Tuesday, March 30, 2010


“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

I love to get mail! Well, I love to get MOST mail. Today a surprising piece of mail arrived at my home. It was a violation notice for not paying the toll at the Tobin Bridge on Monday, March 8, 2010. The plate number of the violator was listed as “280”. Yup, that’s my plate: 280. But I wanted to shout, “I DIDN’T DO IT!” And I didn’t. I inherited my parents’ 1989 Volkswagen Golf in late 2000 and along with it, I inherited Massachusetts plate #280. My father had plate #280 because he had been a Registry of Motor Vehicles Supervisor. In fact, it was awarded to him by then Registrar Alan Mackey on the occasion of his retirement.

COULD I have been up at the Tobin bridge on March 8 and forgotten about it? Or could someone else have driven my car up there that day? No! On Monday, February 8, I had NO BRAKES in the Volkswagen in downtown Framingham. It was pretty terrifying. I aimed the car into a snow bank and that stopped it. I called AAA and had the car towed to my driveway where it has sat ever since. I did not want to take any chances with losing plate #280 so I kept the registration and insurance on the Volkswagen active. Just yesterday, I transferred plate #280 to our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan. (That meant 2 trips to the Milford Registry and 2 trips to our insurance agency.) Bottom line: The VW with plate #280 sat dead in my driveway on March 8. I didn’t do it. I sent off an appeal letter to the Violations officer explaining all of that and I trust the $50 ticket will be dismissed.

This week, Christians remember the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. A few years ago, a lot of people were “grossed out” by Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ”. In fact, the REAL crucifixion was more bloody and gory even than Mel’s film. Mel Gibson himself has stated that he actually TONED DOWN the look of Jesus Christ on the Cross because if the film portrayed it with extreme accuracy no one would want to look at the film and it would make them sick. The amazing thing is that Jesus Christ endured that horrible suffering and death; he was executed as a criminal but HE DIDN’T DO IT! I am so humbled when I think that Jesus was silent. What words he DID speak on that Good Friday were mostly words of love, grace, and wisdom. He hung there on the Cross in obedience to His Heavenly Father. He was completely innocent. But he did NOT cry out, “I didn’t do it.” Was Jesus Christ weak? No! He was STRONG!

I will have to change the names to protect the innocent here, but a little over ten years ago the employee of a friend of mine was arrested and charged with child molestation. This all happened at the workplace. A woman who worked there as a secretary would bring her little girl in to work, and sometimes a single guy who worked there would “take her into his office and baby-sit her”. She later confided to her mother that the office baby-sitter had touched her inappropriately. I’ll call the office baby-sitter Zach. Zach tried to brush off the charges saying, “Oh we were just playing. Oh I might sit her on my lap...” etc.

My friend Fred who employed Zach and Charlene (the secretary) could not understand how Zach could be so blasé and casual about the charges against him.
"I would be yelling, 'I DIDN’T DO IT!'" said Fred. So would I. That’s because we would never molest a child. Zach didn’t yell that because he did it and he went to jail for it.

Back to Jesus Christ: no, He didn’t do it. But I did it. I did it. So did you. No, I didn’t molest children! And, no, I didn’t fail to pay a toll at the Tobin Bridge. But the Bible teaches that my sins and your sins are what put the holy, sinless Jesus Christ on that Cross. That may sound old-fashioned and gory, but it’s the direct message of pretty much the entire New Testament, and it’s also (usually in more subtle forms) found in the Old Testament (the Jewish Scriptures).

Isaiah 53 that I quote from above is a remarkable passage. It was written roughly 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, if you read Isaiah 53 in ANY Bible....Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or whatever....it is clearly talking about Jesus Christ dying on the Cross. It’s an amazing piece of prophecy.

If what I’m writing sounds “off the wall”, I challenge you to read Isaiah 53 this week. And read from the New Testament this week, especially the Gospel of John, the Book of Ephesians, and the Book of Romans. God’s standard for heaven is PERFECTION. I have never lived up to that standard for even one day of my life. Neither have you. But Jesus Christ DID. And HE paid the penalty for our sins so we would NOT have to spend eternity in Hell. And, He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. He conquered death and the devil. (See I Corinthians 15, among other chapters.)

I was not happy to receive that violation notice today, nor was I happy to have to write my appeal letter and mail it off. But it got me thinking about what I’ve written here today, so (for you mature Christians) I guess this was a Romans 8:28 situation!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


“And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying,
Hosanna to the Son of David:
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying,
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

As difficult as it is to NOT be pastoring anymore (especially on Holy Week) one blessing of not pastoring is the opportunity of visiting other churches. On the 14th and the 21st, Mary Ann and I went up to Bread of Life Assembly of God in Westminster. Today, Mary Ann went there again, but she had a meeting to attend (relative to the Treasury facet of the closing of the Framingham church) immediately after the service. I was willing to go up there with her and just hang around after church. Mary Ann, however, gave me the option to NOT go today, and I exercised that option.

Jon and I walked down to Greater Framingham Community Church, the predominantly African-American congregation at Franklin and Park Sts. in downtown Framingham. What a GREAT Palm Sunday service! I loved it! Frankly, I could attend an African-American church every week with NO problem!

