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After 150 years apart, two Granby churches will re-unite

On May 22, First Congregational Church and South Congregational Church voted overwhelmingly to reunite, forming one United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation in Granby. The new church, which is yet to be named, hopes to have all its legal, constitutional and governing by-laws completed and in place by September. “This is a very exciting and dynamic time, not only for our churches, but for the Granby community as well,” said Becky Sielman, moderator of South Church. “Both First Church and South Church not only share a long history of serving those in Granby, they also share a common history,” she added.

First Church was established in 1739, and is located at 219 North Granby Road, (Route 189) in the geographical center of town. In 1872 a small group left First Church and started South Church at 242 Salmon Brook Street (Route 10) in what is now known as Granby center. “We need to remember that, although we are only 5 minutes away from one another by car today, in 1872 travel by horse and carriage took time,” said Bob Giles, moderator of First Church. “With so many farm families living in Granby during those years, extended time away from the farm was not realistic,” he pointed out.

As Granby grew, the two churches served their members and the community well and maintained a friendly, increasingly collaborative relationship with one another. For example, for many years in the summer months, Sunday worship services would be hosted by one church allowing the minister of the other church time away for summer vacation. If pastoral support was needed during this time, it was covered by the other minister in town.

More recently, the two churches have worked together and have successfully combined their Christian Youth Education program by sharing the expense of employing one staff member to run the joint program. Supporting and guiding youth has been important to both churches over the years.

The timing of this decision to unite as one is no surprise. “The fact is, in the last 25 years, most Christian denominations in our country have seen a steady decline in membership,” explained Charlie Kuchenbrod, chair of stewardship at South Church. “With Granby’s current population forecast to remain flat for some time, it makes sense to unite rather than compete for membership and resources,” he added.

The process leading up to the vote and the decision to unite has been an extremely careful one. “Many deep conversations and careful explorations of the realities of uniting had to be discussed and shared by the members of both churches,” said the Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg of Potentials Coaching and Consulting, who worked with the churches throughout this process. She went on, “It was important for all the participants in the process not only to understand the challenges that lie ahead, but also the many opportunities the new church can foster. The overwhelming support and vote to unite is an excellent indicator that a vibrant and promising future can be had.”

For the time being, both church campuses will remain as they are and will be used in some fashion. The immediate work being undertaken now is the search to find a new Senior Minister. First Church said goodbye to the Rev. Todd Yonkman who moved to a new congregation earlier in 2022. The Rev. Denny Moon of South Church retired on June 12 after a long career in ministry, the past 16 years with South Church. And the Rev. Dr. Sandra Fischer, associate minister at South Church for the last 11 years, left on June 19 to follow a yet-to-be-determined spiritual call.

Both churches are grateful for their guidance and support and wish them nothing but the best for the future. The goal now is to have a transitional minister in place by September to begin the work of helping the new church discern what its ministry will be. It will be an exciting time as the church moves ahead, exploring all the possibilities.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the new church can follow online or join in worship any Sunday. All are welcome!