check.  The utility company was thanked for providing light and power.  The fuel company was thanked for providing warmth.  The insurance company was thanked for providing peace of mind.  The words “Thank you” even appeared on tax checks!  And why not?  Government provides vital needs like education and protection.  The outpouring of gratitude toward the police and military units who came to protect the citizens was heart warming.  At one point last week I saw hundreds of National Guard soldiers lined up at Boston Common.  I wanted to go through the line and thank each one for being there.

I haven’t brought myself to writing “thank you” on all my checks.  But I have become aware of the need to thank the real giver of every good and perfect gift.  Would it be too much to give thanks for every meal we eat?  Would it be too much to give thanks as the grass begins to grow and the leaves begin to appear on the trees again?  Would it be too much to give thanks each morning for the beginning of a new day, a new opportunity?  Would it be too much to thank God for getting us through such a terrifying week?  Of course not, but the habit of giving thanks is one that must be cultivated and practiced.  It is one habit we should all strive to take up.

The simple words of the Twenty Third Psalm, written long ago, express the greatest truths.  "The Lord is my shepherd" is a great affirmation of faith in the God who provides for us just as a shepherd provides for the flock.  It may be the greatest affirmation of faith even written. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Welcome to the Stone Church blog!

Who Are We?
First, we are Christians. We believe that God’s love for us is most clearly shown in Jesus Christ our savior. We remember his sacrificial death on the cross and celebrate his resurrection from the dead. We affirm the Trinity. We believe in the God of creation, that God came among us in Jesus Christ, and that God’s presence is still among us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, we are Protestants. We believe in the central place of scripture for our faith and practice. We look to scripture prayerfully and thoughtfully, interpreting the ancient texts for today’s challenges.

Third, we are from the Congregational tradition. We believe that God speaks to all of us, if we choose to listen. That means that each person should have a voice in the life of the church. The decisions of the church are not made by a hierarchy, but by the people. The policies of the church are formed by meetings of the church members and by the committees of the church, which include the Deacons, the Trustees, the Christian Education Committee, the Mission and Outreach Committee, and the Church Council.

Fourth, we are a diverse people. We come from varied backgrounds. We also have different religious roots, with a good number coming from the Roman Catholic tradition. There is strength in our diversity as we serve together.


Our Sunday morning worship is held at 9:30 AM year-round. The sacrament of Communion is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month. Our Communion Table is open to all that seek to follow Jesus. We receive Communion by the intinction method, in which each worshiper dips a piece of the bread into the cup and consumes both together. Special worship services are held for Maundy Thursday, Easter Sunrise and Christmas Eve.

On Sunday mornings, families begin by worshipping together in our sanctuary. After the Children’s Story the children are dismissed to their Sunday School classes. Nursery care is available during Sunday morning worship services.

Baptisms are usually held during the Sunday morning worship service.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

History of Our Church

The Third Meeting House

History of Our Church

The First Congregational Church of Raynham is commonly known as The Stone Church because of its field stone exterior. However, the church had a long history before the current building was completed in 1915!

Our history reaches back in to the great history of the Christian Church, along the branch of the Protestant Reformation that is best known by the Pilgrims who settled at Plymouth in 1620. These people, along with those who settled around Boston a decade later, were called Puritans because of a desire to purify the Church of England, which had been their “Mother Church”. Settling in New England, they endured great difficulties, but also began to prosper. These Puritans began to spread across Massachusetts, founding new towns in the wilderness.

The area now known as Raynham was once a part of Taunton, which was settled beginning in 1637. The Iron Forge, established by the Leonard family in 1652, provided employment in this region for over two centuries. The people who lived in this area considered the journey to Church Green in Taunton for Sunday worship services too long and in 1727 they petitioned to have their own church closer to home. That petition was rejected. Persistence on their part paid off since in 1731 they were granted permission to form a separate town and instructed to provide for a church and a school teacher. The church was officially established on October 19, 1731 and Rev. John Wales was ordained as its first Pastor the next day.

The first church building (known as the Meeting House in the old days) was located along Richmond Street, not far from the Iron Forge. In the 1760’s this was replaced by a new building on the present lot at Raynham Center. This church was originally built without a steeple, which was added some years later. When the church people decided to replace the second building in the 1830’s, the town expressed an interest in the old building. However, some of the church people wanted no part of that plan. Late one night they detached the steeple from the building and dropped it to the ground. The town protested, but did not block the demolition of the remainder of the building.

The third Meeting House stood on the corner in Raynham Center until July 22, 1913. On that day a fire in a shed belonging to a nearby blacksmith shop spread from building to building. The church was completely destroyed. The people of the church were determined to rebuild, but decided that a stone exterior might provide better fire protection. The Stone Church was dedicated on April 1, 1915. Over the years a few major changes have been made. The original flat roof on the steeple created a water problem that was corrected when the peak was added in 1938. The people of the church dug out the cellar of the church and hand poured a concrete floor to provide Sunday School space. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1965, forming the present “split chancel.”

A very successful capital campaign that ran from 1997 to 2000 provided for more improvements, including an expanded parking lot.

The church, like many others, experienced ups and downs throughout its history. Early on in the church history it received a flood of new members as the Great Awakening stirred religious sentiment across New England. Two centuries later, during the Great Depression, the church considered closing, but voted to carry on. Today the church is a healthy, vibrant community of believers.

Finding itself cramped for space, the congregation began construction of an addition in late 2006 on the back part of the present building. This addition was dedicated in September of 2007. The addition features a large fellowship hall, a new kitchen, new office space, handicap accessible restrooms upstairs and down, a new nursery and a lift that provides access for those who have difficulty with stairs.

Our church history was covered in much more detail in the book If These Stones Could Speak published by the church in 1994. Copies are still available from the church.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our Church Building

The "Stone Church" in 2001

A winter view of the church

Construction in early 2007

Our New Addition 2007

Friday, May 7, 2010

Music at the Stone Church

Music has always been an important part of worship and the life of the church. So it's not a surprise that music is a very important part of the life of the First Congregational Church of Raynham. Our congregation loves to sing, accompanied by Mike Conrad on the organ, who also accompanies our choirs.

We have three choirs at First Congregational Church:

The Senior Choir, an adult choir, performs most Sundays and also performs a cantata at Christmas time and on Palm Sunday. This choir is directed by Carolyn Conrad.

The Stone Church Ringers, our bell choir, adds beauty to our worship about once a month. This talented group has given several special concerts and is also directed by Carolyn Conrad.

The Junior Choir, our children's choir, sings once about once a month from September through May under the direction of Judy Niles.

During the Advent Season we present special musical events on Sunday evenings.

One of the musical highlights of the year is the Stone Church Summer Concert Series. These concerts, held on Wednesday evenings, feature eclectic musical presentations that range from classical to jazz and folk. These concerts are supported in part by a grant from the Raynham Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

You can hear our Senior Choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah from December 2008:
  • Hallelujah Chorus

  • Here is a recording of the Stone Ringers playing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" from December 2008:
  • All Hail the Power

  • You can listen to the Stone Ringers playing Friendly Beasts on our new hand chimes Dec. 13, 2009:
  • Friendly Beasts

  • Christmas Cantata 2009
    After being snowed out on Dec. 20, The First Congregational Church Choir presented Joseph Martin's Christmas Cantata "The Mystery and the Majesty" on Dec. 27.
    You can listen to one of the songs from the Cantata here:
  • Advent Jubilation

  • For Holy Week 2010 the Senior Choir presented Pepper Choplin's cantata "We Were There." You can hear an excerpt here:
  • We Were There

  • Come to our 9:30 AM Sunday worship and enjoy the music!