Churches are struggling these days. Almost all mainline
Protestant denominations are facing dramatic declines
in membership and attendance. Our church has
been no different.
When I was called as the pastor of this church 30
years ago we faced an older and declining church. The
Lord blessed us with growth. We soon had many young
families and lots of young children. But as those children
grew and went off to college we didn’t see most of them
again. Many families moved out of town and some simply
no longer attended services. And, of course, the Lord
called many of our faithful people home to be with Him in
paradise. We have seen a pretty dramatic drop in attendance
over the last decade.
But God has been faithful. He brought Harold Sawyer
to our congregation and Harold has now become a
lay pastor in our congregation. Harold has wonderful
gifts for ministry and brings great enthusiasm to his calling
as a pastor of our church. This has allowed me to
semi-retire and share a co-pastorate with Harold. I will
preach one month and Harold will preach the next
month. This will give me the freedom to do some things
that I have been wanting to do on my months off and it
will save the church significant money, as well.
God has also brought us a new congregation to share
ministry with. It is “The House of Praise and Worship.”
They are a new Covenant Church of about 150 members.
They are mostly Latino but also Black, Anglo, and Brazilian.
Their service is bi-lingual—both Spanish and English.
They are a young and exciting congregation who I
believe will bring us new vitality in wonderful ways.
This is an answer to many years of prayer by many of
our faithful people, and the results of a vitality process
that we entered into many years ago.
Pastor Harold details that process below:
Vitality Journey Summary
Around January 2016 we started on a Vitality Journey
in West Hartford. Our beginning team members were
Christine Marchetti, Ian Robinson, Harold Sawyer, Christine
Sinopoli, Dawn Sundman, Matthew Udall (team
leader), Mary VanDerMeid, Pastor Tom VanDerMeid.
Our concluding members are Rev. Tom Anderson, Ian
Robinson, Harold Sawyer (team leader), Dawn Sundman
Mary VanDerMeid, Pastor Tom VanDerMeid. Thanks to
Rev. Paul Guiliano (pastor of the Paradise
Holtzschwamm Evangelical Covenant Church in Thomasville,
PA) for being team facilitator and Rev. Kreig
Gammelgard who is our ECC Northeast Conference Vitality
Through our three-and-one-half-year journey, this
dedicated group has collaborated to write a Relational
Covenant, a Biblical Story that spoke to our church’s situation,
co-ordinated with Rodney and John Sundman for
our Historical Story, developed an Internal Profile, an
External Profile (with the help of Craig Robinson visiting
the Town Hall with Pastor Tom), and worked to help
clarify the Church Mission.
On this journey the team’s work inspired a Service of
Lament, the Prayer Board in the Entrance, explored options
to engage the community, (with the help of the Preschool
of West Hartford), started the process of putting
together Safe Church and Church Use policies, but most
of all helped the church to orient itself to the leading of
the Holy Spirit into future change.
What a blessing from God that our church is now
working out the details for bringing an Hispanic/
American Covenant Church (House of Praise and Worship)
into our building to partner with us in our churches’
work for the Kingdom.
A big thank you to all of the team members who have
helped us through this process from the beginning to the
end, for the time sacrificed, and the prayers. We thank
church members for prayer support of the team. And we
thank our good God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for using
and enabling His humble servants to serve His church
in West Hartford through this process.
Pastor Harold Sawyer
Vitality Team Leader April 2019
We hope you will continue with us on this path of new
vitality the Lord has brought to us. It will bring changes
to our church in many ways, but we believe those changes
are from God and will bring both congregations great
Grace and Peace,