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The challenges, blessings of leading small-town churches



Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2015
PETERBOROUGH — Fledgling Rev. Lisa Mobayed and twenty-something Pastor Lourey Savick agree that the rural character of the Monadnock region heightens their relationship with their parishioners. Mobayed — a reverend at the Walpole Unitarian Church and parishioner at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church — expected it. She vacationed in Rindge when she was a child, and has lived in New Ipswich for 12 years.

Savick of the Peterborough United Methodist Church didn’t.

“All of my expectations about rural areas or small towns have been kind of turned on their head. Peterborough is full of so much energy,” said Savick, who was raised in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb. She said the public is well-informed, and engaged in all kinds of causes. “Even being done at the bookstore, [people] have a sense of community,” she said. “They’re not just a part of themselves, but the world,” she said.

Although Savick and Mobayed love how rural the region is, they acknowledge it has its challenges.



Nature’s calling

Lisa Mobayed, 54, chose to become a reverend later in life, after she experienced a metaphysical embrace while battling an autoimmune disease. “In an instant of cosmic surprise, love caught me, held me, and enveloped me,” she wrote in a theological essay. Mobayed was ordained last month at the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist.

She relishes having parishioners that share her love of nature. “They understand that common language,” she said, about them, their connection to her and to each other.

However, Mobayed, who was a student reverend at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, acknowledges that it’s easier instructing parishioners about other religions and cultures when they live in a more culturally diverse location. Mobayed tries to hurdle this obstacle by exposing her current parishioners to the likes of a Navajo prayer.

Savick considers diversity a challenge, too; but rather than a lack of cultural diversity, her challenge lies in the disparity in economic stature her parishioners face.



Little pockets

Savick, who commutes to Peterborough from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, recognizes the wide poverty gap in the region.

“It makes for pocket communities,” she said. “There’s a lot of diversity with income and upbringing, ideas and religion. It’s very hard to have cross-cultural conversations. When you end up in these little pockets, you don’t have the opportunity to share with each other as much as we could.”

To narrow that divide, the 29-year-old and her church are committed to forums, open-Mic nights, sharing their building with the River Center and collaborating with other religious organizations.

“People need to know someone knows and cares about them and help is available. We have the resources to make that happen,” she said.

Savick, whose alma mater, Wartburg College, honored her with its Young Alumni award last month, is also conscious she is a young pastor in an older region.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t be accepted, that people would have preconceived notions about me,” she said. “From the very first moment I have been treated with such grace and respect, and they allowed me to grow into an authority in this role.”



Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228, or brosen@ledgertranscript.com. Follow him on Twitter @Benji_Rosen.