Rochester church starts in-person services again

May 24, 2020

ROCHESTER — The First Congregational Church of Rochester’s website calls it “the church on the green,” but starting May 24, church is held literally on the green. 

The parish’s leadership team decided to reopen, even as the Mattaposiett Congregational Church remained closed. Pastor Colby Olson formed a medical team of those in the profession to come up with rules for how to open, including outdoor services and masks for participants. The church also has another team to figure out how to implement what the medical team suggested.

Olson started at the church in March, amid the pandemic, and hasn’t met most of his parishioners in-person yet. 

“I’m supposed to learn who you are, and I can’t even recognize you,” Olson joked, adding, “I feel like I am in the Wild West, but I am glad we’re keeping safe.” 

He also asked his masked audience at one point “how come no one is smiling?” 

Olson said he had met some of his parishioners in working on the church, and could already tell that they were a good group of people. 

His sermon focused in part on Mary and her role in the Bible. 

“We often cast Mary aside in evangelical tradition. We should hold her in high regard. The issue is when people start worshipping Mary instead of Jesus,” Olson said. 

He was clearly still getting to know his new congregation a bit. When he asked how old Mary likely was when she had Jesus, and someone correctly answered 14, he said “that was impressive!” 

He said the fear in Mary’s heart when she learned of God’s purpose for her is like the fear in many hearts now.

He acknowledged (and made his listeners repeat) that change is a coming, and added that people fear change because God made them that way. 

But, “fear is the opposite of faith. If you live in fear you can never live in faith,” he added. 

There was also a strong family feeling to the sermon, as Olson said that one of the perks of preaching outside was “I love watching children run in the background.” 

When he said that Jesus “came as a little infant baby,” he was able to hold up his own newborn son, Tate, who had just arrived at the service. “He’s cuter than me,” the older Olson remarked. 

He acknowledged that he went on a tangent again, but blamed it partly on lack of sleep and was still greeted with applause at the end of sermon. 

As people dispersed, the church bells rang out with “God Bless America” and other patriotic tunes. 

Speaking after the service, Olson said that he “I love all the history of this church,”  and that he is trying to sell his house in Harwich and move to the area. 

His wife, Joyce Olson, was also there, and called it, “surreal and exciting to be moving and getting to know these people. Looking forward to getting to know them more, though it may be good that we’ve had somewhat limited contact, since with a newborn we are not getting a lot of sleep.” 

The Congregational Church will continue its services on Sunday, May 31 at 10 a.m. Attendees should bring a chair and a face mask. Six foot social distancing will be utilized for everyone’s safety. The service will also be livestreamed on Facebook. Call the church office at 508-763-4314 with any questions.