Music lessons transform community

Music lessons transform community

. 1 min read

By the Rev. Thomas E. Kim
March 1, 2024 | EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (UM News)

Haven United Methodist Church has served the East Providence, Rhode Island, community for nearly 150 years, but it has been experiencing both financial and congregational decline over an extended period. The time when hundreds of worshippers would come to service is long in the past.

The New England Conference had even considered closing the church until the Rev. Juhee Lee was appointed there as its part-time pastor in 2019.

As soon as Lee arrived, she found that the ongoing financial decline had pushed the members of the church into survival mode. Its ministries and activities had become inward-focused, causing the church to lose its central role in the community over the years.

Lee and the congregation discussed how to navigate the direction of the church and came to the unanimous decision to become a mission-oriented church.

The church now has about 30 in-person worshippers with a few more attending virtually. However, its doors are open seven days a week for various ministries such as 12-step recovery meetings, youth basketball, a thrift shop and a community music project. These ministries reach about 500 people weekly.

The Community Music Project has become the most significant ministry of the church. It utilizes Lee’s musical talent: She is a violinist with a master’s degree in music. However, the program had to start from ground zero. Lee and the church leaders did not know how many students would join the program, and she was the only teacher.

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