New pastor finding her rhythm at Charlemont Federated Church

  • The Rev. Julia Khan is the new pastor at the Charlemont Federated Church in Charlemont. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2021 2:52:17 PM
Modified: 12/7/2021 2:51:49 PM

CHARLEMONT — After three years of having an interim pastor and supply preachers, the Charlemont Federated Church has a new settled pastor.

The 176-year-old church hired the Rev. Julia Khan on Aug. 23 and she was ordained in October. Since then, she’s been getting to know the community and how she can best assist with residents’ needs.

“I feel like this church and I are on the same page in terms of what we envision the church community to be, in working toward social justice and an equitable future for all people. So that was a bid draw, and also small towns, to me, are also exciting and interesting,” she said in her office last week. “It’s been good. You know, it takes a little, I think sometimes, to get a rhythm and to get the groove going, but I think we’re in it now. I feel like I’m beginning to understand this particular community and what’s the best way to serve.”

Khan was most recently at the Westhampton Congregational Church, where she served for about a year after working as a chaplain for Soldier On, a nonprofit providing housing and other services to those who are homeless and struggling veterans.

“It’s all brand new, you know? All I can say is it’s like a shiny new car, in the sense that everything is exciting,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to be. Right now, I think we’re at the beginning of wonderful things.”

Khan, 42, said she would like to grow the church’s food bank and help refugees.

“I think that the No. 1 agenda (item) for any church is, how do we share God’s love and make it tangible to as many people as possible?” she explained.

Khan took an atypical path to the Congregational clergy. She said she was raised in New York City by religious evangelical parents who rarely attended church because they were skeptical about conformity. She attended the University of Southern California, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and minored in religion. It was there that a professor recommended she apply for the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, a suggestion she initially rejected. However, she later attended the funeral of that professor’s wife, and that experience changed everything.

“It was this Episcopalian church named All Saints and … when I walked into that church, it was the first time I actually felt that God could be in a building and with people,” she recalled. “You could feel that there was something good happening here. And it just drew me. It took me about two years, though, to begin attending there.”

She became an Episcopalian in her 20s and eventually applied to the Union Theological Seminary, where she graduated in 2016 after four years of study.

“It was one of those things that would just not let go of me. I had to give in eventually,” said Khan, who briefly considered a career as a military chaplain.

In-person worship at Charlemont Federated Church recently resumed and Khan said she averages 50 attendees every Sunday. Though this could be regarded as a satisfactory number in this day and age, the new pastor said the goal is always to recruit new members.

But she acknowledged this takes a lot of work, as many people have become disenchanted with organized religion. Khan said she understands this, as a woman who is gay and married. She said her parents only recently accepted her sexual orientation after about 20 years.

Khan lives in Amherst, making for a 40-minute commute she adores.

“How can you complain when you drive along the 2 and along the Deerfield River? It’s gorgeous,” she said. “I love it. It is so wonderful to be outside of the city and to be able to hike and see nature without having to pay $50 and (cross) two bridges and all of those things.”

Sunday services begin at 9:30 a.m. Masks and social distancing are required.

Khan can be reached at pastor@charlemontfederatedchurch.org. The church can be reached at 413-339-4294.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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