Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Find the thread.

By Sarah Robertson

One of the speakers at a recent Reimagining Church session at Yale Divinity School spoke of “finding the thread” that both connects us with our past, present, and future as a church community.

Church of the Holy Trinity, like many churches, has a long history of partnerships with the community and specifically with the arts. This tradition is not new within religious communities- Bach and Handel wrote their music originally for the church. Church is the Holy Trinity was originally built as the cathedral location for the state and has always had an abundance of space as well. Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown has served as the original location for Oddfellows Playhouse- a nonprofit organization dedicated to the idea that access to high-quality arts experiences is a fundamental right. 

Now, the church is home to Ekklesia Ballet Company and Studio. As noted on their website, “Ekklesia Contemporary Ballet is a professional dance company comprised of artist-theologians whose goal is to create spaces where art and faith can flourish. Ekklesia’s diverse repertory utilizes a full spectrum of emotional and physical vocabulary while addressing issues such as poverty, inequality, and human suffering.” The studio also offers dance lessons to children and adults in the area, as well as an after school dance program offered free of charge to at risk youth in the community with after school busing and homework help.

The church has hosted many artists, including our own parishioners, for exhibitions in our Victorian room. The current exhibition is a poster developed by Jon Schroth for a nonprofit, The Gaian Way. The poster features an ecological calendar for southern New England and is part of a fundraiser to give to educators along with the poster. 

Musically, our church makes up the members of Embers in Transit, a contemporary praise band. The church has hosted several different music groups for performances, most recently starting a concert series called  Music on on Main on March 24. Featured performers for this inaugural concert series event include musicians Liz Reed, Owen McMahon, Paul Columbino and Sarah Dunn, with a special guest appearance by the poet Sympetalous. Proceeds from this artist showcase will benefit St. Vincent DePaul Place’s efforts to end hunger and homelessness in Middletown. For the first time, Church of the Holy Trinity this year put on a music based Children’s Christmas Pageant. It is our hope to combine with several other parishes for the next year for this and to take the pageant to a local nursing home to help foster fun and religious education for children as well as sharing the joy of Christ with others. 

The church building is currently utilized by several other community groups. “Warming on Main” offers free coffee and a warm space on Friday afternoons for those in need. More recently, the basement of the church was renovated to create space for a vocational arts training program in conjunction with St Vincent DePaul. The church also partners with St Vincent DePaul in other ways- they provide a quarterly Sunday meal and serve it to the homeless population at the soup kitchen. As noted above, the music series raises funds to support St Vincent DePaul. Ekklesia Ballet Company also puts on a yearly original Christmas ballet, “Ahavah,” in which all the proceeds benefit St Vincent DePaul soup kitchen. Over the past 8 years of this ballet performance, over $40,000 has been raised for local soup kitchens in this fashion. For the past 3 years, Church of the Holy Trinity has hosted a foot washing and health clinic for the homeless on our front lawn in partnership with CHC, an event we look forward to continuing.

Looking to the future, it is clear that the gifts given to this church body include significant giftings in the arts. We are also blessed with a great location on Main Street and with a significant amount of space. Creating multipurpose use spaces will allow us to continue to foster these partnerships that already exist and potential new partnerships. It will also help us to continue our Sunday services and even combine with other local churches for events.

To this end, we have several goals: 

  1. To pursue a semi permanent performance space, allowing the sanctuary to be utilized as needed while also not disrupting its primary purpose as a house of worship. Specifically, looking at options for a moveable stage and seating. 
  2. To facilitate a better exhibit space in the Victorian room/chapel to allow community artists to share with the public more conveniently.
  3. Better signage, both inside the church and within the community so that there is increased visibility about the work going on. 

All of these goals need to partner with the church’s capital fund plans for general maintenance of the building and with a general sanctuary/Narthex clean up to allow better utilization of our worship space. 

Image |  Tara Evans on Unsplash