Review: Book explores church’s personality in the past, present

  • Friends and family fill the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield during a memorial service. The church has put out a book chronicling the history of the congregation ahead of its bicentennial celebration on Sunday, Sept. 24. Recorder FILE/Matt Burkhartt

  • Tinky Weisblat in her Hawley kitchen. July 10, 2017 Paul Franz

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“Celebrating 200 Years,” edited by Sue Wisner Weeks (Second Congregational Church of Greenfield, 126 pages, $35)

In 1817, a group of Greenfield residents gathered to form a new congregational church in our county seat. The First Congregational Church, located in the exact center of Greenfield geographically, was hard for people living in the downtown area to reach. They wanted their own church.

Two centuries later, the vibrant Second Congregational Church on Court Square is preparing to celebrate its bicentennial with a special worship service on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m.

To help celebrate the church’s achievements and spirit over the past 200 years, the church has produced a gorgeous, full-color, hardcover commemorative book.

“Celebrating 200 Years: A Faithful Past, A Caring Future” draws on the church’s extensive archives to provide a sense of the church’s personality in the past and the present.

The book is clearly the product of the kind of collaboration that goes on in strong institutions. Sue Wisner Weeks is listed as editor and clearly wrote much of the book, as well. Archivists and historians over the years have contributed words and images.

Skilled storytellers chime in from time to time, including this paper’s own emeritus editor, Tim Blagg. And the book’s design, by Lynn Stowe Tomb of Gill, is stunning. Photos, maps and inserts show, as well as tell, the church’s story.

The book begins by tracing the history of the church. Images include the original petition to form a new church, photos of the church in both its incarnations (the original structure was torn down and rebuilt in 1870), brief portraits of each minister and inserts about the role of women over time.

The reader gets a strong sense of the personality of many of the personages discussed, particularly the church’s ministers.

Caleb Henry, who served the church from 1829 to 1831, believed so strongly in the role of music in worship that when the choir decided not to sing one Sunday, he left in the middle of the service. Lorenzo Langstroth, who was minister in the 1840s, is regarded as the father of American beekeeping and returns to the church in spirit every year at its Bee Fest.

Recently retired minister Armand Proulx is represented in the authorship of a thoughtful essay on Centering Prayer, a practice he brought to the church during his tenure there. Proulx is clearly a beloved figure at the church, which saw an increase in membership under his leadership.

After its historical survey, the book provides a look at the church’s year of worship, social, and outreach activities — and a look at many of its members, including current minister Corey Sanderson.

Colorful, lively, and meticulously researched, “Celebrating 200 Years” should appeal not just to church members, but also to anyone interested in local history and the life cycle of churches.

The book is a concrete testament to the work and commitment of the members of Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church and should be treasured long beyond this bicentennial year.

“Celebrating 200 Years” is available from the Second Congregational Church. For more information, call 413-774-4335 or email: office@greenfieldsecondchurch.com.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.