Faith Matters: A light in the window

  • The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington with Dandi at the First Congregational Church of Whately, where window candles offer a message of hope. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • First Congregational Church of Whately. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Pastor, First Congregational Church of Whately
Published: 5/10/2020 12:38:15 PM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email

In times of darkness, my faith has always sustained me. For many of us, a church community represents an opportunity not only to share our faith but to be supported as we grow in faith. While a church building is not the church, it represents a place where we can go in fellowship to share our faith.

Thus, it felt like a blow when churches were asked to close their buildings so that we might all distance in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The situation reminds us well that the building is not the church: people of the faith community are the church. Having been deprived of a physical meeting place, churchgoers have some wonderful ideas about ways to remind ourselves of our faith and give us hope for the future.

“What if we put lights in our church windows to remind everyone that the church is still vibrant and to give them a message of hope?” asked one member of the church where I am pastor. The idea transported me back to the time when my son was in the Army and stationed in Bosnia. Identified as a peace-keeping mission, the action nevertheless involved violence that put our military at significant risk. As a mother, I feared for my son’s safety. Feeling helpless to provide for his safety, I needed a sign of hope. Therefore, during the months he served in Bosnia, a candle shown from our upstairs window — a message of hope that he would return to us in safety.

I encouraged the member of my church as she arranged the Christmas candles in the front windows of our church on Chestnut Plain Road in Whately, where they beam a message of hope for light in the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic. We suggested that others around town put candles in their windows and — as I shelter at home some distance from Whately and therefore cannot see them for myself — parishioners have told me that candles appeared in multiple windows.

Placing a light or lights in windows is nothing new. In fact, a friend who lives on the coast told me that families often placed a lantern in a window when sailors had gone to sea. The light served as a beacon to guide them home through darkness as well as a prayer for their safe return.

In our Christian faith, a candle burning represents the light of Christ in our world. Each Sunday, we carry the light out of the church to signify Christ in the world. How comforting in post-Resurrection time to think about Christ present in our troubled world.

Many people have commented about our hopeful candles bringing light to our church’s darkened windows.

We pastors must bring words and gestures of comfort and hope to those we serve. Regardless of the importance of our duty to bring comfort and hope, words often fade from thought. One light that illuminates the darkness, however, constitutes a constant to feed the souls of those in need of hope and comfort.

The United Church of Christ believes in the ministry of all believers, and so we encourage others to place lights in their windows. All of us can reach out to others and say with our lighted candles, “Hang on. This, too, shall pass.”

Whatever your faith or your journey, know that we Christians send a message of compassion to let you and others take comfort from recognizing light in the darkness.

About First Congregational Church of Whately

The First Congregational Church of Whately, United Church of Christ, is a small, friendly faith community that usually worships at 10 a.m. on Sundays from September through June at 177 Chestnut Plain Road. During July and August, we meet at the Whately Chapel on Conway Road in West Whately. We welcome anyone who would like to join us, no matter who you are or where you are in your faith journey. During this time of sheltering-in-place, we are joining with the Hatfield Congregational Church for weekly worship on Zoom. If you would like to join us, please contact Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington at

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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