East Church is part of the United Church of Christ (UCC). There are 5,287 congregations in the United States, 1,080,199 members.
The UCC is organized into conferences. East Church is part of the Massachusetts Conference.
What Congregationalists Believe
The United Church of Christ embraces a theological heritage that affirms the Bible as the authoritative witness to the Word of God, the creeds of the ecumenical councils, and the confessions of the Reformation. The UCC has roots in the "covenantal" tradition—meaning there is no centralized authority or hierarchy that can impose any doctrine or form of worship on its members. Christ alone is Head of the church. We seek a balance between freedom of conscience and accountability to the apostolic faith. The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of the faith.
We believe in God’s continuing testament. This is why we are committed to hearing God’s ancient story anew and afresh in our lives and in the world today. We try to remain attentive to God’s creative movement in the world. Religion and science are not mutually exclusive, and your head and heart are both welcomed into our places of worship. We prepare our members and leaders to be engaged in ministry in the present and future church, and we embrace all kinds of communities and new modes of thinking. Why? Because God is still speaking,
The Reverend Lauren Holm grew up in Fairfield Connecticut. Since she was a child she felt a strong call to be a pastor but women were not ordained in the Lutheran Church at that time. She chose nursing as her form of ministry and specialized in cancer nursing. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing at Boston University and her master of science in nursing at Boston College. Lauren worked as an oncology nurse in Boston and then as a director of oncology nursing in Detroit, Michigan. She was a senior vice president at the American Cancer Society in Massachusetts for 23 years and worked for eight years at the Mass General Hospital in Boston.
In 2004 she was repeatedly urged by several people who had no connection with each other to consider ordained ministry. She began her studies at Boston University School of Theology while she continued to work full-time. She completed her Lutheran studies commuting each week to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. She received her Master of Divinity degree in 2008, and completed her internship serving as vicar at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church North Quincy and Faith Lutheran Church in Quincy Massachusetts in 2009.
Pastor Lauren was ordainedon September 20, 2009. She was called to serve as pastor for Bethesda Lutheran Church and East Church Congregational and she has dual standing in the ELCA and UCC. She and her husband Jay Cleaveland live in Springfield. They have two grown children, Sarah and Joshua who live in the greater Boston area.
Our worship is supported by organ music. The liturgy is spoken and Holy Communion is celebrated the first Sunday of the month and on Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Maundy Thursday. The United Church of Christ uses the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of scripture readings. For each Sunday and festival, four readings are suggested and include: a Gospel reading, an Old Testament reading, a reading from the Psalms, and a New Testament reading. Each year of the RCL centers on one of the synoptic Gospels (Year A – Matthew, Year B – Mark, Year C – Luke). John is read in each year in the major seasons of Christmas, Lent, and Easter.
The pastor and laypersons lead worship. The cross is the central symbol in our worship space.
We are blessed to have a member who helps amplify the scripture passages in each season using her artistic gifts. Click here to view past artwork.
The worship space is bright and welcoming. Flags of nations flank the worship space proclaiming that all are welcome. Children and families are welcome; you will find rocking chairs behind the last row of pews so a restless child can be quieted rather than removed. Bags of quiet toys are also provided for use by young children during worship. Sometimes a child will need a break during part of the worship service and a wonderful nursery is provided with speakers so that adults can hear the service. A wheelchair lift is located at the entrance to bring those who cannot climb stairs into the worship space.
Seeking spiritual freedom, forbears of the United Church of Christ prepare to leave Europe for the New World. Later generations know them as the Pilgrims. Their pastor, John Robinson, urges them as they depart to keep their minds and hearts open to new ways. God, he says, “hath yet more truth and light to break forth out of his holy Word.
History of East Church
East Church began as a store front Sunday School project in the 1920’s. It was officially founded as a church in 1925 and its first building was built in 1929. Social activities for youth, education for all ages, mission support and worship were conducted and the community house was stretched to accommodate the growing members. Ground was broken in 1956 for a church building which was dedicated in 1957. Ministry flourished for fifty years but as the membership decreased and the aging building required support the congregation re-evaluated their mission and ministry. In 2006 East Church began the process of selling its building and formed a covenant of shared ministry with Bethesda Lutheran Church.
Our commitment to the unity of Christ's church is affirmed by the words of our symbol—"That They May All Be One." (John 17:21). Itself a union of several Christian traditions, the United Church of Christ is actively engaged in ecumenical relationships that seek to heal the broken unity of the Body of Christ.
The division of the church is a result of human sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to work for the day when, as Jesus prayed, "they may all be one." Ecumenical relations help us to learn from the spiritual traditions of other churches. They help us to serve the world more effectively in God's name. They remind us that while we are proud of the diversity of the Protestant traditions that have joined in our united church, there is an even greater diversity in the Body of Christ that can make us whole. The UCC's commitment to reconciliation among the separated branches of the Body of Christ includes our relationships of full communion. Among these relationships are the Ecumenical Partnership between the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Formula of Agreement (FOA) among the UCC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America. Another relationship—which aims eventually to establish full communion among nine Protestant and Anglican churches in the U.S.—is Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC). For the first time, CUIC offers hope that full ecclesial reconciliation will be possible between historically African American and European American churches.
Full communion means that divided churches recognize each others' sacraments and provide for the orderly transfer of ministers from one denomination to another. For example, Disciples of Christ ministers frequently serve UCC congregations, and UCC ministers can be called by Disciples congregations. While full communion opens up broad possibilities for cooperation among the national and regional ministries of participating churches, it is above all in relationships between local congregations that agreements of full communion become alive. Some of these relationships are new; others date back to earlier centuries. In 17th-century Holland, the Pilgrims (who later founded the first Congregational churches in New England) were in full communion with the French and Dutch Reformed churches. We have for decades been in full communion with the worldwide Reformed family through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. In recent years, we have entered into bilateral relationships with the Union of Evangelical Churches (Germany) and the Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa. We are also exploring a closer relationship with the Baptist tradition through dialogue with the Alliance of Baptists.
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Bethesda Lutheran Church East Chruch, Congregational Address: 455 Island Pond Rd. Springfield, MA 01118 Ph: 413-733-4494 Email: Admin@BethesdaSpringfield.org