The Rev. Dr. J. Anthony Lloyd’s sermon was “There’s a New Sheriff in Town”. It was an outstanding Palm Sunday message. A real test when I visit another church is if I get “fed” by the message, and I DID! In fact, they also had a responsive altar call after the sermon for those who wanted to go up for a few minutes seeking the Lord (as is often done in Pentecostal churches although I believe G.F.C.C. comes from more of a Baptist tradition). I went up, and I’m glad I did.

Jon and I were not the only white people there. I’d say at least 5% of those seated in the congregation were fellow European-Americans. There was a white woman and her little girl visiting who identified themselves as from a growing youth oriented church in the 495 Belt that I’m familiar with. I’m not sure if they live in Framingham or what. I know the church she mentioned as being from is one of those where you can show up dressed very casually and sit there drinking a Starbucks coffee during the service. Conversely, in the Black churches, people tend to wear their Sunday best and much of the format hasn’t changed much in fifty years. No power point during the service, for instance.

The choir was GREAT! A song they did over and over and over (and I LOVED it) was “Praise in the Temple/Praise in the House”. If you want to hear what that song sounds like, there’s a version of it on youtube by Dorothy Norwood. Just cut and paste the link below and check out the song!


Looking for a great, dynamic, English speaking Bible preaching church in downtown Framingham? You just might want to check out Greater Framingham Community Church. Their service is at 10. AND for Easter Sunday, they’re also having an early service at 7:30 followed by a breakfast.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

This piece is NOT about the game “Chinese Checkers” but rather is about Chinese restaurants! I was just trying to come up with a catchy title! I’m certainly aware that Americans tend to eat too much and exercise too little- and that experts tell us we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. And, according to those medical weight charts, depending upon WHICH one you actually go by, I’m anywhere from 40 lbs. to 60 lbs. overweight.

There is, however, a whole spiritual component to the food thing. In ancient middle eastern cultures, when you BROKE BREAD with someone...when you ATE a meal with them, that’s when you really got close to them. We’ve made Holy Communion into a ritual where a person eats a small unleavened wafer and takes a sip of wine or grape juice. In the first-century church, Holy Communion was a MEAL. (That’s what I Corinthians chapter 11 is all about.) Remember that the Resurrected Christ made Himself known to those He’d met on the Emmaus road when they had stopped at an inn and He was suddenly made known to them as they began sharing a meal.

Well, that’s all just introductory stuff for those critics of mine who hate when I write secular posts (although when I started the blog in 2006, 90% of my postings were totally secular!).

I may be stepping on the toes of my friend Michelle McElroy in writing this because she writes a great blog about Framingham, particularly her restaurant reviews! (The link to that is in the column at the right!) For at least the past fifteen years, key people in Framingham have been wringing their hands about the need for downtown revitalization in Framingham. Certainly a big piece of downtown revitalization is good restaurants locating in and near downtown Framingham (or ANY downtown for that matter). When I came to Framingham in 1987 it wasn’t long before we began eating out at and taking out food from the Sampan Chinese restaurant on Concord St. in the heart of downtown. The Sampan now has the reputation of being “a real dive” but in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s it was a pretty nice place. In those days, the food quality was a solid “B”. I remember that I took a visiting missionary out to lunch there and he was impressed and surprised at how good the food was. In those days, the Sampan was only that back, small dark dining room that they have. They later bought an adjoining storefront area, and created that much brighter dining room and bar area. Sadly, around 6 or 7 years ago, the food quality started going downhill at the Sampan. Somewhere around that time, they also became a Keno parlor. It wasn’t long before rather than being a pretty good Chinese restaurant that happened to have a bar and a Keno parlor, they became the Keno parlor and bar that happened to serve Chinese food, also. Around 5 years ago, they stopped serving lunch and began opening for the day at 4 p.m. Well, that meant the end of those low priced luncheon specials! About a year ago, they experimented with opening at 1 p.m. but it didn’t work. I think they’re back to 4 and there’s a big “FOR SALE” sign on the place.

You’d think the Sampan would NOT want to be a model that other Chinese restaurants would want to imitate. Not so! I live right down the street from the Han Dynasty Chinese restaurant which is also located on Concord Street about a mile north of the Sampan. When I first came to town, that facility was an American family style restaurant called “Wallace’s”. By 1990. Wallace’s had closed and the Han Dynasty had opened. (I believe the Wallace family still owns the property and the Han’s owners lease it from them.) The Han Dynasty is a much larger facility than the Sampan...probably at least 4 times larger. In their first decade of existence their food was AWFUL...almost inedible. In those days, it was around a “D” level. In fact, the Han Dynasty’s food has gotten better. It’s not magnificent, but today I’d rate it around a “C plus” and I’d rate the current Sampan around a “C minus”. It wasn’t too many years ago that the Han Dynasty would not only be crowded for dinner but would have a respectable sized crowd for their luncheon buffet. Today, you can go in there for the luncheon buffet and NO ONE is in the dining room! In the lounge at the other end of the building, people are drinking and playing, you guessed it, Keno! A few days ago, a sign appeared on the Han Dynasty door stating that beginning on April 1, the lounge will open at 2 and the kitchen and dining room will open at 4.

