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A note from our Pastor, May 2018
And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”- Isaiah 57:14
Grace and peace. For many years we have spoken about the need to be a handicap accessible church building. We have prayed to God for more awareness and have dreamed of a day when we will be fully accessible for all people. I am excited to announce that this May we will launch the Our Time to Build campaign to make the dreams of being fully accessible a reality. God has truly led us to this exciting time in the life of our beloved church. On April 29 and May 6 we will be have a mission moment during our worship services to reveal the architectural plans for a new addition at First UMC. Architect Doug Sacra will show the plan and speak for just a few minutes during the service and then be available for a full presentation after both services. The plan will include a new welcoming/fellowship area off the main parking area as well as fire safety compliance and making our beloved church building fully accessible. You are invited to be part of the excitement as we need everyone to pray about what they can give to make this dream a reality.
I will admit that it has taken me many years to better understand the need to have a church building fully accessible and barrier free for all people. When we are not fully barrier free there are many who are kept from joining us in worship and in mission. It sends a message that they are not thought of and not important. With this project we will be sending a beautiful message of welcome, hospitality and love for people that have to overcome obstacles everyday. Someone asked me recently…”Why are we planning to be fully barrier free when we don’t have people in wheel chairs in our church?” It was an innocent question that was answered without me saying a word. We don’t have people in wheelchairs in our church because they cannot physically get in and go everywhere in our building.
When you follow Jesus and accept him as your savior your eyes are opened to the needs of others. You look at everything differently as the Holy Spirit works on your heart to care for those so often forgotten. God has given me the empathy to imagine what someone feels when they come to our church building and cannot physically enter. I can only imagine that they feel ignored and left out. The message God is calling us to send through the Our Time to Build campaign is that we must remove the barriers and obstacles in people’s way- both physically and spiritually. We want to make the rough ways smooth and the crooked straight so that people will have access to the amazing love of Jesus. We will all benefit from the improved fire safety and new gathering area but I want you to think of those who will finally be physically able to enter all areas of our church and what they will personally experience in terms of feeling loved and welcomed. Though it is a physical project that we are being called to build let us remember the spiritual building that will be built along with it.
I recently preached on Acts 3 when Peter and John noticed the paralyzed beggar who sat everyday on the temple steps. He would beg everyday- with his head down- and watch everyone else walk up the steps into the presence of God. The Holy Spirit moved Peter and John to be aware of him and love him. They came to him and said- ‘Look at us’. The man looked into the eyes of two men who truly cared for him. They did not have gold or silver to give him but they had the love of Jesus. The man was physically healed and he went leaping and jumping into the temple praising God. The man was- more importantly- spiritually healed as he was finally welcomed into the house of God. This is what the church needs to do today. Make sure everyone has access to the love of Jesus- to hear and experience the message of the Gospel. I do not want to be someone who is unaware of the needs of others. Because when our hearts are full of compassion and sensitivity we will be blessed by the presence of Christ. Those who overcome injuries, cancer, addiction, permanent disability, etc... are inspiring to everyone as they show us the power of faith and determination. We need them in our church family.
One of the heroes in my life of faith is my good friend Youcef (Joe) Bellil. I grew up with Youcef at Wesley UMC in Worcester MA. Youcef was born with polio and is not able to walk or run. This did not stop him from being part of our church family but for years I saw him struggle- using crutches- to go up and down the many steps in our church as all the children ran around him. Youcef has helped me better understand the need for all buildings to be barrier free- but especially churches. It hurts me to think that Youcef would not be able to attend church dinners or other events at First UMC. Youcef has shared with me that when you become a barrier free church- with a ramp and elevator- you are extending a hand of welcome. You are sending a message of love to all. For many years Youcef was the director of the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council, Center for Living & Working, Inc. and is now the VP of Public Affairs at Easter Seals Massachusetts. He continues to inspire me more than he knows.
I thank all the leaders of our church who have worked for over a year to get to this point in our Our Time To Build campaign. All the hard work and dedication has brought to us a wonderful plan and now is the time to move forward. Our beloved church building is 50 years old this year and it is in need of this work. Please pray how you can show your faith through your support of this most worthy project. We can all become closer to Jesus by coming together to make this a reality. We need everyone to make this mission to be barrier free a reality. A mailing with details and an invitation to pledge will be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Please feel free to call on me or anyone on the fundraising committee if you have questions, comments or would like to volunteer to help on the fundraising committee.
We are all blessed that after a long winter this Spring will be spectacular. We will be reminded at how God brings about transformation. Let us rejoice in the opportunities to bring transformation to our church building and our hearts through the love of Jesus. Amen.
In Christian Love, Pastor John
p.s. We are having a knew front door installed soon. The front door will have windows that will show the cross on both doors. I celebrate that the new doors will let the light shine and around the crosses!
Sunday Worship Schedule
Join us for a traditional worship service @ 9:00am with age appropiate Sunday School classes for kids ages pre-k through high school. Our 10:30am service is a bit more relaxed with a contemporary flair.
Come early and join us for a hymn sing at 8:45 am.
Refreshments and fellowship time at 10 am.