Local pastor retiring after 40 years in the ministry

  • The Rev. Beverly Prestwood-Taylor shares the “Words for All God’s Children” during the 2019 Easter Sunday service at the Athol Congregational Church, UCC. A story of love and courage to move forward will also be a time to count blessings as this congregation and community prepare to say goodbye. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Special to the Athol Daily News
Published: 5/12/2019 10:57:57 PM

ATHOL — To Every Thing There is a Season (Ecclesiasties 3). Life is full of changes. A community and a church are no different. The members, friends, and community of the Athol Congregational Church United Church of Christ will soon celebrate the time that they have been blessed with The Reverend Dr. Beverly Prestwood-Taylor as their pastor, teacher, and friend. On May 19, Pastor Beverly will be preaching her final sermon in Athol at the regular 10 a.m. worship service. She will be retiring from 40 years in the ministry. Her professional journey will change, but the congregation and community will celebrate the nine years that she has been part of the ministries and growth that it has experienced with Pastor Beverly.

At 12:30 the community is welcome to join the congregation as they celebrate the highlights of their time together. A reception will follow.

Pastor Beverly, called to serve

As a college student at Bucknell University, Beverly was a geology major. She was ready to work with those fascinating minerals, created millions of years ago. “But God had a different plan for me,” she said, “In college I knew lots about the ‘ages of rocks ’ but then I was called to serve ‘The Rock of Ages’! — kind of a church joke.”

Beverly is married to Bruce Prestwood-Taylor. They are, of course, very proud of their two grown children!  She has served as Pastor and chaplain in Michigan and Massachusetts. She has served as consultant in Conflict Transformation training, and Building Peaceful Community diversity training. The presentations and workshops have taken her to churches of the Pentecostal Church of Chili on numerous occasions. A delegation from Athol, made the trip with Pastor Beverly in 2016.

Recognized trauma healing expert

Since 2007 Beverly has been co-founder and the Executive Director of Brookfield Institute. She is a nationally recognized trauma healing expert. Brookfield Institute has served as a training organization for those individuals, families, communities and congregations who deal with or respond to large-scale trauma.

The Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) training was implemented as the first non-partisan training program for veterans. A key component of the Brookfield Institute programs is to change how communities and congregations reach out and respond to veterans, to inform them and their families about the types of support that is available to them; and/or, to discover new forms of support that may not yet exist, despite the many groups serving veterans.

Looks To Nature

Pastor Beverly says she frequently looks to nature to feel the power and wonder of God in our world. “That day, as we worshipped together, the theme was God speaks through nature, and I looked up and there was a rainbow around the sun called a sun halo. I knew right away that this was a special moment, it was a sign from God, that God was with us in this place.”

Pastor Beverly is remembering the wonderful things about her time as Pastor of the Athol Congregational Church. “This church is blessed with a congregation that is ready to vision better things for our community, and a church that implements that vision. This congregation was willing to take that ‘leap of Faith’ and serve wherever it was needed,” she said.

Pastor Beverly spoke of the Diaconate visitation team learning about faithful visitation, prayer ministry and the personal contacts that strengthened the spiritual connections of people in need of prayer,  comfort and hope, whether they were members or not. Everyone is a welcomed part of this Faith community!

Music and the arts

“I can’t talk about this church without including the ministry of music,” said Pastor Beverly, “I love music and the arts. This Church was ready to try new things that brought the love and joy of the Lord into the community. There are so many talented people here. As lay ministers, others have been empowered to play the handbells, sing a variety of different styles, and getting the church band started! We have had a Jazz  Sunday to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and contemporary musical theater as they have done excerpts from “Jesus Christ Superstar” for a special Holy Week presentation.”

She said she loves to make her Sunday morning interesting and changing, “This  congregation is always willing to let me tell the joke, or act the part of a Bible character. I have heard some tell me, ‘you never know how the service of worship will go – Pastor Beverly makes it ‘new’ every week!’”

Remembering the Mission

The pastor was quick to remember the mission ministries of this congregation. Community Meals have been served each year. “This is an event that is very special and really unique! It is not only food for those with food insecurity, but it is a time for everyone to come together for good food, an evening out with music and fun. Local musicians have donated their time. The joke is that the entertainers ‘sing for their supper,” she said, adding, “We even use real plates and utensils.” This event is on the first Friday of each month, September through May. Many local businesses and individuals have generously sponsored these meals.

“This congregation has seen needs in our community and made it happen. Whether it was a Bible study, Veteran Recognition, a support group, or a family fun event – it was a seed planted from a need and it grew. Everyone is welcome. I have seen firsthand, the ‘open door’ spirit of this congregation. If there is a community event — these people are there. This Church is an important part of the community, reflecting the Love and service of Jesus Christ whenever they can.”

Just as Pastor Beverly came to Athol with a sense that God was calling her to be here and her strong faith in the tasks ahead, so she looks to the future with promise for future joys and more signs that God is good. The Athol Congregational Church UCC has been blessed to have her as their Pastor.


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