If you’ve ever watched the Chef Gordon Ramsay show “Kitchen Nightmares” you know he “preaches” that one of the main reasons restaurants fail is that they either forget their mission or they don’t have a mission. I think the Sampan and Han Dynasty could both use a week with Chef Ramsay! I’m sure the owners of both places will say the economy is bad and you can’t make it serving luncheon buffets and luncheon specials anymore. I’ve observed, however, that the Cherry Blossom Chinese Restaurant on Rte. 135 is Ashland is doing a booming business with their luncheon buffet. That’s a place that had “A minus” food quality ten years ago, and now is down to “B minus” level. It was very crowed for the luncheon buffet in 2000 and it’s not QUITE as crowded in 2010 BUT still quite full and I think the price is about the same. They’re NOT a Keno parlor, either.

Another Chinese Restaurant in MetroWest that still has luncheon specials and has NOT gone the way of becoming a Keno parlor is Star House on Route 135 across from St. Tarcisius Church. It’s a very small facility, and both a take-out and eat-in place. They’re much too small to do a buffet, but they do have luncheon specials, and the food is OUTSTANDING. They do serve beer but there’s no bar.
They can comfortably seat around 20 people and pack in another 10 which WOULD make the place like a sardine can. They tend to be kind of short staffed, but if you can handle that, the food is great. Michelle of the This Is Framingham blog says she and her husband had a bad experience there one time in that their order was messed up and I guess the service could have been better. I hope she’ll try it again, ‘cause I don’t think that’s typical for them.

Yes, I just felt like writing about Chinese restaurants today. And it IS interesting that when a Chinese restaurant emphasizes and focuses on any product other than Chinese food, that seems to put them on a fatal course. So, I guess there’s a lesson in that, for whatever your calling and talents are in life: Find YOUR mission, focus on it, and do it well!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


This piece entitled "Edward Stephen Baril" was originally posted on March 25, 2008.
Today would have been my brother Eddie's 54th birthday. In Eddie's honor and memory, I am reposting it today, albeit a little later in the day than I probably should have!

“And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.” (Acts 8:2).

For my sister Dianne and me, March 25 is a holiday of sorts, and a solemn holiday, at that. Today would have been our brother’s 52nd birthday. “Eddie” (his formal name was Edward Stephen Baril) died in the summer of 1983 at the age of 27. Bluntly, a relative of ours sort of took issue with me a year ago because I stated on the blog that he died “of natural causes”. Well, he wasn’t shot or stabbed. He didn’t die in a plane crash or in a car accident. He didn’t die in a fire. He collapsed in a bathroom at his place of employment, went into a coma, and died eight days later. I think an objective group of 12 middle-aged suburban people would agree that technically the way he died fits the definition of “natural causes”. However, Eddie DID abuse alcohol, and POSSIBLY other drugs (although that is not known for sure) so it can be deduced that substance abuse probably had a significant amount to do with his death.

Within our extended family I think it’s kind of sad that Eddie is best remembered for his death (much the way John F. Kennedy is to younger generations). There was so much more to Eddie than that. The loss of Eddie was felt at Amy’s wedding reception this past weekend. Cathy Mondor, the woman who’d been Eddie’s fiancĂ©, was present with her “significant other”. She took a lot of pictures. She came SO close to being “Amy’s aunt”. It’s sad.

Eddie was a year and a half younger than me. He did not look like me. I look very French. When I went to Montreal in the early 1990s, people would just come up to me and start speaking French. I’ve got SUCH a French look, they assumed I was a fellow Quebecois! Eddie looked like our Scottish MacDonald and MacPhee relatives. We did not look alike, at all My sister has characteristics of both of us, although she tends to have more of Eddie’s features than mine. Not only did Eddie not look like me, but he was nothing like me. I’m a public speaker. Eddie was a man of few words with a very dry sense of humor. I tend to be very “unhandy”. Eddie was an outstanding mechanic. He also had quite an artistic flair, and even liked to cook. As teenagers in the early 1970s, my sister and I were part of what religious historians call the “Jesus revolution” or the “Jesus generation”- a “mini-revival” in which hundreds of thousands of teenagers became born-again Christians between roughly 1967 and 1973. Dianne and I really were NOT such “goodie/goodies”. Had we not “gotten saved” I hate to think of what each of us would have done. But in our parents eyes, our “being religious” tended to make him look really bad. Eddie started drinking (secretly) at age 12. By age 16, he was a full-blown alcoholic. I’m sure you may wonder how someone can have a drinking problem right under your nose and you can’t even see it. I know by experience how “possible” it is. Around 16, Eddie began getting into accidents, and various troubles with the law, all accompanied by drinking. My parents tried and tried to turn Eddie into a good, wholesome, responsible, obedient, dutiful, Catholic boy. It didn’t work. Those were hard years.

