"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Galatians 6:14)
In certain situations, a pastor's wife standing at the pulpit and opening up the Sunday morning service in tears could be a very bad thing. It could mean that things in the church are very bad; that her husband is about to resign; that a major fight or (even worse) a major church split has just taken place. It could mean that she's reached the end of her rope, to use a common expression. Yes, it could be a very bad sign. Well, the pastor's wife did open up the service in tears today at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, Massachusetts this morning, but this was not a bad sign; rather, it could not have been better news!
In all fairness, Janis Collette is not only "the pastor's wife". In fact, she is Ordained- she's The Rev. Janis Collette, and she's Associate Pastor of the church. And, she was crying tears of joy and appreciation this morning! I am really pleased to write this piece today because I'm at a unique vantage point to do so. A pastor or member of a pastoral staff really can't write a "puff piece" about the church at which they minister. This is because is appears they're just trying to promote themselves, their ministry, and the church where they minister. A church Board member also really can't write such a piece without being accused of practicing very subjective promotion of their church. While I'm a church member at Bread of Life, I'm not on the pastoral staff, nor am I a Board member there. But I am an Ordained minister and I do have a number of years of pastoral experience. Let me tell you, Janis and the leadership at Bread of Life indeed have reasons for shedding tears of appreciation and joy! Janis opened up reading a portion of the New Testament about the various ministries of the Body of Christ and thanking the church family for all their hard work this week in preparing for the church's annual Thanksgiving outreach dinner. She was moved to tears in thinking of how much work and love the church members have poured into this event. Listen, this dinner is really an impressive event. It takes extraordinary work and commitment from scores and scores of people in the church to make it happen. This year's dinner is taking place tomorrow in two seatings in the late afternoon and early evening. One seating is for Veterans. The other seating is for Senior Citizens. People do have to sign up in advance- strictly because the church can only handle about one-hundred-twenty per seating. But that's all the guests have to do is sign up. The rest is a gift from the church to the community. It's a way of thanking and honoring both Vets and Seniors. This morning, many "turkey roaster ovens" were seen at the side of one of the church's corridors. I remember that my mom had one of those turkey roaster ovens years ago, as did my grandmother. I honestly did not know they made them anymore. I haven't seen one in a long time, but I guess they do! A lot of turkeys have to be cooked for these dinners! In addition, teams of church members have showed up in various shifts over the past few days to peel potatoes and get all sorts of other food ready. There's a whole serving crew and a whole clean-up crew for tomorrow's dinner. Of course, there will be all sorts of kitchen workers, etc. It's a monumental undertaking. Honestly, I've felt guilty that I have not really been involved in a "hands on" way with this dinner. My wife and I live just outside the Boston city limits in the heart of Boston's suburbia. It's sixty-five miles one-way to church at Bread of Life. That can be difficult at times. I would love to be more involved there; and in many respects I do wish I lived within ten miles, or so, of the church facility. It wasn't much but I was glad to help an energetic group of mostly (but not exclusively) men "take up" the chairs after the service and roll out and set up the tables for the dinner. So many were working at this that it only took about twenty minutes to do!
I know. You're probably wondering why we attend church so far away. It's a long story, but when the church we pastored in Framingham closed in 2010, my wife suggested we attend church at Bread of Life in Westminster. It was forty miles from Framingham, but we very much liked Pastors Gary and Janis Collette, and we liked the fact that it was a very healthy and vibrant church of well over two hundred people. From our first Sunday there I've really loved the church. There were some weeks that for various reasons we visited other churches, but most Sundays we're at Bread of Life. Let me tell you, Bread of Life is not typical of most of today's evangelical churches. Many of today's churches have gone to music that is so loud it's unpleasant and you leave church with an earache! In many cases, it's so loud that you can't understand the words of the songs being sung. If the words of the songs were not projected on the screen you'd never know what they were! At Bread of Life, most of the songs we sing are quite up-to-date and there are several singers and musicians, including a drummer; but the music is never too loud! The worship teams also do a great job leading the church family into praise and worship. There's a trend today of pastors "dressing down". I'm showing my age of fifty-nine right now because I don't like that! I really respect the fact that Pastor Gary usually dresses up in a nice suit and tie. I see that as respectful to God and to the church family. There is not a "dress code" for the church family, however, and I think that's great. You can come all dressed up in fancy clothes, or you can come pretty casually dressed. Everybody is welcome! When I first attended an Assemblies of God church as a young adult, the big thing was the "altar service". It was not unusual for half of the people at church to come up to the altar area after the pastor's sermon- not only for "salvation" but for all sorts of reasons. I was not used to altar calls like that at the Baptist church I'd previously attended, and I loved it. Today, in most Assemblies of God churches it's like pulling teeth to get people to come up to the altar and spend time seeking the Lord in prayer. Some pastors will announce "the altars are open" and everybody kind of says, "that's nice" and goes home! I was stunned to see what I'd call "1970s style" altar calls at Bread of Life when I started attending there- and if anything they've gotten even better!
Gary and Janis Collette came to the Westminster church in 1992. The church there had been closed up for awhile. Under their ministry, it was opened up with only a couple handfuls of people. All I can say is, God has really blessed their church and ministry. Many Sundays there are close to three hundred people present, and it's growing. Now, please don't misunderstand me. No church is perfect. Churches are made up of imperfect human beings. We all have our "issues". We all make mistakes. Bread of Life Church is not perfect. But, Bread of Life is a church in which the people are very hungry for God and very obedient to God. Associate Pastor Janis Collette had a good reason to shed tears this morning. I stand in agreement with her and I rejoice in what God is doing at Bread of Life Church, and I only wish it were possible for me to be present for the dinners tomorrow!
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