Summer Worship at East Congregational Church

building the Beth-el

Beginning on the 3rd week of June through Labor Day, Sunday worship begins at 9:30 AM. Summer worship is intergenerational, informal and come-as-you-are. The shorter services are sometimes thematic and may incorporate dramatic readings, skits and a variety of music.

The summer service also features a special altar called a Beth-el. The name means “place of God.” (From the story of Jacob's vision of the great stairway found in Genesis 28. “Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.”)

Worshippers might bring a token (such as a stone or a shell or a feather) or a small container of water from places they have visited where they may have felt a sacred or holy presence. These are placed on a small altar which remains in the front of the sanctuary throughout the summer. Sometimes a few brief words of explanation are offered, sometimes not. The water is later used for our baptisms.

We find it deeply meaningful that the water used for baptisms at East Church is mixed with waters which have been brought to the Beth-el altar with love from places where members of our parish have felt especially connected to something sacred, something holy; in 2015 such places included Connecticut, Germany, Pennsylvania, France, New York City, Cleveland, London, Iowa, Colorado’s Blue River, Nantasket Beach, Michigan, Penobscott Bay, Maine, Milton, and Ka Wai a Ha'o—a fresh water spring providing an oasis next to historic Kawaiaha'o Church, on the island of O'ahu, Hawaii.

In previous years, water has come to the Beth-el from a well in Menemsha on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Maine’s Popham Beach, Bermuda, the island of St. Johns in the Caribbean and even from as far away as Machu Picchu, Wolfgang’s Lake in Austria, the Indian Ocean near Durban, South Africa and the River Jordan!

Sacred water. Water flowing from streams, rivers, backyard fountains, lakes, ponds, oceans, and even a bit of rainwater from our church’s downspout.

beth-el detail
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