I will never forget the day Eddie moved out of the house in Canton. It was January 1, 1980. There was yelling and swearing between Eddie and my father like you’d see in the most intense of an “R”-rated movie. Eddie stormed out and never lived there again. Some months later a law enforcement officer called looking for him. I called Eddie and told him about it, but I assured Eddie I would never tell my parents about it, and I never did. I’m glad Eddie was in my wedding on August 28, 1982. He was dead less than a year later.

Eddie was in a lot of emotional pain. I loved my parents, and in many ways they were good parents, BUT... my father was very intense and authoritarian and expected his kids to be perfect. He expected teenagers to think and act like very moral and conservative 40-year-olds. He expected hard work and achievement. He was a very hard guy to please. My mother was very emotional and a devout Catholic. She expected her kids to be dutiful, obedient, and wonderful Catholics. All three of us let them down, big time! In my case, (believe it or not) I’ve struggled with depression and low self esteem off and on throughout my life. It’s ONLY my “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” that has kept me sane and given me a sense of accomplishment. In Eddie’s case, he drank.

I was not close to Eddie. Lest you think that made his death easy for me, it DIDN’T. Six months after Eddie’s death, I went through the darkest depression of my entire life. There was such GRIEF and what they call “survivor’s guilt”...the whole thing of “why am I alive and why is he dead?”. I haven’t spoken a lot about my sister in this piece because she can be a very private person and may not want a lot to be said about her, but she took Eddie’s death harder than I did and has always been grief-stricken by the loss of her brother.

So, I’m letting you know that today is Edward Stephen Baril’s birthday. I don’t want him to be forgotten.

Incidentally, Eddie LOVED Ford automobiles (including Mercury and Lincoln) and Eddie LOVED The Beatles. I think Ford cars and Beatle music were his favorite things in life. So if you see a Ford today or hear a Beatles’ song today...think of Eddie.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Framingham’s Jennie Maroney has a great Letter to the Editor in the Tuesday, March 23, 2010 MetroWest Daily News entitled, “Making Home Bible Study Illegal”. It’s found at:


I realize Jennie Maroney has a reputation as a local right-wing political activist and pro-life activist. I also realize that quite a number of people dismiss Jennie Maroney as a right-wing kook. I count Jennie Maroney as a friend with whom I agree probably about 80% of the time and disagree about 20% of the time. She’s a nice lady with a passion for truth and righteousness and certainly not a kook.

Her letter about home Bible studies expresses a legitimate concern. Jennie tells the story of situations in both San Deigo, California and Gilbert, Arizona where the municipalities tried to forbid home Bible studies as “religious assemblies”. In the San Deigo case, the government wanted a pastor to pay several thousand dollars for a “major use” permit to hold home Bible studies. After this case got a lot of publicity on Fox News it was thrown out, but a similar case in Gilbert, Arizona is still ongoing.

I have read in Christian periodicals of a number of such cases over the past fifteen years or so. I think there ARE several cities and counties around the country which currently forbid home Bible studies. It’s interesting that not all such municipalities are in “blue states”. Some are in fairly conservative states.

Home Bible studies made up a HUGE part of my own spiritual journey. After I “got saved” as a Christian teen I attended a home Bible study for several years. At the time, my old-fashioned Catholic parents were of that “you’ll go to Hell if you set foot in a Protestant church” mentality, but they did not object to home Bible studies. Later, I came into the Assemblies of God through a Friday night home Bible study which I attended faithfully back in 1976. In the early 1980s the church where I served on staff (Christian Life Center, Walpole, MA) pretty much pioneered the idea of “home fellowship groups” (today often called “care groups”) in the Boston area. Such groups ARE Bible studies, but also include the components of evangelism, discipleship, and prayer ministry.

Most large American evangelical and charismatic churches have home “care groups”. Back in the ‘80s, they were mostly geographical. When someone signed up to host a group it was pretty much “forever” and all the groups used the same material. That’s almost never done today. In large churches, usually care groups will give people a choice of 2 or 3 topics being studied and usually the commitment is for 3, 4 or 6 months. Typically churches will take August and December OFF from having care groups. I remember that record keeping was a big part of the groups in the ‘80s, and I’m aware that record keeping when people all change groups and locations every 3-6 months has got to be a little complicated, but computers and software have also gotten a lot more sophisticated since then.

The bottom line is, home Bible studies and home care groups are very important components of Christian discipleship. Certainly, I can understand that if a family in a residential neighborhood were having a weekly religious assembly with, say a hundred people present, that would constitute all sorts of problems. I suspect it would easily violate occupancy and zoning laws. But home Bible study groups work best with 6 to 12 people present. If a group were to grow beyond that number, you’d want to create a new group someplace else. HOW a group of 8 or 9 people studying the Bible in Joe Jones’ living room every Tuesday night is a threat to zoning or neighborhood sensibilities or anything else is beyond me! It used to be that it was totalitarian Communist regimes who forbad home Bible studies. God help America if we continue down such a path! As Jennie Maroney writes,
“What next? No Cub Scout meetings? No baby showers? No football parties? Where does it end?”

Amen, Jennie!
oops.... it is illegal to say “Amen”?!

