“Christ has no body but yours, no hands, feet on earth but yours.” –Teresa of Avila
The Christian faith demands that we bring all our resources to bear as we seek to walk in the way of Jesus: our hearts, our heads, and our hands. Our faith in a loving and compassionate God must ultimately find expression in the good, hard work of service and justice. People at the First Congregational Church take that calling seriously. This is one of the ways that we become the body of Christ.
Our local and global Christian service ministries are coordinated by the Board of Mission and Action. Ongoing ministries are described below, and you’ll find much more on the church events calendar, including seasonal service opportunities like the Justice Task Force, Construct Walk to Prevent Homelessness, the Christmas Giving Tree, and the Walk Out of Darkness (suicide prevention).
Explore our Service & Justice Ministries
Justice Task Force
The Justice Task Force – Update October 2, 2023:
On September 24, Justice Task Force was delighted to host Maggie Bennett, a member the Stockbridge- Munsee Community, who was visiting from Wisconsin. Maggie uses story mapping, a technique which bridges geographic information systems, photography, history, and archaeology, to tell the story of the travels of the Stockbridge-Munsee people. Maggie has shared her lecture, available here in a readable format. She discusses the travels of the community and the importance of Christianity in their culture.
Here is a YouTube link to the recording of her talk, where she answers many questions about tribal history, as well as current tribal life and issues:
For an excellent summary of the Stockbridge-Munsee history here, please click here. Through written material and video of tribal members as they walk Main Street, you will hear their story.
“Our Lands, Our Home, Our Hearts” – exhibit and lectures presented by the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Cultural Affairs Department, summer and fall 2023 in Berkshire County.
The Many Trails symbol (above left) was created by tribal member Eddie Martin in the 1960s and signifies the strength, hope, and endurance of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. The Many Trails symbol encapsulates the Tribe’s history. The curved shape represents the arms of a person in prayer. The circles represent Council Fires, moving from Schodack Island in the Hudson River, to Stockbridge, to the seat of government in Wisconsin today. The parallel lines represent the meaning of the tribal name, “the waters that are never still.”
On April 23 we heard a fascinating presentation form Josh Hall. He spoke about the colonization of the Hudson River Valley and the Berkshires, the founding of the Congregational church in what is now Stockbridge, and the impact of those events on the local indigenous people. The presentation was recorded, and lasts about an hour. We encourage you to watch:
As you know, the JTF is working together to develop a Land Acknowledgement. What is a Land Acknowledgement? Simply put, a land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. If you joined the JTF for coffee and fellowship on April 2, you may have noticed information packets that explain the history we share with the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans and the deep connection of the people who once lived on the shores of the Housatonic River to the mission church that is now The First Congregational Church Stockbridge. (see below for more information)
For information about the Justice Task Force and links to additional resources, click here.
The Justice Task Force (JTF) has been meeting monthly, discovering and discussing the history of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans, known as The Muh-he-con-ne-ok, or “The People of the Waters that Are Never Still”.
“The People of the Waters that Are Never Still have a rich and illustrious history which has been retained through oral tradition and the written word.Our many moves from the East to Wisconsin left Many Trails to retrace in search of our history. Many Trails [see left] is an original design created and designed by Edwin Martin, a Mohican Indian, symbolizing endurance, strength and hope. From a long suffering proud and determined people.”
Through meetings with Bonney Hartley, Tribal Historic Preservation Manager for the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation, local historian Rick Wilcox and reading lots of documents, we are learning more about the deep connection of the people who once lived on the shores of the Housatonic River to the early church that is now the First Congregational Church Stockbridge.
“In 1738, the Mohicans gave John Sergeant permission to start a mission in the village. Eventually, the European inhabitants gave this place the name “Stockbridge,” after a village in England. It was located on the Housatonic River near a great meadow bounded by the beautiful Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. ln this mission village, a church and school were built. Other people who wished to hear the missionaries’ teachings also came to live in the village. Some of these were the Wappingers, the Niantics, Brothertons, Tunxis, Pequot, Mohawk, Narragansetts and Oneidas. As some of these tribes merged with the Mohicans, the tribal group came to be known as the Stockbridge Indians.
As our group works together to develop a Land Acknowledgement, we are also exploring ways to engage with the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans to collaborate on culturally significant issues. One thing we’ve learned is that taking meaningful actions will be an important piece of a Land Acknowledgement. A series of informational sessions are being planned for the spring.
Resources: “The Story of Stockbridge, 1789-1989” published in 1989, includes a few pages that give a useful overview of the early history of Stockbridge.
Open 24 hours/day, 7 days a week; all are welcomed. The Pop-Up Pantry, in a shed behind the office wing at the church, is open. This outreach provides access to non-perishable, shelf stable food items to anyone in need.
Our church’s Pop-Up Pantry needs donations of canned fruit, veggies, tuna, chicken, pasta sauce, pasta, peanut butter, crackers, box cereal, box rice, mac & cheese; gluten-free items such as crackers, pasta, and mac & cheese; toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, bar soap, lotion; paper products such as Kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels; plus miscellaneous treats such as nutrition bars, cookies, bottled drinks, cooking oil, baking ingredients.
We ask that you leave these donations in the blue storage box in the back hall of the church building, not in the shed.
We need volunteers to keep things moving along smoothly. You can help in many ways, with minimal time commitment:
Volunteers to work in the building to sort, fill and label bagged food
For a list of all food pantries in Berkshire County, click here.
Each month on communion Sundays (first Sunday of the month), we respond with an active prayer of thanksgiving, processing offerings of food and money which feed hungry mouths through the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington. Members of the church also volunteer regularly at the Pantry.
For information about how to donate to the Pantry, go to their website. Donations of food and funds are much needed.
The People’s Pantry Needs You …to volunteer to drive carless South County people to the Great Barrington pantry on Monday afternoons or Thursday mornings. Or to shop and deliver to their door. Quite often Anne Hutchinson hears of people who need to come to the pantry but have no transportation. Mission & Action would like to create a list of people to call upon when help is needed. Just ask Vicky Cooper, Nancy Wilcox or Cindy Brown how fulfilling it is to help people and make new friendships at the pantry! They’ve all been volunteering for years, and the need has increased. If you’re interested in getting on the volunteer list, contact Cindy Brown (email: email@example.com, text: 413-446-2623, home phone: 413-298-5365).
With faithful dedication, the Women’s Service League fashions handmade crafts which are sold twice a year (at the summer fair and Holly Fair), all while engaging in lively conversation over coffee, tea and snacks. Proceeds from the group’s work go to support the church, the community, and the wider world. The Service League is open to women from the church and the community at large, and generally meets once a week from 10AM to 1PM.
Prayer Shawl Knitting Group
Our prayer shawl knitters engage monthly in a time of conversation and contemplation as they knit stitches of love, hope, and healing into prayer shawls which are given to people in times of trial or celebration. See the Events listing for dates and times.