"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do." (Galatians 2:10)
On Tuesday morning of this week, a group of Assemblies of God ministers from central Massachusetts visited the "New England Dream Center" located in inner city Worcester, only a few blocks from the D.C.U. Center (the former "Worcester Centrum"). After hearing about all that is happening through the ministry of the Dream Center, over a hearty breakfast, and then touring the facility, I think most of us felt like the words of Mark 2:12, "...We never saw it on this fashion".
The New England Dream Center is largely modeled after the Los Angeles Dream Center, which was established in inner city Los Angeles, California by First Assembly of God of Phoenix, Arizona, one of the Assemblies of God's key "mega-churches". Having once served on the Board of a Christian non-profit ministry (New England Aftercare Ministries-The Bridge House) I am well aware of how difficult it is to establish a Christian social service ministry in Massachusetts. Usually, there are almost insurmountable hurdles to face from city and state officials, not to mention "Not in My Back Yard" neighborhood groups. Funds are also always a problem. Maintaining buildings can be a nightmare. The fact that the New England Center has gone from an abstract dream to a first-class thriving ministry facility is (to say the least) miraculous!
The New England Dream Center was the brainchild of Pastor Will Bard of Shrewsbury's Liberty Assembly of God, a thriving church of several hundred, located on Route 20 in Shrewsbury. In 2004, God literally made the way for the purchase of the former Chestnut Street Congregational Church located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester. Built in 1895, the church was modeled after France's Notre Dame Cathedral and was once called "The Cathedral of Worcester". Sadly, by 1984, the church had dwindled to only about twenty-five people. The building was sold to one wealthy individual. He leased out the parking out, but just held onto the building doing very little with it. After the purchase, over 300 construction volunteers renovated the entire facility bringing it up to modern codes. The cost was $400,000. Without volunteer labor, the cost would have been close to three million! But that was only the beginning. Since then, the Dream Center has opened and has offered the community a food pantry, clothing distribution, recovery programs including Narcotics Anonymous, E.S.L. classes, G.E.D. classes, performing arts programs, a legal clinic, and much more. On Sunday morning, the Center becomes Liberty City Church. Pastor Bard comes in to preach at the 10 a.m. service. (Bard also conducts an early morning service at his original church in Shrewsbury, and an 11 a.m. service back in Shrewsbury. I hope he doesn't get too many speeding tickets!) At this time of the year, the New England Dream Center also gives hundreds of toys to the needy through the donations of local businesses.
Bard believes the New England Dream Center will ultimately have similar "satellite" centers throughout New England (maybe downtown Framingham...why not?).
The New England Dream Center is always looking for donations and volunteers. I also know there's a newspaper reporter or two who read this blog- this would make a great feature story!
The New England Dream Center is located at 5 Chestnut Street in Worcester. Their telephone number is 508-757-3333. On the web, you can go to www.nedreamcenter.org and you can e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jesus says, “Me too.”
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