Monday, March 22, 2010


“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (I Timothy 5:17)

Over the years on the blog I’ve recommended a book or two that I’ve enjoyed and that I think others might enjoy, too. (I know clergy are SUPPOSED to be big readers. I’m pretty embarrassed that I might read 3 or 4 books a year in their entirety. Many clergy read a book a week. I tend to get bored with books and stop about a third of the way into a book.) I was blessed to be treated to a luncheon at Ken’s Steak House by the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association last Thursday. Some of my fellow evangelicals can’t understand why I have a good relationship with so many politically and theologically liberal clergy. Most of the clergy at F.I.C.A. are liberal in both categories (though NOT all of them!). Yet, that group has been very helpful to me and to First Assembly of God of Framingham a number of times through the years. I’ve truly learned some things from my liberal colleagues and I think I can safely add that they’ve learned some things from me. At that lunch meeting I was presented with a card and with Mitch Albom’s book, “Have a Little Faith”.

You may recall that Mitch Albom wrote “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”. He’s a GREAT writer. He also used to have a nationally syndicated radio show which was heard on the weekends on Boston’s 96.9 FM talk station. I used to look forward to Mitch’s radio show.

I’m ashamed to admit how many books I’ve received as gifts that are still laying around my office at the church building (no, I still haven’t packed up my office yet!), still laying around my bedroom, or even laying around in the bathroom! In many cases I’ve read a chapter or two and stopped reading the books. In some cases there are new books I’ve never touched. I didn’t want to do that with the Mitch Albom book; and it’s a lot like “Tuesdays With Morrie” in that it’s a small book.

I’m pretty proud of myself that I read, “Have a Little Faith” in one day on Sunday! I also must add, it’s a WONDERFUL book! It’s absolutely worth the $23.99 price! (In fact, Mitch is tithing 10% of the books profits to his 501c3 nonprofit organization called “Hole in the Roof” which grants money to inner city churches that directly minister to the homeless.)

I fool around with writing, but my son Jon is a great writer. So is Mitch Albom. For people like Jon Baril and Mitch Albom writing is a craft the same way a guy is a finish carpenter. “Have a Little Faith” profiles two clergymen Mitch Albom has known and highly respected: His Rabbi Albert Lewis who passed away a couple of years ago, and Pastor Henry Covington, an inner city African-American Pentecostal pastor who ministers to the “least of these”. Some of my evangelical friends will argue that Mitch is not truly “saved” as we understand that word and will try to dismiss his words and thoughts. That’s too bad because my reply to them would be that Mitch is like the devout Jewish man to whom Jesus said, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (see Mark 12:34). Albom frequently attends Pastor Henry Covington’s church where the pastor calls him “Our Jewish Member”. I high respect vulnerability in writers and Mitch Albom is not afraid to share his struggles and positive personal experiences in the area of faith in God and doing the will of God.

The late Professor Rachel Bangs (who had been long retired from Framingham State College) used to talk to me about “nuggets” she would find in God’s Word. Well, a number of passages from God’s Word are quoted in “Have a Little Faith” and the book itself is loaded with spiritual nuggets. What, for instance, would you do if you were in Rabbi Albert Lewis’ shoes back in the early ‘50s when he was leading his Conservative Jewish synagogue which was located in a Catholic neighborhood near a Catholic Church? One of the high holidays fell on a Sunday. The Catholics were having a hard time finding parking spaces because the Jews’ cars were parked all over the local streets. The Catholic priest came out yelling at the Jews who were parking their cars near his church and yelled, “They should have exterminated all you people!”

The next day, the Rabbi went and had a nice conversation with the priest. He apologized. The Rabbi and priest walked arm in arm around the Catholic schoolyard at recess that day to show their solidarity with one another. They ended up becoming good friends.

As far as Pastor Henry Covington, he (supposedly) got saved and filled with the Holy Ghost as a kid but went into a life of TERRIBLE crime and sin. The man has a powerful testimony of how God has pulled him out of the gutter and today he is reaching the “down and outers” of Detroit’s streets.

Mitch Album does a thousand times better telling these stories than I’m doing. I was DEEPLY moved by reading “Have a Little Faith”. I am most grateful the Framingham clergy gave me such a great little book as a gift.

Right now I NEED to “Have a Little Faith”. In fact, right now, I need to have a LOT of faith! The book was PERFECT for me.
I hope you’ll pick up “Have a Little Faith” and read it. I highly recommend it!

Friday, March 19, 2010


“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:6-9)

The title of this posting is sort of a pun or play on words. I know that a long time ago on my blog I wrote about my father and that when he was angry with someone in traffic he would yell, “What a beaut!”. It was his way of getting out the anger and frustration without swearing or demeaning himself in public. I am not sure that my family appreciates it, but I have that same tendency. I must yell, “What a beaut!” at least 5 times a week when I’m driving! This posting is not about yelling when driving, however, it’s about Butte, Montana of all places.

