Two local churches share a joint Holy Week service

MIDDLEBURY — Two local Christian denominations that normally worship separately will come together in a shared religious service this Thursday.
For the 10th year, members of the Middlebury United Methodist Church and members of the Congregational Church of Middlebury will gather together at the Methodist church sanctuary off Seminary Street for a combined Maundy Thursday service.
Ann Rowell, a member of the Middlebury United Methodist Church for more than 11 years and a member of the communications committee, said coming together for a shared service during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, isn’t really that much of a stretch.
“Congregational Church members and Methodists aren’t that far apart in terms of liturgy,” she said.
And there are other services that involve people of different faiths this week, as well. On Good Friday at noon St. Stephens Church on the green in Middlebury will host an ecumenical service, and the public is invited to a public service on Middlebury College’s Youngman Field at 6 a.m. on Easter Sunday.
But the Methodist-Congregational Maundy Thursday service does have unique roots. It came about a decade ago when the Congregational church was restoring its sanctuary. Members of that church shared the sanctuary at the Methodist church from January through May of that year.
“We were sharing facilities, they met 9 a.m. and we met at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings at that time,” Rowell said.
When the two congregations finally celebrated together on that Maundy Thursday, they found they liked it.
“The uniqueness of this is how it developed,” Rowell said. “It was very meaningful to finally come together in a joint service.”
This year’s service is special not only for it being the 10th anniversary, but because it marks an important first and an important last. This is the first time the Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson, who became pastor of the Congregational church in the fall of 2009, will be one of the celebrants for the service at the Methodist church.
This Thursday’s service also marks the last Maundy Thursday at the Middlebury United Methodist Church for pastor Jill Colley Robinson, who announced on April 3 that she will be leaving her position in Middlebury at the end of June.
Anyone who wants to attend the service this Thursday at 7 p.m. will be welcome, Rowell said. The service on Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, is part of the culmination of Lent and commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.
“It’s a very meditative, quiet service in the middle of a busy time,” Rowell said. “This is a moment of time to stop and remember significant events in the history of the church.”

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