“The Edgewood Congregational Church, like many mainstream churches of all denominations, is at a crossroads,” I wrote in the Cranston Herald exactly one year ago.
A revisioning process was introduced at that time at the annual meeting of the membership, where the future of the church was addressed and a definitive plan was implemented for the coming year, addressing finances, worship, membership growth and the future of the church building and congregation.
One year later, the church is still at that crossroads, and the members and leadership have taken some positive steps to move forward. Eight new members have joined the church, and except for two deaths the membership has remained stable and committed.
With no endowment to fall back on, the church budget does not allow for a full-time minister. Last February, Rev. Nancy Soukup was hired to conduct services twice a month and be available for necessary visitations. Thanks to special gifts, the church has been able to hire her for three Sundays a month.
“Nancy’s services have been inspiring, informative and have calmed the hearts of many in this congregation who have been worried about our future,” Worship Deacon Merry Scarborough said.
The fourth Sunday has become a Manna Service, where members and guests gather for brunch, preceded by a short service conducted by church member Michael Ruo. If there is a fifth Sunday in the month, organist Brenda Muoio leads the congregation in an old-fashioned hymn sing. During the summer months informal member-led devotional “summer gatherings” were held.
The congregation continues to work toward an increase in membership and budget, which would make it possible to hire a full-time settled minister and develop a children’s ministry.
The church continued to reach out to the community with its annual May Breakfast, yard sale, Blessing of the Animals, and Saturday Thrift Shop. Over 75 people attended a free community concert by Atwater-Donnelly in December. The Social Action Committee had a booth at PrideFest in Providence and members participated in the Special Olympics and neighborhood food closet.
The Edgewood Congregational Church budget was enhanced late last year by the move of the Rhode Island Congregational Conference offices to the second floor of the church building. With the continuation of a music school renting the adjacent building, two other churches renting the sanctuary (with a possible third in 2019) and a variety of non-profit organizations renting meeting space (AA, Al Anon, etc), the church has been able to supplement its budget while at the same time providing a needed service to the community.
“Edgewood Congregational Church continues to be an open and accepting congregation and an important part of the community,” moderator Ken Scarborough said.
Scarborough is positive about the church’s future, inviting those who seek a church home to pay a visit.