Perhaps this should be featured on a PBS website or in a PBS publication because I want to write about the impact that the documentary “Butte, America” on the PBS program “Independent Lens” had on me this week. I love history- especially American history, and I enjoy watching a good documentary. A couple of nights ago I tuned into “Butte, America” on one of the new digital Channel 44s (“WGBH World”). Wikipedia’s entry about “Butte, America” is as follows:

"Butte, America is a 2009 documentary film about Butte, Montana's history as a copper mining town. It was created by Pamela Roberts, narrated by Gabriel Byrne, and includes a mix of first hand accounts and scholarly analysis from John T. Shea, Marie Cassidy, David Emmons, and Janet Finn, .The movie focuses on developments in American labor and production during the "dawn" of the electrical age in the 1880s when copper was discovered in Butte. The mining activity brought an influx of immigrant workers and their families to the boom town that grew to be a "Western" metropolis of 45,000 people forming a Rocky Mountain city that with similarities to Pittsburgh in the East. Labor relations and the corporate operations of Anaconda Copper are also related."

That’s all true, but it makes it all sound rather dull. If you love American history, especially learning some of the more obscure stories of American history, you’ll LOVE this documentary. It’s superbly done! The film portrays Butte from the late 19th Century right up to the 1980s. If you really “get into” this film you’ll find yourself laughing and crying at various times. Butte was the copper mining capital of the world for several decades in the early 20th Century. The big copper company was “Anaconda”. Do any of you remember a piece from The Three Stooges’ “Men in Black” short in which The Three Stooges meet a hospital patient named Anna Conda? Immediately upon meeting her, Moe pretends he’s reading a ticker tape and begins yelling out the stock price of Anaconda as if he’s a stock trader! I’m showing my ignorance here, but I’d figured Anaconda was just a made up name for that short. In fact, Anaconda was the big copper company which essentially controlled the City of Butte and the State of Montana.

I learned from watching “Butte, America” that one hundred years ago Butte was a boomtown much more like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania than any western city or town. Most of the residents were immigrants from Ireland, Mexico, or eastern Europe. The culture was European and ethnic. This was NOT primarily a “cowboy town”. Thousands and thousands of men worked in the mines in deplorable conditions. Anaconda made fabulous amounts of money while the miners barely survived. The documentary had a definite left-wing bias. (Well, on PBS, that’s no surprise!) In this case, however, one can certainly appreciate the left’s point of view. If it were not for the formation of a strong Union, these families would barely have made it.

I don’t mean to say that Anaconda was all bad. Much about Anaconda was good. The company built homes for its workers and poured a lot of money into the community. They even built a first class amusement park. Film clips from the ‘50s showed a happy American community where families went to the amusement park for picnics and junk food and to enjoy the rides.

In the 1940s, Anaconda expanded into South America, setting up a huge copper mining operation in Chile. Things were great until 1971 when a far left politician took power in Chile and nationalized the copper mining operation. Anaconda’s financial situation took a major dive. The company gave up traditional mining in Butte, and began a HUGE eleven year excavation project in which they dug up as much copper and other precious metals as they could. In 1982, they went belly up and everything ceased. A giant ugly and toxic hole and man-made lake were left behind. (Incidentally, in order to do the excavation, whole neighborhoods were bulldozed and EVEN THE AMUSEMENT PARK which Anaconda had built was excavated!) Most of Butte’s residents were devastated but seemingly nobody cared. At one time the city had 90,000 residents. Today it has about 33,000.

I couldn’t help but think of the above verses from Galatians. Anaconda had made great money on the labor of poor miners. In later years, they’d seemingly become a kinder, gentler company. Yet, their history and ways caught up with them- and the people’s trust in Anaconda ultimately left them, well, with a toxic hole in the ground.

Amazingly, the film ends on kind of a positive note, but leaves the viewer wondering how things could have and should have been much different. Frankly, many people laugh at the Bible-thumping preachers who proclaim the importance of honoring God and His Word in all you do. I know this will sound really idealistic, but if the overwhelming majority of the people of Butte, Montana, both white collar and blue collar, rich and poor, had truly followed the tenets of God’s Word, I suspect this whole story would have had a different and much better outcome.

If you have the opportunity to view “Butte, America” please do so!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


“preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

For several years I’ve subscribed to a weekly newsletter from Focus on the Family (located in Colorado Springs, CO) entitled, “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing.” Most of you will recognize that Focus on the Family was founded by Dr. James Dobson and holds to some very conservative political positions including advocating the legislating of morality. There’s a WHOLE lot more to Focus on the Family than right wing politics, however. “Focus” has offered outstanding resources to parents and families in crisis for decades. “Focus” also has a focus (pun intended) on pastors and their wives. H.B. London, former Nazarene pastor and first-cousin of Dr. James Dobson heads up the ministry to pastors and their wives. “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” is a helpful resource and I’ve enjoyed reading it each week for at least two years. Most of you know the church I was pastoring closed and so technically speaking I’m not pastoring anywhere right now but I’ve elected to keep receiving “PWB” as they call it.

