October 30, 2014
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Then and Now
Hillsgrove Methodist Church reaching out
Terry D'Amato Spencer

Hillsgrove United Methodist Church on Kilvert St. moves on with increased vigor in the 21st century. Much of the success is 4:30 due to the fact that it has been blessed with a number of dynamic and caring pastors. In 1991 the Rev. Kenneth Miner, who had succeeded Dr. Darrell L. Walton as pastor, went to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. His successor was the Rev. Edwin Jones of South Africa, who while studying in the United States attended the Southern New England Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1991. He made such a favorable impression on Bishop Herbert Skeete at that time that the bishop invited Rev. Jones to become pastor at Hillsgrove.

Rev. Jones’ tenure as pastor brought the church to new heights of awareness of the Methodist movement in other areas of the world. In 1995 Rev. Jones took a group from Hillsgrove and other southern New England Methodist churches to visit South Africa. This resulted in the development of friendships that continue to grow to the present time. During the Christmas season in 1997, a group of 22 South Africans came to Warwick as guests of the members of Hillsgrove. These South Africans were the famous Rainbow Gospel Group singers, who sang in churches throughout New England.

Others have followed in much the same spirit by extending its ministry throughout the world. One example of this occurred when Marcia Merolli went to Nome, Alaska as a lay missionary. After working there for two years, she decided to stay and continue to work with the Eskimos. Amos and Bryndell Goodridge, members of the congregation that came from Liberia, have helped the church to make a connection with the Methodists there.

In 1997 Rev. Jones went to Yorktown Heights in New York and the Rev. Christina Laurie transferred from Connecticut to become the pastor at Hillsgrove. She has enjoyed a fine ministry and has been especially effective in helping those who are suffering grief through the loss of loved ones.

With the prospect of many changes coming to Hillsgrove, due to the expansion of the state airport and the proposed building of a major train station, the church was at a point where it can make a positive reevaluation of its mission. In an interview, Clarice Gothberg, chairperson of the Council on Ministries, commented on the role of the church in the current century. She feels that the change will be mostly beneficial and pointed out that when the railroad tracks were blocked off many years ago Kilvert St. had become a dead end and the church lost much of its visibility. Now, with the new railroad station in the immediate vicinity, the church will become more accessible to people as they travel at the “Hub of Rhode Island.” Hillsgrove Church, because of its central location, has attracted churchgoers from various sections of Rhode Island and now should have a wider appeal. Gothberg noted that while Hillsgrove was once a “tight little village” in many aspects, it also was more than just a residential area. The train station at Hillsgrove was not only important to Thomas Hill’s enterprises, but it also connected villagers with the rest of the state. Many longtime residents can recall taking the train to attend classes at the high school in Westcott or to go to Providence to school or to work. In addition to the villagers who came to work at the Elizabeth Mill or the R.I. Malleable Iron Works, there were many that came to the area from Providence to enjoy the suburban living at Hillsgrove.

As in the past, the church has made space available for groups who have similar purposes. The groups that meet at the church include Girl Scout leaders, RI Reads, Save the Bay, Habitat for Humanity, West Bay Care Givers and Alcoholics Anonymous, which has been using the facilities for over 45 years. The village of Hillsgrove, the City of Warwick and the State of Rhode Island have all been fortunate in having Hillsgrove United Methodist Church on Kilvert St.

The story of Warwick’s Houses of Worship will be continued.


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