All Saints' Episcopal Church is located in the town of South Hadley in Massachusetts' beautiful Pioneer Valley, about 12 miles North of Springfield. The congregation is a vital community that welcomes all in the name of Christ, is grounded in faithful and relevant worship, learns and serves together, gives of ourselves and to others, and connects in ministry with the wider world. The church borders the grounds of Mount Holyoke College, the oldest women's college in the nation.
In 1947 Bishop W. Appleton Lawrence appointed a chaplain to serve the Episcopal students at Mount Holyoke. In 1952 a house on Woodbridge Street at the edge of the campus was purchased and became the Episcopal Center for College Work in South Hadley. The building was named Lawrence House in honor of the bishop. In 1955 local residents working with the college program organized an Episcopal Mission at Lawrence House. Two years later the Reverend Maurice Kidder was called as full-time chaplain. In 1959 All Saints' Episcopal Church was established.
The mission prospered and soon outgrew Lawrence House. In 1959 the members themselves erected a prefabricated building which would serve as their main place of worship for the next forty years.
In 1994 a number of young adults were prepared for confirmation, including one special young man with learning disabilities. An anonymous donor, touched by the rector's work with the young man and with the confirmation liturgy, offered a very generous gift to the parish. The donor wished to finance the building of an accessible permanent church and parish hall. After much prayerful discernment, the parishioners accepted the gift. On All Saints' Day in 1997, the bishop consecrated the beautiful new brick and stucco building.
Today the parish is growing and thriving with many new families as well as long-time members. In addition to Sunday and mid-week worship, the parish is involved with many activities and ministries. An adult choir enhances many of the worship services. The children of the parish, including a children's choir, actively participate in the life of the parish. Weekly coffee hours are a time of fellowship organized by many members of the parish. Outreach programs abound; local residents especially look forward to the parish's Lenten Lunch program every Spring. The proceeds from this long standing tradition have benefited numerous organizations.
A very active facet of the church is Christian Education for all ages. The Church School holds regular classes for children from age 3 through grade 6. An active Youth Group gathers youth in grades 9-12 for regular occasions of sharing food, fellowship, learning, service and fun. Recent adult formation classes and discussions included Bible study, Emmaus, prayer, and spirituality. The church received a gift of a twenty-four foot canvas labyrinth cloth. The labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool that helps quiet the mind and free the spirit. Our labyrinth canvas is a Modified Medieval seven circuit Chartres-like pathway. Circular paths are found in many religious traditions and various forms around the world. It is not a maze with tricks and dead ends but a unicursal path which symbolizes life. Labyrinth walks are held throughout the year.
Recently the parish embarked on an exciting new ministry, that of the Lawrence House Service Corps. Through the generous support of The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Western MA, and parishioners, the original Lawrence House building has been removated and now houses a community of young adults. Each year in early September, a group of 5-6 young adults, ages 21-31, moves into Lawrence House and commits to a year of living intentionally in Christian community, working full-time in a non-profit social justice placement in the surrounding area, and receiving living expenses and a small stipend. Lawrence House is once again used to support the faith formation of young adults, and the parish is excited to engage in this new ministry that supports young adults in being followers of Jesus and helping to change the world. For more information about the Lawrence House Service Corps, see the Facebook page, or visit the Episcopal Service Corps website.