A covenant of cooperation in Woonsocket

Churches forge alliance to share resources

Two churches in Woonsocket have agreed to launch a new approach to offering their ministries in that community.

At their 2019 annual meetings, St. James Episcopal Church and St. Mark Lutheran Church formally adopted a “Covenant of Cooperation and Partnership.” It will provide a roadmap for how they share selected resources and ministries to enhance the vitality of each church.

St Mark Lutheran Church, Woonsocket

“The churches are excited about the possibilities for partnership,” said the Rev. Peter Tierney, who will provide clergy leadership for both congregations. “Membership trends and financial considerations encouraged us to explore new ideas of Christian collaboration and mutual support. Now those new ideas are becoming a reality.”

Both Bishop Hazelwood of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Bishop Knisely are strongly supportive of the initiative.

Leaders from both churches spent more than a year talking about how to best share resources and ministries while continuing as independent congregations that maintain their own identities. The churches worshiped together in July and August, will do so again this summer, and have shifted some individual ministries to joint opportunities. For example, they combined an existing Lutheran Men and Mission bible study with a “Bible and Bagels” men’s ministry from St. James, which enriched and strengthened the experience for participants. They’ve also co-mingled choirs, started sharing support for outreach ministries such as a food pantry, kitchen ministry and summer camp program, and combined confirmation classes.

Additionally, the nearby locations of the churches — about a mile-and-a-half apart — will allow Tierney to lead worship on Sunday mornings at both locations: 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at St. James, and 9 a.m. at St. Mark.

The churches will share the costs of clergy compensation and continue to look for additional ways to share resources and ministries, adjusting the covenant as needed. “We see many potential opportunities,” Tierney said. “That might include — but not be limited to — sharing some administrative duties and increasing our combined purchasing power for needs such as snow removal, lawn care, etc.”

Parish bazaar co-sponsored by both congregations