Friday, November 14, 2014


"Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you."  (Philippians 4:21)

(Forgive me; the first couple of paragraphs will be kind of "overly detailed introductory material".  If you want to skip them, you may, but I felt they were rather necessary to make you appreciate the rest of the piece!)

I almost could have called this piece,  "Friday Throwback", for in some ways that's what it felt like.  It would really take pages and pages to tell you of how much Barnabas Ministries, Inc. and its "John 17:23 Fellowship Groups" have meant to me.  That ministry was started largely though the efforts of The Rev. Dr. Richard A. "Dick" Germaine over twenty years ago.  (Dick's story could really be made into a Christian film.  He came to Hopkinton, Massachusetts pastor a "liberal" New England Congregational church in the early 1970s and saw God transform that church into one of the most important and dynamic evangelical churches in New England.  Dick resigned that pastorate over a decade ago but remains very active as the Executive Director of Barnabas Ministries, Inc.)  During the final six years that I was pastoring in Framingham, I was a Member of a "John 17:23 Group" led by Dick himself.  I got to know him very well and was the recipient of lots of prayer and helpful counsel from him.  One of the ministries of Barnabas Ministries, Inc. is the "weekly pastors prayer outpost".  I know, that almost sounds like a title from the Old West!  At least, it always did to me.  On Friday mornings, Dick and a group of Intercessors meet in the "chapel" at Faith Community Church in Hopkinton and pray for all of the pastors who are involved in any way with the "John 17:23 Fellowship" and specifically pray for requests that various pastors have e-mailed in to them.  The pastors prayer outpost is always open to any pastor who has a need or who just wants special prayer.  He or she can just show up and receive that prayer blessing.

For a couple of years, I became a "regular" at the Friday morning prayer times; usually going every other week, but occasionally even attending weekly.  There have been many losses in my life over the past six years or so.  For me, a couple of the greatest losses have been the "John 17:23 Fellowship Group" which met every other week on Wednesday mornings and the Friday "pastors prayer outpost".  Due to my secular work schedule, I had to drop out of each- and considering I was not pastoring anymore, I really didn't meet the criteria for the Wednesday group.  I have occasionally attended the Friday prayer times since the church has closed and I've moved out of the area; but over the past three years, such Friday mornings have been very rare and I don't think I'd been to one for over a year prior to today.

It's most unusual for me to not be assigned to work at the answering service on a Friday morning.  When I saw that time slot was "open" I began thinking about going to the Friday morning pastors prayer outpost.  There were some mixed emotions.  Am I a pastor or not?  I am still an Ordained Minister.  However, I get very mixed messages about that question:  Am I a pastor or not?  I'm not currently pastoring a church.   I don't generally go around telling people I'm a pastor.  I usually just introduce myself as "Bob Baril" and say nothing about the pastor stuff.  Some people insist on calling me "Pastor Bob Baril".   Others have pretty strongly let me know I'm definitely not "Pastor Bob Baril".  I just kind of keep it neutral and "go with" however that other person wants it to be.  I wondered if it would be a good idea to attend the pastors prayer outpost or not.   Last night, the weather forecast was calling for "two inches of snow" especially in central Massachusetts.  I figured it was pretty definite I would not be going to the pastors prayer outpost, but would rather be scraping down driveways and walkways with a shovel.  I was surprised and relieved when there was no snow on the roadways this morning and no more than an inch on most lawns. 

I was just a bit nervous and uncomfortable as I walked into the chapel at Faith Community Church at 8 a.m.  I was warmly received, and literally hailed as a pastor.  I wondered if I really deserved that title and recognition.  The intercessors are usually divided up into several groups- there were three groups today.  I used to be really "into it" when I'd be part of these prayer meetings years ago.   As we prayed for various pastors and churches and situations I realized I was pretty much "out of the loop".  I did not recognize quite a few of the names of pastors.  After several years, there have been a lot of pastoral changes in the area.  It still felt great to be part of it, however.  I was blessed that a pastor in the small group in which I was praying specifically prayed for me and my situation.  I did not ask for this at all, but it almost moved me to tears.

Toward the end of the Friday morning intercessory time, everybody goes up to the front of the chapel and stacks of cards (I think they're 4 x 6 cards) are passed out to each person.  On each card is the name of a pastor and the place where he or she ministers.  (If the pastor is retired or in transition, it may just include the pastor's name.)  One person reads a Bible verse and leads in a general prayer; then we each simultaneously read the names of each of the pastors out loud.  Finally, when all of the names have been read, we close with an "Amen".  I always find it interesting if the names of some clergy friends of mine are found on any of "my" cards when we do this exercise.  I was rather blessed that today I had the name: Dan Condon, Meeting Place Church.  (He is the pastor of the new English-speaking Assemblies of God church in Framingham.) 

When we finished, I had this thought:  "They probably don't have my name on one of these cards anymore.  Why would they?  I don't pastor a church and I'm not even likely to do so again."
No sooner had I finished that thought, when Jay Germaine, Dick's wife turned to me with a big smile.  "I did not get to pray for you in the small group today," she said, "but I had your name on one of my cards so I did get to pray for you!"

Boy, was that a surprise and an encouragement!

I have not yet told you what I will call "the frosting on the cake" about this morning:  I met a fellow Assemblies of God minister that I did not know.  He's a black African guy who is starting a brand new church in Milford, Massachusetts.  His name is Christophe Akagla and the church will be a multi-cultural church known as "The Mount of the Lord".   It turns our there are some mutual pastors we each know.  Christophe [like a lot of black African pastors] is young, happy, energetic, and friendly.  We had a chance to chit chat for a couple of minutes afterward in the parking lot.  He was so happy to meet me, and, well, that made me very happy!

Yes, it was kind of a "Friday Throwback" but more than that, it was a Divine appointment!

Incidentally, for more information about Barnabas Ministries, Inc., please check out:

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