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Independent Thoughts: Community Covenant Church closes doors after 115 years

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Featured, Featured: Features

Community Covenant Church

Community Covenant Church Pastor Bruce Johnson leads the congregation during the final service on Dec. 11.

Forty-seven years after relocating to Hopkinton from Milford, and 115 years since its founding, Community Covenant Church held its final service on Dec. 11.

Plagued by declining attendance and an unsuccessful merger with a regional organization, the church at the corner of West Elm Street and West Main Street (diagonally across from the Price Chopper plaza) closed its doors after parishioners determined it was not sustainable. According to member Mary Overholt, there were only about 10-15 people showing up most Sundays in the final year.

Some 60 attendees turned out for the final service at the church, which originally was founded in 1907 in Milford by a group of Swedish-speaking immigrants, Overholt shared.

With expansion came the move to Hopkinton in the early 1970s. The church always stayed relatively small and used part-time pastors until the late 1990s, when Bruce Johnson was brought on full-time.

In 2006, the church added a wing with a fellowship hall and classrooms to provide for a growing number of children.

At one point, Overholt stated, the church was “one of the fastest-growing and most ethnically diverse denominations in the country.”

Highlights from the church’s run included members parking cars for Boston Marathon watchers and fall fairs in the 1980s and ’90s, and more recently, a living Nativity, spring plant sales and Pastor Johnson’s famous Swedish limpa bread offered for sale at the annual Hopkinton Polyarts festival. Members of the church were involved in outreach to girls in a juvenile detention center, several service trips to the Dominican Republic, Louisiana and Houston (after hurricanes) and supporting Project Just Because, Overholt recalled.

As attendance dipped in recent years, the congregation decided to reach out to Highrock, a network of churches of the Covenant denomination. The church became part of the Highrock family in 2021, during the pandemic, but Highrock ended the agreement after six months, indicating it could not support the church financially, Overholt said.

That led to more parish departures and a reduction in hours for Pastor Johnson, and eventually the church’s run came to an end with an emotional final service.

“Despite the sorrow involved, there was a lot of joy in remembering all the blessings of being part of the church,” Overholt stated. “The music was joyful and hopeful. During the service, church members offered appreciation to Pastor Bruce Johnson for his faithful 23 years of service with the church and people shared what the church had meant to them. Although small, it was like an extended family which provided love and support to members.”

Once the church is legally dissolved, the building will be sold, with the proceeds targeted “to plant many churches,” Overholt shared.

“While some in our society may find churches irrelevant, they are still one way that people are trained in the ‘fruit of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, against such things there is no law,’ ” shared Overholt, quoting from Galatians 5:22. “Those things may in fact be the very things that our society needs.”

Downtown parking lot

The new lots behind 35-37 Main Street will make it easier for downtown visitors to find parking. PHOTO/JERRY SPAR

Lots of changes downtown

A recent press release from the town indicated there will be 57 new parking spots behind 35-37 Main Street, in front of the new Hopkinton Village Center development, targeted for use by visitors to downtown.

Town Manager Norman Khumalo later confirmed a Hopkinton Independent writer’s count that there actually are 55 spots. That said, Khumalo noted the 55 spots is more than what originally had been planned, and it should help businesses in the area — especially with some spots going away as part of the Main Street Corridor Project.

Developer Chuck Joseph noted that there are 31 spots in the municipal lot, and 24 more in private lots between the two buildings. The private lots will be available for public use between 6 p.m. until midnight, while the municipal lot will be available during the day and evening.

The lots are expected to be available for use in a few weeks, following some infrastructure work.

Tax relief available

Hopkinton’s Tax Relief Committee continues to encourage eligible Hopkinton residents to apply for funding assistance from the Senior and Disabled Tax Relief Fund before the March 1 deadline. Applicants must be at least 60 years old or have a state-recognized disability, and must own and occupy a Hopkinton single-family home as their primary residence. Qualified applicants will also have an income below $60,000 if married and below $45,000 if single or widowed.

“This is really a neighbor-helping-neighbor program,” committee chair Sue Kurys shared. “It offers a way for the community to come together to help make living in Hopkinton a little more affordable for our most vulnerable residents. It not only provides an opportunity for financial support, but also lets these residents know they are a valued part of the community.”

Check the town’s website (hopkintonma.gov) for more information.

Marathon cost clarification

In a recent article about planning for the Elmwood replacement school, we stated that the cost to build Marathon School, which opened in 2018, was approximately $47 million.

Susan Rothermich, the schools’ director of finance and operations, indicated that the final audit of the original Marathon School project has the spending at just under $43 million (with the state contributing about $14 million).

After the building was completed, town voters approved an expansion project that cost about $4 million, bringing the total cost to $47 million.