LITCHFIELD — The iconic Congregational Church facing the Litchfield green was originally founded in 1721, when the town was first settled. According to Wikipedia, the current building, constructed in 1829, fell out of favor after several decades and was moved to make way for a new church building erected in 1873 in the Victorian Gothic style. Fast forwarding to 1929; the church members had lost fondness for the Victorian style and the building was razed; the former church that was used in the interim as a dance hall, armory, cinema and roller-skating rink was returned to its original site.
This extensive history seems to suggest that the Congregationalists are not averse to change. At the first church service after Thanksgiving, Music Director Michael Brown arrived early and unlocked the back door to prepare for a warmup on his piano, which was surrounded by a clear curtain for Covid-19 protection. He also helped to set up a sound check and microphone, while greeting the soloist for the morning, singer/songwriter Ian Campbell of Northfield who is well known from summer concerts on the Litchfield green, Black Bear Music Fest at the Goshen fairgrounds, White Memorial and many other local appearances.
Brown said he met Campbell at a BBQ hosted by church member Connie Teelman and knew he would be a perfect match with the church. White Memorial Conservation Center said “Ian grew up in Connecticut with 17 entertaining and musical brothers and sisters. Outrageous family dinner time jam sessions, with instruments like “salt shaker” and “nose” gave Ian a love for music and performance.”
Campbell said he chose his first song “I can only Imagine” because it was perfect for a church appearance with lyrics by Bart Millard, such as:
“Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine.”
Brown also teaches vocal offerings at the Hotchkiss School in Salisbury, Taft School in Watertown, and other private schools. He has been Music Director at the Congregational Church for three years and also teaches remotely.
When the Congregational Church made the Rabbi Peter Oliveira, a Messianic Jew (and Christian) their 28th pastor, they also welcomed his group Mishkahn Nachamu. Rabbi Peter explained, “Mishkahn Nachamu means Tabernacle of Comfort. The congregation is so named because of the scripture Isaiah 40:1 that reads ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your G-d.’ It’s a place where all are welcome and comforted.”
The Rabbi’s sermon was given without need of a lectern or mike, as he crisscrossed the platform in bare feet and near-tears as he powerfully spoke about “The Veil that Masks God’s Face.”
Brown said “I believe the sermon said that forgiveness in some cases is not easy, especially when the offense was great. My personal take away is that it’s never about the offender, but my willingness to be free of hate and resentment. Forgiveness means I am big enough to not dwell on the negative, but to embrace the wonderful person I was created to be.”
Brown said “Ian’s songs were inspiring, uplifting and joyful! It was dancing around God’s throne and rejoicing. We all could use a booster shot as times are difficult dealing with the pandemic. We got it this morning with encouraging words and music.”
The church shares a parking lot with Litchfield Volunteer Ambulance and is very close to the fire siren on the town green. This particular Sunday morning, the siren went off, police cars wailed and the ambulance made a loud exit from their garage. The cacophony was ignored by the parishioners and Rabbi Peter.
Rabbi Oliveira offers virtual bible teaching on his Facebook page on Mondays at 7 p.m. Contact www.facebook.com/FirstCongregationalChurchLitchfiend.
The Litchfield Volunteer Ambulance Association is offering free Emergency Medical Technician and Emergency Medical Responder training programs to individuals willing to join the organization’s ranks and give back to the community. Registration is required by 12/28/2020. Please contact Chief John Pudlinski at 860-567-1049 or 860-567-0127 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.