Dr. Nathan is a committed lifelong activist regarding issues of social justice including race, environmental justice, homophobia, economic disparity and civil rights. She graduated from Brown University, and then Duke Medical School in 1977. In addition to her extensive social justice efforts, Dr. Nathan is currently a Family Medicine specialist based in Western Massachusetts.
Notably, Marty Nathan’s first husband, Dr. Mike Nathan, was killed in The Greensboro Massacre in a confrontation with Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis. All of the white gunmen were ultimately acquitted. At the time her husband was slain, Dr. Nathan’s daughter was only six months old. In 1985, Dr. Marty Nathan prevailed in a major civil rights lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, in which the City settled without apology on behalf of itself the KKK and American Nazis. Together with other victims, Dr. Nathan founded the Greensboro Justice Fund which helped grassroots organizations fighting against racism, environmental injustice, union-busting, homophobic violence & civil liberties violations in the South. She also participated in The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early 2000’s, which lasted more than two years.
Many original documents relative to the civil rights lawsuit and the Greensboro Massacre are available for review online as PDFs at the Civil Rights Greensboro website where you can browse by subject and date. These documents provide a wealth of information on the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan around the Greensboro Massacre, and brings the full impact and tremendous weight of those days front & center in our consciousness.
Dr. Nathan has continued her work in social justice with her current husband, Prof. Elliott Fratkin of Smith College. Together, they helped found the Cliniquita Fund. This fund, based in Springfield, brings healthcare to undocumented immigrants. Four years ago, Dr. Nathan also helped found Climate Action Now, which has formed the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She is a columnist and regular contributor on issues of climate justice to the Daily Hampshire Gazette & the Springfield Republican.
This opportunity to hear Dr. Marty Nathan – an extraordinary Local Hero of Social Justice – is not to be missed. Her wealth of experience and commitment to social justice is inspirational. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the church office at 567-6287 or leave a message here.
A five week worship and study opportunity for Lent. Books are available for individual study or for reading as part of the Wednesday evening study. Books are in the office for $13. Author Eric Elnes is a UCC clergy person serving a church in Omaha, Nebraska. His premise is that it is in the dark places of our lives –like uncertainly, disappointment, getting lost, feeling empty–that we grow, because God is there. Are you struggling? Do you want to grow spiritually during the next several weeks? The forty days of Lent can be live giving if we journey together into the Dark Wood.
February 17: The Gift of Uncertainty
February 24: The Gift of Emptiness
March 2: The Gift of Being Thunderstruck
March 9: The Gift of Being Lost
March 16: The Gift of Disappearing
Follow along here on the Forum as well as with the in person gatherings… The in-person gatherings are listed above, but each chapter will have a discussion forum here. Be sure to follow us in social media, or subscribe to the newsletter, in order to receive updates of new posts…
Today is Ash Wednesday, but what does that really mean? There is an Ash Wednesday Service at First Church Longmeadow tonight at 7pm, but what happens there? Read on for those answers and more:
What is Ash Wednesday?
This is the first day of the church season of Lent. So called because the church has historically marked this day as one of reflection and introspection and confessing of one’s need for God’s forgiveness. Ashes are a sign of our acknowledgement of our failures and indicate our human need for God’s love and forgiveness. Lent is the church season that leads up to Holy Week, Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I thought only Catholics celebrated Ash Wednesday?
Throughout the world most Christians observe Ash Wednesday, although it is fair to say that some Protestant churches do not observe this holy day, and some denominations have only begun to observe this day in the past 50 years.
What happens in the Ash Wednesday service at First Church?
At First Church we will sing and pray, listen to scripture and celebrate holy communion as we consider together the love and grace of God and begin the spiritual journey of Lent. It is a shorter service that does include imposition of ashes on the forehead (more traditional) or the back of the hand (more recent innovation). Here is a link to one of the prayers that will be included in this evening’s service, together with an article describing some of the background.
If I attend the service, do I have to have ashes placed on my forehead?
Receiving ashes are an optional part of this service. Increasingly many of our church members are finding receiving ashes to be a deeply meaningful aspect of beginning Lent. But the invitation during the service is optional.
Can anyone join the service, or do I have to be a member?
Absolutely anyone and everyone is welcome at First Church. Our welcome statement is: “We, the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow, strive to live out our stated mission to seek love and justice in our world. We welcome persons of every age, race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, mental, physical, emotional, economic and social status, and circumstance of life into the full participation and ministry of our church.” No matter who you are, or where you are on your journey, you are welcome at First Church Longmeadow.
I might want to come to the service, but I would have to bring my children with me. Is that ok?
Absolutely. Children are always welcome at First Church. The service on Wednesday is relatively short in duration, and involves music & singing, so there should be plenty to occupy little ones.
I cannot attend the service this Wednesday, but I would like to know more about activities during Lent at First Church. Where should I look?
