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Letter to the editor: Cornwall church to stay the course, with guest ministers

Last year the Addison Independent published an article about the Cornwall Church and the community looking into their future. Much has happened in the ensuing year. Not big and noticeable events, more like the exploration or contemplation within. Now is time to update that article.
It has been a surprising and exciting year for our congregation. We spent much time during the past year or two discussing what we want as a congregation and the future of our church. We had a part-time minister who had been our pastor for several years to lead us through these discussions. The time came for Mary Kay to accept a call to a new church in Michigan. This was a catalyst for us as a community to make some decisions. We had been public about the questions we were facing. Do we continue to hold on to our building? Do we sell it? Do we deed it to other community organizations? Our membership rolls were shrinking. Do we continue as the Cornwall Congregation? Do we join another worship community?
Typically within our denomination when a settled minister leaves, we would seek an interim minister to help guide us through to our next steps. We had another option. We sought the guidance of a minister trained in a process of a small church telling their story. Marjorie MacNeill joined us during last summer and into the fall to facilitate discussions over six Sundays spaced out to allow our intervening weeks for contemplation. Our meetings and discussions prior to Marjorie’s arrival had moved us along in self-examination. In our meetings with Marjorie, she explained that it was clear we had already done much of the work through which she would have led us. But we continued those discussions. Those discussions were difficult. We were talking about a church that was part of the community for more than 200 years and several families who considered this home for many years, decades, generations.
We have acknowledged the realities. Today Vermont competes with New Hampshire for the least churched state. There was a time, a yesteryear, when the church was the center of the community. Other than milking the cows, everything stopped for church attendance. It was not only the center for worship, the church was a center for social activities, along with the Grange and DAR. Folks attended church with their families and their neighbors. I am stating the obvious when I say the world has moved on and the community reflects the changes. More people. Fewer cows. More diversity. Different demands. These changes are not bad, just we have to recognize that we cannot hold on to expectations that relied on a different time. At the same time we remember and can hold cherished those elements of our lives that make us whole. It is just going to look different.
So what does it mean for us the Cornwall Church community. It means we are here to stay and welcome others to join us as you like, whether it is Sunday morning to worship and sing to the fabulous music of Charles Callahan, or sit and eat with us at the March Potato Bar when we raise money for the local Habitat for Humanity, or walk with us in the CROP Walk in October, join us for community outreach projects on the Fifth Sunday of any month, crack the spine of a book for discussion (most recently “All the News of the World” and “Flunking Sainthood,” next “Becoming Michelle Obama”). We continue to maintain our beautiful iconic church building. Will some of what we do now change in the coming years? Probably. But what is true and will continue to be true is that we are a congregation who welcome all to join us. Presently and for the foreseeable future we will not be calling a full- or part-time settled pastor, instead we invite different guest ministers to lead us. Most months we join the Weybridge Church on the first Sunday of the month to celebrate communion with them. Our pastoral care is provided by the Rev. Daniel Cooperrider from the Weybridge Church and members of our church family. That translates to we continue to be open and ready to serve, we are here for those celebrating their lives in marriage, welcome new babies, honor our friends who die, and care for each other and our community in all stages of life and wherever they find themselves on their spiritual and faith journeys.
Pat Mattison
Cornwall Church Council
Whiting

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