This profile was last updated in 2017
The Common Street Spiritual Center (CSSC) emerged out of the 163-year old First Baptist Church (FBC) in Natick, Massachusetts. Years of declining membership and involvement of a largely elderly population compelled the intimate community to agree to “restart” and begin a new community of faith, albeit with a slim 11-10 vote. According to one community member, “it’s been the hardest decision ever made in the church. For some people, it’s maybe the hardest decision they’ve made in their whole lives.” Despite the difficulty of the decision, the community “sacrificed itself with the hope that something better will be born in its place,” according to a September 2011MetroWest Daily News article. Each member committed to finding a new house of worship in order to truly allow for the opportunity for a new community to blossom and grow. Though such initiatives at other houses of worship in the area have often failed in building a new community out of an old one, this community was determined to try, and so the Common Street Community Church was born.
In 2012, the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts in consultation with the board of trustees FBC Natick assigned the Reverend Ian Mevorach to start the new congregation and community – a challenging task, given that many local Baptist community members already belonged to a congregation or did not attend a house of worship. Rev. Mevorach and his wife Amy spent several months meeting with members of the community to discern what practical and spiritual needs were present. Church services, community events, and informal gatherings all defined the first few months of the church’s outreach to the community, local organizations, and other houses of worship. The new Baptist house of worship was named the Common Street Community Church, with an initial mission to build a multicultural community of faith that is inclusive and accepting, rooted in Christian faith and practice, and open to its neighbors’ religions and spirituality. “It’s not going to be a church that says it has the only way,” Rev. Mevorach said. The church’s board includes a Jewish member who supports the church and its inclusive initiatives. In the fall of 2014, the community gathered to discuss changing the word “church” in its name to “spiritual center,” which the community felt was a better expression of their inclusive vision. The community is continuing the process of defining itself and making a transition from being a Christian-based center to one that is rooted in spirituality and love.
The CSSC began as a Christian community in 2013, with a mission based in spirituality, dialogue, ecojustice, and inclusivity. Since then, the community has become more pluralistic and has integrated members with a range of beliefs. As a love-centered spiritual community, the CSSC opens its doors to people of all faith traditions and backgrounds. It seeks to build community around what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as “The Beloved Community.”
Located in the heart of Natick, Massachusetts, the CSSC aims to be an inclusive community space just as much as it strives to be an inclusive spiritual space. The Center welcomes and regularly holds community events such as art shows, festivals, farmers’ markets, film screenings, youth orchestras, and dance performances.
The CSSC provides a number of activities and involvement opportunities.
Sunday Circle worship takes place every Sunday, where the community joins together to sing, pray, and talk together in a circle format. Circle begins with a short sermon, which is usually given by the pastor but occasionally by a congregant, followed by a period of open discussion. Once a month, Communion is offered in accordance with the Baptist tradition and is open to all those wishing to partake. In line with its inclusive and diverse mission statement, the community enjoys a wide variety of music in worship, including gospel, folk, Taizé chants, hymns, and more. The primary choir meets before the Sunday Circle to practice songs and helps lead the congregation in singing during the service.
Prayer groups meet every other Friday morning to provide spiritual support for members of the community through prayer and conversation. The Center sponsors Old Souls Open Mic on the Friday of every month. Music, dancing, comedy, poetry, and other forms of art are welcome. There are also many opportunities for the youngest members of the community to be involved. The Children’s Circle includes a curriculum that guides children through discussion themes such as gratitude, generosity, mindfulness, public service, pluralism, social justice, and environmental stewardship. “Loulou’s Music Together” offers music classes for children and families to sing songs and play instruments in a playful, non-performance setting. A children’s choir performs on occasional services and at charity events.
About half of the congregants identify as Christian, and others identify as Jewish, Muslim, multi-religious, atheist, agnostic, and “spiritual but not religious.”
Informational meetings are offered for prospective members to explore their interests, discern what needs they hope to have met by joining, and how to transition to becoming part of the community. A special Sunday Circle service is dedicated once or twice per year to formally welcome new members into the community. Members do not need to subscribe to a particular faith tradition to join.
Outreach and Interfaith Activity
Although the CSSC has its foundation in Christianity, it is moving towards a love- and spirituality-centered house of worship, and people of all faith traditions are always welcome for worship, education, prayer, meditation, and all activities. Elements of other faith traditions are periodically incorporated into services.
A local Muslim Sunday School, ASK (Always Seek Knowledge) is housed in the Center and meets on Sunday afternoons during the academic school year. The Shi’a community in Natick approached the CSSC requesting space for their weekend school, and they have been sharing space and conversation since fall of 2015.
A Buddhist Meditation and Study Group meets regularly on Monday nights. The group focuses on Zen Buddhism, which involves breathing meditation followed by a discussion. Participants also engage in a book discussion lead by one of the congregants.
The Center also works closely with the local Jewish community through the One Earth Collaborative and Mayan Tikvah (A Wellspring of Hope). Rabbi Katy Allen frequently leads events and services at the CSSC on issues of environmental activism.
The CSSC sponsors a series of “trialogues,” which involve presentations and discussions on various themes and issues from the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic perspectives. After hearing from the presenters, attendees engage in discussion with one another while breaking bread. Past themes have included the role of women in religion and confronting fear of the “other.” The purpose of these dialogues is to “bring together Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others in a spirit of respect, appreciation, and love.” The Circles of Peace Committee meets every Saturday afternoon to discuss issues around racism and other forms of institutionalized oppression and to take steps towards collaborative action.
“Work That Reconnects” is group work aiming to help connect with deep wells of wisdom and resilience while working towards justice and healing of the Earth. Meetings are generally on the fourth Thursday evening of each month.
Big Heart Little Feet is a community service initiative that seeks to get people “fired up” about their neighbors and local environment. Activities include cleaning roads, waterways, parks, and trails. The group helps neighbors rake leaves during the fall and shovel snow after intense New England snowstorms. The community service initiative frequently accepts suggestions from members for new project ideas.