St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, which has welcomed a number of congregants from the former St. Paul’s Church of Millis (as well as stained glass windows from the latter), celebrated its 60th anniversary on Sunday, September 29th, 2019, the Feast of St. Michael’s and All Angels, and it’s got more planned for its anniversary week.
On Saturday, October 5th, St. Michael’s will hold its annual rain or shine Applefest Fair on Saturday October 5th at 1162 Highland Street, Holliston, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fair will feature a bake sale, basket raffle, children’s activities (including face painting, pumpkin painting, cookie decorating and a bouncy house (weather permitting)), homemade jams, jellies and pickles at a Country Store, food and beverages from “Bob’s Grill,” homemade apple crisp, and an indoor tag sale from “Aunt Stella’s Attic” with hundreds of items at spectacular prices.
The day after Applefest, on October 6th, St. Michael’s will honor St. Francis of Assisi with its Blessing of the Animals service at 10 a.m. Folks are invited to bring their suitably leashed or caged animal friends to the service.
“The Blessing of the Animals is one of the most favorite services of the entire year,” says St. Michael’s Reverend Sarah Robbins-Cole. “It’s a cacophony of meows and barks and sometimes chickens and bunnies. I think in the past there may have been a goat or two. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s very noisy, and a lot of fun.”
Robbins-Cole has been pastor at St. Michael’s for five years. The church officially began on Sunday, September 20, 1959, with the Rt. Rev. Anson Stokes, Bishop of Massachusetts, conducted the commissioning service for the new mission. For over a year, service would be held at Holliston Town Hall by The Rev. George L. Packard, Priest-in-Charge, before it moved to a space above Harold Youngling’s hardware store on Washington Street, where Fiske’s now operates. The parishioners held many fundraisers to be able to build a church building on the three acres of property at 1162 Highland St. in Holliston, which the diocese had purchased for $8,000 in 1960. There, it built a strong congregation.
“St. Michael’s is just filled with warm and wonderful people. They’re very welcoming – that’s what we hear most,” says Robbins-Cole. “Clergy who fill in here on a Sunday if I’m away will ask me if the congregation is as warm and wonderful as they seem. It’s filled with lots of interesting people, and I think a distinctive feature of the church is how much they love to help the community around them.”
Congregants have helped Habitat for Humanity, have made lunches for building project volunteers and for area shelters and food pantries, and have gone to Appalachia to help repair houses with their bi-yearly, intergenerational Appalachia Service Project.
Robbins-Cole says the group is committed to Christian formation, with a strong Sunday School program and an opportunity for adults to learn more in its Sunday morning forum at 9 a.m. On Tuesdays, the church features a Bible study, and it even boasts a book group. Leading up to Christmas, during Advent, adults can also take part in Companions in Christ for more learning and fellowship, she says.
“Another distinctive feature of our church is we have a really committed choir, with a choir director and organist who are really fun to work with and have really great music to sup our services,” says Robbins-Cole.
As with any anniversary, says Robbins-Cole, a time for reflection arises.
“It’s a reminder to turn where God is calling us at any particular time as the culture around us may change, and it’s an opportunity to grow on our strengths. We have a mission statement which I think stands the test of time – that we are a Christian Community whose vision is to strengthen our relationship with God and one another, and to spread God’s love. I think that at the 60th anniversary, we will give thanks for all the ways that we did that in the past and continue that mission and understand that calling in changing circumstances and context.”
Things, she says, aren’t really that different from Biblical times.
“When you study the Bible, you see the kind of issues that we’re dealing with and facing are the same issues going on 3,000 years ago,” she says. The Bible is constantly telling us to love the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the prisoner, heal the sick, visit the lonely and lose the bonds of the oppressed. That’s going on for years and years.