Small Group Ministries at East Church
Sunday morning worship service at East Church is a warm experience and a meaningful time to worship collectively, which we feel is vital to nourishing a community. But we know that all the diverse personal and spiritual needs of individuals within a faith community can’t be fully met in a few hours one morning a week.
For that reason, several focused small group ministries flourish at East Church. The intention of these groups is not to provide an alternative to the more structured Sunday morning service but rather to expand on and enrich that experience, and to provide opportunities to explore specific topics in depth. Several of our small group ministries are described on this page, including the Prayer Shawl group, the Healing Prayer Ministry, and the Reading Changes Lives group.
Reading Changes Lives
Some years ago the national United Church of Christ launched the Reading Changes Lives literacy initiative, in the belief that literacy is essential to equality and justice. East Congregational Church embraced this literacy initiative enthusiastically, creating a local Reading Changes Lives program to serve our community through book fairs, book swaps, poetry events, building a “Little Free Library,” and participating in East Milton's Halloween Stroll, giving free books to children instead of sugary treats. They have wrapped trees in the neighborning park with poems to celebrate National Poetry Month!
This group of dedicated volunteers, spearheaded by Holley Meyer&rsqu;s passion and tireless efforts, adopted the Roosevelt School Library in the neighboring community of Hyde Park, which had not been able to offer a functional library in over 12 years. East Church's Reading Changes Lives team has invested thousands of volunteer hours to process and catalog existing and newly donated books, as well as actually staffing the Library.
Healing and Prayer Group ministry
The Healing Prayer Group Ministry meets in the Chapel once a month. This lay-led service of healing prayer is usually attended by six to twelve people and lasts for about an hour.
We gather in a circle and people share the names of persons for whom they would like to have prayer offered. We have a liturgy of healing responsive readings, using song and silence and a time when all the names mentioned are intentionally lifted up for healing. Prayer is offered for those in need of emotional, physical, mental, relational, or spiritual healing.
For those who request, we offer a “laying on of hands” prayer circle. What is that like? A person sits in a chair in the middle of the circle and people gather to put their hands on that person in a spirit of caring love. At times the person is asking for healing for themselves and, at other times, a person will sit in the circle on behalf of another person.
We gather once a month to focus our intention to pray for ourselves and others. As one member of the group has so expressively stated, “Every time I come to this healing service, I leave feeling better.” Come and join us when you can.
Prayer Shawl group
The Prayer Shawl group meets from 11:30-12:30 the fourth Sunday of the month except in July and August. A prayer shawl is a knitted or crocheted shawl/blanket designed to be a tangible sign of God’s love and the prayer of our community. Shawls are given at a time in someone’s life when prayers would be welcomed: an illness, loss, or transition: birth of a baby or wedding, or other situations. The purpose of the prayer shawl group is to provide these shawls and also fellowship for the people creating the shawls. Some tiny blankets are made for infants in the hospital, distributed by the hospital chaplain. Shawls are given away by our ministers or members of our congregation when a need arises. Shawls have been given to both members and non-members. Each shawl has been blessed by the group and gift wrapped, and is given with a copy of the prayer. Knitters of all abilities are encouraged to join the group. We keep a stock of yarn at the church and can provide needles as well. The group is a small, intergenerational one, with a warm and friendly atmosphere. Currently we have given away 135 shawls in the years since the group was founded.
Following is an example of a prayer which is packed along with a shawl:
May God’s grace be upon this shawl…
warming, comforting, enfolding and embracing.
May this mantle be a safe haven, a sacred place of
security and well-being, sustaining and embracing
in good times as well as difficult ones.
May the one who receives this shawl be
cradled in hope,
kept in joy,
graced with peace,
and wrapped in love,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Continue the Discussion
In the current U.S. climate of waste, disrespect, selfishness, distrust, bias, and violence, discerning a way out of the quagmire can seem impossible.
"Continue the Discussion" is a small group that attempts to discern the depth of our problems, and become aware of our contributions to them, so that we can begin to unravel the mess one knot at a time. There is always "a light on" that gives us determination and hope as we share this journey.
A few of us had a spontaneous discussion after listening to Debby Irving, author of "Waking Up White." We wanted to continue the discussion, so we planned a meeting. As we read more, listen more, and discuss more, we find more to delve into.
"Continue the Discussion" has moved well beyond a book discussion group. We engage with Milton's ongoing "Courageous Conversations" forum. We have shared worship with the Haitian Emmaus Church congregation, the "embedded" faith community which shares East Church's facility.
You are warmly invited to join in for wherever the discussion leads us next!