The March 19 issue which arrived at my “in box” today had the responses of pastors to a two question survey they asked a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing that here. (If you’d like a copy of the full March 19 PWB just e-mail me and I will forward it on to you.) I can tell you from attending Assemblies of God ministers’ meetings, mixed evangelical ministers’ meetings and EVEN some meetings with more theologically liberal clergy, the concerns the pastors express here ARE exactly what today’s pastors are dealing with. They’d LOVE to communicate this to their lay people but often they feel frustrated because the lay people won’t listen or just think they’re whining. I hope you’ll read this thoughtfully and prayerfully. I’m very grateful for the few families and “die hards” who stuck it out to the end at First Assembly of God of Framingham, but I can tell you, the issues listed here affected us at First AG Framingham as they affect most churches. YOU could make a positive difference in your church. I hope reading the following will motivate you to do that!

Here is it, straight from the Pastor’s Weekly Briefing electronic newsletter:


A couple weeks ago, in the March 5, 2010, issue of The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, I asked for a reader response on two questions. We received several hundred very interesting replies. I asked one of our staff members, Dale Wolyniak, to put into capsule form the essence of those responses. Here is what we found:

Question 1: What do you feel is the greatest challenge to your ministry?

* It was evident that apathy within congregations was a primary concern. This was also reported as a lack of commitment and help in ministry, a certain lukewarmness — which may stem from being too busy with wrong priorities — plus, distractions in our congregants' homes.
* Some pastors noted that church was seen as an event, rather than a place of being the Body. This was reflected with a view of the church being more of a club, with a consumer approach to 'serve me.'
* A high percentage of comments indicate that the church has lost its sense of urgency to spread the gospel because of being more concerned with tradition, programs and activities rather than personal evangelism and discipleship.
* Another indicator was the cultural tolerance for sinful practices. And, within the church, a lack of discipline to live up to biblical values. This fusion of postmodern values and a liberal approach to life can leave the church without a prophetic voice.

Question 2: What one thing presents the greatest challenge or threat to you and your family or marriage?
* Respondents spoke most frequently about the need for balancing time and resources of ministry with that of the pastor's marriage and family. A few phrases that frequently occurred were "emotional exhaustion," "energy depletion" and "excessive activities" that seemed to plague the ministers' lives.
* One comment was that there was a "rising tide" of evil in the world that is seen in the public schools, TV, movies and the Internet. In speaking of the cultural influence on our children, one pastor commented that we need to "keep a Christ-centered focus in our homes, despite the tsunami of temptations around us."
* A challenge that creates high stress is the unfair expectations of church members toward their pastor and his or her family. A major concern was that a pastor's spouse and children needed to be given adequate time and attention in spite of busy ministry lives.

It is obvious that we may need new wineskins with new wine to awaken hope in the church and to reach this generation with a relevant and spirited message. Also, another question might be, "What is your greatest blessing in ministry?" I am sure there are more blessings than negatives.

Perhaps we need to sit down with pen and Bible in hand and ask what activities we should be doing. One thing we learn from the survey is that things in the church have not changed much since the last time we asked those two questions nearly 16 years ago. In fact, they may be getting more difficult.


We know that God is still calling faithful ministers and their families. They continue to present Christ, and His truth is being lived out in a pluralistic and often skeptical society. So, keep the faith, my colleague, you are making a difference.

Monday, March 15, 2010


“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

That whole “6 degrees of separation” thing says that every person is only 6 people away from anyone else in the world. I’ve written about this before. For instance, my sister used to attend a Bible Study in Boston with Jamie Bush, President George H.W. Bush’s nephew. So that makes me only like 3 people away from both Presidents Bush! Are you familiar with country music singer JoDee Messina? I know her sister Terese Patterson, so I’m only 1-2 people away!

Longtime Assemblies of God constituents will have seen the name Dr. Christina Powell in our “denominational” publications. (Incidentally, the Assemblies of God likes to call itself a “fellowship” rather than a “denomination” but as my friend Pastor Tony Bellarmino of Turlock, Calif. says, about the Assemblies of God, “If it ‘walks like a duck’....” and Tony agrees that it’s a denomination.) Christina Powell is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and is an Assemblies of God minister. She’s often quoted in the Assemblies of God’s weekly magazine, “The Pentecostal Evangel”. In many aspects, she’s very respected as a doctor and ethicist in the Assemblies of God the way Attorney Richard Hammer is respected by our “denomination” for his expertise in Law.

Well, Christina Powell and her husband attended our church, First Assembly of God of Framingham for at least a year in the early 1990s. Our church also featured her as a special guest speaker at a service about 8 years ago. I’ve been trying to touch base with a lot of people who have been connected with First Assembly of God of Framingham over the past 25 years or so to let them know the church has closed. Frankly, Dr. Christina Powell was somebody I’d forgotten about. In this past Sunday’s Pentecostal Evangel magazine, there was a story about the damage done to children in homes where there is a lot of yelling by the parents, AND that a number of parents are yellers but don’t know how to stop this behavior. One expert who was quoted in the article was Dr. Christina Powell. THAT tripped off my memory that I needed to contact her about the church’s closing.

