CHESHIRE - The Cheshire United Methodist Church, located just in front of the elementary school in Cheshire, is by no means a large church, but it is growing.
"It's one of those little small country churches that I think has unfortunately been overlooked in the community," said the church's pastor Christa Levesque. "When I was brought in a year ago, there were seven people in attendance."
The church's previous pastor, whose term had spanned roughly 25 years, retired last year. After things had started to quiet down, the mission team decided to bring on a new pastor, and also to revitalize the physical church building at the same time.
"We had a group of united Methodists from all around Massachusetts and Connecticut that came together, and they painted and spruced up the congregation," recalled Levesque. "The mission team came in and said, 'Okay, we have a new pastor, let's spruce up the church at the same time.' It's a white church, but they painted the door red so it stands out, created a nice nursery space for kids coming to church, and redid the fellowship hall so it's great for events."
In the year since Levesque joined as pastor and the church was refurbished, attendance has risen to roughly 25 in church, including four to six children in Sunday school on a weekly basis.
"They'd not had a Sunday school in quite a few years," Levesque said. "They now have an active Sunday school with the children attending."
Just before September one of the
"It's just a change with a new pastor and new vision," she said. "People are coming in because I think the church has changed not only to what we're doing within the church, but reaching outside of the church as well. That's what's drawing more individuals. We've connected with the elementary school, done some fundraisers to donate money to the school, and reached out to the community."
The church will host a haunted house Halloween party on Saturday, Oct. 27, setting up a haunted house for children to walk through downstairs, with food, games and activities upstairs in the church's fellowship hall. The school and members of the community are invited to dress up and celebrate Halloween.
Outreach is crucial for churches today, Levesque believes.
"We connect with the school, making ourselves open and available to younger families. We do a lot to give-back to the community, collect food, clothing, and backpacks, and donate to the Pope John Paul Charity Center in Adams. Because we're a smaller congregation, we don't have the capacity to house these programs, but we collect things and drop them off. A lot of families enjoy knowing they can make a difference by bringing in a can of food. In our difficult times now, that's what people are looking for: To give back in a small way, make a difference, and change the lives of people right here in our community."
Levesque has also made some changes within the church itself, in terms of bringing in more contemporary worship to cater to the range of ages of the attendants. She describes the service as a mix of traditional united Methodist churches, but also new music and worship styles, including involving children in worship through skits based on biblical stories.
"I think unfortunately some people have had negative experiences growing up with the church and don't feel comfortable, and some may feel they've made some poor choices and wouldn't be welcomed into a church," said Levesque. "But that's not what we're about. We're a family environment, people who walk into the church can feel love and warmth from members. Our mission is opening our doors, making people feel everyone is welcome to learn about the Bible and Jesus."
Worship time at the church is 10:30 on Sunday mornings.