Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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. 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 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
Friday, May 7, 2010
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:
Here is a recording of the Stone Ringers playing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" from December 2008:
You can listen to the Stone Ringers playing Friendly Beasts on our new hand chimes Dec. 13, 2009:
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:
For Holy Week 2010 the Senior Choir presented Pepper Choplin's cantata "We Were There." You can hear an excerpt here:
Come to our 9:30 AM Sunday worship and enjoy the music!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
In December of 2007 the Stone Church wanted to give a Christmas gift to the community. The Live Nativity was that gift. Our attempt to recreate the sights, sounds and even the smells of Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth was well received. Perhaps the best review came from a child who said to his mother as they were leaving, "I saw Jesus!"
The Live Nativity returned in 2008 despite frigid cold and high wind. Even with the disagreeable weather, more than 600 people visited our village. Our hope is that they all saw something of the wonderful gift of God in the birth of Jesus that night.
Live Nativity December 6, 2009
More than 500 people visited our 2009 depiction of Bethlehem! It was chilly, but with calm winds. It was a beautiful night!
The Enterprise covered our Live Nativity:
Raynham Church Recreates Bethlehem