—2 Corinthians 4:16
This is one of the great reveals of the Bible, that God is a God of new beginnings, continually renewing creation and faithfully reviving and revivifying our lives therein. There are so many stories where a final ending seems to have come: a barren mother or a brother left for dead by his siblings or an enslaved people or a bleeding discarded woman or a man crucified and buried. But always these stories reveal a loving God who is able to make a way out of no way, a new beginning out of what appeared to be a dead end.
So here we are, keepers of these ancient stories of God, receivers of the present promise, at the beginning of a new church year in a time of renewal for the First Congregational Church in Winchester. We ended last year with the death of Rev. Jena Roy, a faithful, beloved member of our congregation. But even as we were saying our goodbyes she left a beautiful gift for our congregation with the hope that we would experience in our very midst a taste of God’s renewal of all things. Jena left us $100,000 for a Music and Worship Arts Fund for the restoration of our Fisk Organ and the renovation of the beautifully sacred but woefully under-utilized space of Ripley Chapel. Jena’s family then invited her friends to give to the fund in her honor and as a result we have already collected another $182,000! Wow. What a gift Jena has left our community with the faith that God’s renewing power is at work among us.
As we enter into this new church year we will begin to dream and work together to bring this energy of renewal to bear upon the physical structure of our organ and our church building for the transformation of our prayer, worship, and community building practices. You are invited to spend some time in Ripley Chapel (now pew-less!) and dream about what’s possible in that space. There has been talk about making it lighter and more open, a more flexible worship space with chairs and cushions instead of pews, with a large window beneath the Mother’s Window that looks out upon the woods and Wedge Pond, with an AV system that will allow for high quality visual and audio experiences, with an air conditioned environment for the comfort of our guests. There has been talk about making it a sacred space that our youth and young families will be drawn to and a space that could also host wider community events. Could “Ripley Chapel” be a venue in its own right for wonderful music and sacred ceremonies and art shows, for dancing and praying and meditation? Who knows what God might do through us in such a space?!
So keep your eyes and ears peeled for the conversations and opportunities that are soon to come for us to dream and work together to be agents of God’s renewal among us in the name of the Risen Son whose Spirit internally renews us day by day.