Rindge UCC minister welcomes back congregation for in-person services

  • The Rev. Kelly Gallagher holds an Easter sermon at Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge on Sunday. Courtesy photos—

  • The Rev. Kelly Gallagher holds an Easter sermon at Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge on Sunday. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/5/2021 3:57:45 PM

On Easter Sunday, the Rev. Kelly Gallagher was able to meet many of those who have been listening to her sermons for months in person for the first time.

During a Easter sermon held outdoors at Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, Gallagher, the interim minister at the Congregational Church in Rindge, held one of the first in-person services the church has had in a year. This Sunday, the church expects to open the doors on its own building to continue in-person services.

Gallagher is new to the church, having started as the interim minister for the congregation in the fall, when COVID-19 protocols were already in full swing, and the typical sermon for the church was producing a taped message that members listen to on Sundays.

“It’s tricky, making sure everyone who wants has a voice in how the church is moving forward,” Gallagher said. “It was just unfortunate timing that the previous minister announced last year that he was leaving – and then COVID happened. He was not able to have a true, proper goodbye, and I was not able to have a proper hello and have the ability to meet everyone in person.”

Gallagher, a native of Florida, moved to New England in 1992, following her seminary training. She said she became interested in ministry while in college, attending an immersion trip to Washington D.C. over spring break. She worked with a faith group in areas impacted by poverty, and said her “politics and faith” came together.

Now ordained 20 years, Gallagher has served as a minister at several churches in Massachusetts and most recently as a regional minister serving 110 churches in Massachusetts, before being selected in November to serve in an interim capacity in Rindge.

Gallagher admits – remote sermons and a closed church building are not the ideal way to get to know a congregation, or to get them involved in the goals that an interim minister is there to facilitate.

She expects to be with the church through 2021, Gallagher said, and while she’s there, it’s her job to help the church have conversations about who they are, what is important to them, and create a plan for moving forward under what will eventually be their permanent minister. Gallagher said those goals are already underway, with church leadership communicating with the church members by telephone to outline the summer goals for the church.

She said even though those conversations have been happening in small groups or over the phone, there are things that are clearly important to the congregations – including its main community ministry, the Got Lunch program, which provides food to children who receive free or reduced lunch at school over the summer and school vacations. Gallagher said that program has continued, and the need only become more apparent, throughout the pandemic.

“It’s not a large church, but it’s not about numbers and it’s not about money,” Gallagher said. “It’s about vitality. This church has incredible vitality, and a great care for one another and their community.”

Gallagher said the next several months will be about the church more clearly defining its mission and searching for a full-time replacement. She said the current plan is to have a new minister installed by the start of the 2022 year.

In the meantime, Gallagher said, she’ll be getting to know people she’s only met virtually, as the church reopens its doors. Gallagher said the church is not leaping into reopening without necessary precautions. While Gallagher will not wear a mask to preach, she will be socially distanced from the congregation, and members will be required to wear masks, and every other pew will be closed to maintain six feet of distance. There will be no singing, passing of the peace or coffee hour after the service. But, she said, people are still looking forward to returning to an in-person service.

“People have really learned the value of face-to-face interaction,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said some of the lessons learned this year will stick. She said the church is currently looking into livestreaming its sermons, now that they are back in-person, and she will continue to create a written sermon and send it to residents who cannot attend in person and don’t have access to the internet or ability to stream. She said now that the church is able to meet again for service in their building, giving online access to sermons is only more inclusive, not less.


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