By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough – A number of local religious congregations have discovered that by working together, they can accomplish great things.
The Northborough Interfaith Clergy Association (NICA) is an association of professional ministers from eight congregations who support one another in their respective ministries, create occasional inter-religious worship opportunities for themselves and their communities and serve those in the community who suffer injustice with special attention to those in the community who are poor, needy, or neglected.
NICA Chair Ernie Rivard served 10 years as center administrator and retreat director at the Passionist's Calvary Retreat Center in Shrewsbury, before becoming a pastoral assistant and director of ministries at St. Rose of Lima Parish in 2009.
In recent years, Rivard has served on the Shrewsbury Ecumenical Clergy Association, the Shrewsbury Council on Aging, and various provincial committees of the Passionist Congregation. He is the local director for the Calvary Passionist Associates of Massachusetts, and three years ago he replaced Reverend Cynthia Maybeck (former pastor of Trinity Church) as chair of NICA.
“Ministers from any town congregations who wish to participate in the collaborative manner described in our brochure are welcome,” Rivard said. “At the same time, we understand that the responsibilities and demands placed on some ministers may make it difficult for them to participate and we respect that decision.”
Rivard said that working with religious leaders from different denominations is rewarding and joyful.
“Though we may approach it from diverse perspectives, all our members deeply treasure the gift of faith and see the life and light it can bring to the world,” he said. “To sit with fellow ministers is a humbling, creative experience as we share our joys and challenges in ministry.?When we listen to each other and share our experiences, we all gain a more healthy and complete vision of the work of our Creator in the world today.?Though NICA, we encourage one another in service to our communities.”
The Northborough Interfaith Clergy Association meets monthly to pray together, to share resources, and to enjoy friendship with each other. Besides Trinity Church, there is representation from Church of the Nativity, First Parish Unitarian-Universalist, St. Bernadette's, St. Rose of Lima, and Seventh Day Adventist Church, all of Northborough,The Church of Latter Day Saints of Marlborough, and Congregation B'sai Shalom of Westborough.
NICA participates in an annual interfaith Thanksgiving service, fraternal clergy gatherings, and hosts a free weekly community meal every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Trinity Church. The group supports the Northborough food pantry, Worcester Pastoral Counseling Centers and Families in Transition.
Additionally, NICA has set up an emergency voucher fund which distributes an estimated $3,400 in vouchers to families in crisis each year. Recipients may receive free gasoline, groceries or lunch, medication, heating oil, or overnight lodging. To fund the voucher program, NICA sponsors a dinner dance at which an outstanding citizen is honored for his or her exemplary service to the community. Recipients of the honor this year will be former Northborough Police Chief Ken Hutchins and his wife, Priscilla.
The fundraiser will take place at White Cliffs, 167 Main St., Northborough, Saturday, Nov. 9, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person and can be purchased by contacting St. Rose of Lima Church at 508-393-6444.
Fellow congregational representatives include: Rev. Jerrie Shepard Matney from Trinity Church, Rev. Len Cowan from Church of the Nativity, Rev. Judith Wright from First Parish Church, Ken Hutchins from Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rev. James Houston and Sr. Joan McDermott from St. Rose of Lima Church, Pastor Michael Henry from Seventh Day Adventist Church, Sr. Muriel Audette from St. Bernadette Church and Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz from Congregation B”Nai Shalom.