Editorial: Cathedral in the Light reminds us of importance of community

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In colonial times, many New England town commons provided shared grazing space for a village’s farm animals, an act of coming together for the common good.

The Greenfield Town Common has been put to many uses over the years, and now, for those who believe it is truly better to give than to receive, the Common is transformed weekly into an interfaith “Cathedral in the Light” — where the spirit is about service to community and to each other.

For about a year now, a close-knit interfaith community has organized a non-denominational outdoor Sunday service, fellowship and meal, rain or shine.

The Rev. Lance Humphrey, associate pastor at the United Congregational Church of Holyoke and Cathedral in the Light’s faith and ministry leader, says he began the gatherings to share blessings, celebrate fellowship and to break bread. It is overseen by the Rev. Christopher Carlisle of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.

The program is an interfaith service driven by volunteers, but without a permanent building or formal funding.

While typical Cathedral in the Light services are grounded in multi-denominational Christian tradition, because many of the 20 or so partner churches and agencies are from that faith, the gatherings span a variety of beliefs and are open to all.

Recently, the service included Muslims, Christians, Jews, “and even someone totally outside the mainstream,” Humphrey said. On hand were six Christian ministers, two rabbis and one interfaith chaplain.

“We’re not a place of judgment. It’s a really joyful celebration — not of the rules and regulations of religion — it’s a celebration of life and kinship,” Humprey told the Recorder recently. That has a very inclusive feel, true to the roots of Christianity and other belief systems.

After spiritual music is performed by Franklin County folk musicians, a brief sermon and prayers are offered and then the group serves a hot meal available to all. On most Sundays, about 30 to 50 people help set up and stay for the service. Then 40 to 80 people gather for the meal.

“There’s a certain feeling you get when you come and serve that you don’t get any other way,” Humphrey said.

Service is an integral part of Cathedral in the Light’s philosophy. Each week volunteers brave the elements to set up tents and tables, even in blizzards, and then produce, prepare and serve food. During worship, a “non-financial” offering is held. Instead of money, participants write tangible actions they can do to give back to the community on tokens and give them as a spiritual offering.

The urge to serve is a feeling Cathedral in the Light no doubt shares with the thousands of people in Franklin County who donate their time, money and service through any number of organizations, whether traditional churches, or secular charities like United Way of Franklin County, or even the Recorder’s own Warm the Children campaign. So, we were happy to see the Common put to such a good use and hope the tradition continues.

As we stand here in the weeks between Thanksgiving and the traditional religious holy days soon to come, the Cathedral in the Light’s core message of service to our fellows can resonate with all, whether they follow a traditional spiritual path or not. Its mission reminds us all about the importance of fellowship and helping one another for the common good.