There are many activities at First Church during Lent, in addition to the regular Sunday Morning Worship services at 10am. The full calendar of events with descriptions is available on the First Church Website’s Lent Section. There will be family friendly meals on Wednesdays during Lent at 6pm in the Buxton Room at First Church (at the far end of the hall on the first floor). These meals will include elements of worship while we are around the tables, including each week a brief communion liturgy. There also will be a devotional reading group after the meals on Wednesdays discussing the book Gifts of the Dark Wood. Copies are available for purchase in the church office for $13 and online. We also may have copies available on reserve at Storrs Library in Longmeadow. Childcare will be provided. For additional details, please visit the church website.
For several Sundays before church, beginning at 8:30 AM during Lent, our Adult Education Committee will be hosting a series of film presentations and discussions around race relations. We will view half hour installments of the film “Race: The Power of An Illusion” have conversation as we examine a look at what racism is in our country, the systemic institutionalization of racism in our housing, economic systems, education and more: How did it happen? Where are the entry points for change? What might we do to make change and space in all these realms for all people to flourish together moving forward?
If you have a question, please leave it in the comments below. You can also email your question by leaving it in our Contact Form. Thanks for visiting us & please stay tuned for more FAQs and event plans from First Church of Christ Longmeadow.
Three hundred years ago, the Town of Longmeadow was born. It did not begin with the Massachusetts legislature—called then and now the “General Court”—officially recognizing Longmeadow as a town; that would not happen until 1783. Before Longmeadow, or any other place could become a town, the people residing there had to become a community. That community formed with the establishment of the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow.
Before a place can begin the process of becoming a town, the people of that place must decide, at some level, to join their fortunes and fates together. This is not automatic; broad swathes of the state of Maine still consist of unorganized townships. From the arrival of settlers in the 1630s until 1713, “longmeddowe” was part of Springfield.
By 1713, a group of people in longmeddowe was determined to worship together. They found the trek into First Church in Springfield too long and too dangerous (there had been an Indian attack against traveling parishioners). This group of people, not yet numbering 40 families, petitioned the colonial General Court for a fourth time to allow them to establish their own church. They were granted permission, but it was conditioned upon the solemn promise that the petitioners would support their minister.
This involvement of a political body in the establishment of a church reflected how much church and state were intertwined in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The British King ruled by divine right, voting for some decades was restricted in Massachusetts to those men with full membership in the Congregational church, and the town’s meeting house hosted church services and the annual town meeting. With the creation of a separate religious community, Longmeadow became a distinct political community, that is, a precinct of Springfield.
It was in 1716 that the meeting house in Longmeadow was completed and the church had its first pastor, Stephen Williams, who would go on to serve for 66 years. One year after his death, the United States gained its independence, and Longmeadow became its own town. In 2015, the institutions of First Church and a democratic town government continue to be cornerstones of the Longmeadow community.
The idea of Longmeadow as a distinct community has persisted long after the establishment of that meeting house in 1716. The living memory of that event died two centuries ago, but the idea is very much alive. Much like the U.S.S. Constitution docking in Charlestown harbor with every board, nail, and sail having been replaced but still existing as the same ship, all of the components of that original community have been replaced, many times over. Despite these changes, there is an unbroken thread that connects the people of 1716 to the Longmeadow residents of 2015.
But none of this was inevitable. In 1716, the first meeting house was constructed sufficiently to allow for its use, but it would take 13 years for the walls to be plastered, and in over 50 years of meetings of all sorts, it never had a stove. Longmeadow was nothing more than an experiment. The challenge of fewer than 40 families supporting a pastor and erecting that meeting house must have seemed daunting. One wonders whether 40 families today could manage such a feat.
Town government and the idea of democracy were mere seedlings in 1716. Town meetings and the election of “select” men to provide executive leadership became practices almost immediately after the colony was chartered, but the governor answered to the King and not the people. Overseas in England, there was a Parliament which prevented the King from exercising absolute power, but it was considered altogether fitting and proper that mere colonists should have no representation. Taxation without representation was the law of the land.
In time, direct democracy in the form of the Town Meeting would become sacred and British interference in Massachusetts local government would figure in the words of the Declaration of Independence. The example of ordinary people deciding questions of local import in meeting houses like the one that resided on the Longmeadow Green would serve as a blueprint for democracy on a national scale. The idea of government by and for the people has swept across every continent, and it continues to gather force.
On October 3, 2015 at 11 am, First Church, members of the Longmeadow Select Board, state representative Brian Ashe, state senator Eric Lesser, and the Longmeadow community will honor Longmeadow history in the kickoff to a year-long celebration of the 300th anniversary of the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow. The fledging religious and political community of Longmeadow has grown from a seedling into a towering oak tree. That living tree, depending on daily nourishment to survive, is still an experiment, but it is stronger than ever.
Alex J. Grant is a member of First Church and the Longmeadow Select Board. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.