Have Faith: Times are changing

The Rev. Sharon Eckhardt will serve as interim pastor at Edgartown Federated Church.


Every other week, Connie Berry reports on the news, events, and people at Martha’s Vineyard’s various places of worship.

The Federated Church in Edgartown has weathered its share of storms in the search for a new settled pastor. The Rev. Terry Martinson spent two years as intern minister, then last year the faith community hired a new pastor. Their choice, the Rev. Amy Edwards, died of cancer last month, less than a year after she began her ministry. Now, they have announced that they have found a new interim minister, the Rev. Sharon Eckhardt, who will serve until they find their next leader.

I spoke with Herb Ward, part of the Federated Church’s membership committee, and asked him how they came to their latest decision. “When Amy went on a week’s vacation, she picked Sharon Eckhardt to fill in,” Herb said. “Then the second time we needed someone, we called Sharon, then the third time we needed someone, we called Sharon. So it’s sort of like Amy chose her.”

The Rev. Eckhardt lives with her husband in Vineyard Haven, and spent 25 years as a social worker before she was ordained.

Because of all the work completed to find Amy last year, this newest committee already has some of the necessary groundwork in place, Herb explained: “The church has to put a prospectus together so that they can see who we are, and a lot of that work was already done. Sharon is an interim pastor because she’s already retired and can’t be a full-time minister.”

Now the new search committee will get to work in the next month or so, and begin its quest for a new settled pastor while the Rev. Eckhardt serves as interim.

Herb said his great-grandparents were members of the Federated Church, while he grew up in Vineyard Haven going to the Methodist Church. In days gone by, he said, you got married and took up whatever religion your wife was affiliated with.

“Now there are a lot of ways that people serve down here without being religious — Community Services, Hospitality Homes, luncheons,” he said. “The 200-plus nonprofits on the Island, most of them are doing mission work locally. There are a lot of people not going to church on Sunday but who are doing kind acts for other people.”

Along with the major adjustments the church faces with the loss of its most recent minister, Herb said that Amy had wanted to change the church’s worship schedule, and now they are going to do so. From July 3 to August 28, the Federated Church will have two Sunday services: a brief service at 8 am and another at 9:30 am, a full service that will feature organ and vocal music. In past years the second service began at 10:30 am. For more information about the church, you can call the office at 508-627-4421.

More news

The Jehovah’s Witness organization on the Island wants to invite the community to its public meetings Sundays at 9:30 am and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm. The meetings are Bible-based and discuss how scripture relates to everyday life. Currently, they’re working on breaking through cultural barriers by translating all their publications, audio-visual presentations, and many books, including the Bible, into 750 languages. And they have a free app for that: JW Language helps when teaching the Bible in languages like Bengali, Chinese, French, Indonesian, Swahili, and many others. You can find out more about the app at jw.org. The Jehovah’s Witnesses meet at Kingdom Hall, 48 State Road, in West Tisbury.

Beacon of Hope Church, based in Edgartown, is organizing a road trip to Boston to see Franklin Graham, oldest son of Billy Graham. He’ll speak at Boston Common on August 30 on “Decision America 2016.” Anyone who plans to join them for the trip should sign up by July 15. They’ll take the 8:15 ferry that morning and return on the 6:15 pm ferry. You must purchase your own ferry tickets, and there’s a $20 cost for the bus ride, which is due by July 30. For more information about the trip, call Missy Vincent at 508-400-0629 or Jeff Wooden at 508-524-7737.

If you have news for Have Faith, email it to connie.berry12@gmail.com.