I did find her e-mail address in my ministers’ directory and I shot off an e-mail to her. Wow, was I blessed by the reply I received! She sent me a long and touching e-mail telling me of how much our church had meant to she and her husband. She even remembered songs we sang at the time, and the impact on her which helped encourage her to go forward with Harvard. It turns out she might not be in the Assemblies of God and she might not be “Dr. Christina Powell” if not for the impact of First Assembly of God of Framingham. In a low period in my life, that was a huge affirmation. I’m glad the doctor was in!


“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)

I guess I just never expected to find myself in the position of looking for a full-time secular job, but with the closing of First Assembly of God of Framingham and with the Assemblies of God hierarchy’s reluctance for me to go right into a pastorate or associate pastorate until I’ve had “time to heal”, that’s where I’ve found myself. When you’ve been in full-time ministry for over 28 years and pretty much been your own boss for 23 years, that’s quite a culture shock. In looking at the jobs that are “out there”, there are not too many I’m qualified for.

I DO have a job pending, however. It’s a job at a local telephone answering service company. Listen, I have a whole new respect for people who do that job! I guess I used to think, “Well, ANYBODY can answer the phone!” That’s true. But working at a telephone answering service is a whole lot more than just answering the phone. In order to qualify to even be trained for the job, I had to pass a computer test. No joke- that test was HARD! There were several parts of the test and initially I did not pass one part of it. I was able to do a retake of the part I failed, and I’m pleased to say I brought my grade up from a 58 to an 82!

Today, I spent two hours in training for the job, and I’m scheduled to go in there at 8 a.m. Tuesday to continue my training. I also had to read their policy handbook this afternoon. Today, I sat in on actual calls with my trainer. Over 90% of the calls are to doctor’s offices, clinics, or hospitals. Many close down their offices during lunch hour and I can attest that between 12 and 1 the calls poured in. Some offices and clinics were closed due to flooding and that brought in calls. There are many different categories of HOW you answer a call and how you respond to it. In some cases, you record the messages and the doctor’s offices calls in for them. In other cases, you FAX the messages, or send a page to the doctor. Some clients have their account marked “DO NOT TAKE A MESSAGE!” They just want the answering service operator to tell the caller to call back. Of course, in the event that somebody’s kid is choking to death or something, they’d want to call 911!

The answering service operators need to be very calm and very professional. One caller was frustrated that she’d been calling and calling a doctor’s office and was unable to get through to book an appointment. My trainer just had to remain calm and relay the information on her computer screen.

I also learned that this answering service has HIGH standards of cleanliness and that there’s a whole cleaning procedure you do when you’re done with your shift.
A 55-year-old learns a whole lot slower than does an 18-year-old so this is challenging for me. I hope I’m able to learn all that I need to learn and that I will be able to do this job properly and professionally.

I have a whole new respect for people who answer the phone!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


“He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;” (Psalm 113:7)

“He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,” (Psalm 113:7 New King James Version)

When I say, “Cleaning Up After a Death”, I DON’T mean cleaning up blood at a crime scene or at a “death from natural causes” scene for that matter. I’m not talking about cleaning a dead body, although I know people have to do that. I mean going through people’s effects after they die and trying to sort things out and make “heads or tails” of all sorts of “stuff”. Each of my parents died in 2000 and each of them were pack rats. They threw almost nothing out. My sister and I spent over 7 years on Saturdays going through their things.

It was hard. I’d go over to Canton. I’d spend about 2-4 hours on the project. That was the most I could do in a day. I’d usually leave with a couple of bags full of trash and a cardboard box of things I wanted to keep. Imagine doing that most Saturdays between the spring of 2001 and the fall of 2008. We did. It could get quite emotional. There were SOME things we just could not bring ourselves to throw out. So my sister got three big plastic Rubbermaid containers...one for my late brother Eddie, one for my Dad and one for my Mom. The things we just COULDN’T bring ourselves to throw out or give away and are in those containers in my sister’s attic.

My wife has been asking me to “pack up” my office. A friend of mine who pastored a church in suburban St. Louis, Missouri which struggled and ultimately closed has said it’s like the death of a child. He says I will go through a difficult grieving process. He’s right. I just haven’t wanted to pack up my office although I know it has to be done. One reason I haven’t wanted to pack up my office is that there is nowhere to put the stuff! Some of my immediate family are pack rats. Our residence is FULL of stuff. We frankly need to get rid of at least 25% of the things at our home and there’s no room to add anything else. Another reason is that it reminds me of the death of this church- First Assembly of God of Framingham. As much as colleagues tell me I’m not a failure, walking into that place sure makes you feel that way. I used to get annoyed that the phone would “ring off the hook” with all sorts of calls. Now, the phone is disconnected so it never rings. I used to like to pop onto the internet as a diversion at the office. Now the high speed internet is turned off. There is NO internet to access.

Today, I decided to start working on the office. No I have not started packing up yet. I decided to go through my office shelves, and my files and desk drawers and throw out anything I really don’t want to save. It reminded me SO much of what I used to do with going through my parents’ effects. I forgot that I had some photos of my late brother and my father in one of my desk drawers. There were also candid photos of many church people mostly dating from the late 1990s. There were photos of my kids from the mid 1990s. There were photos of my “walkathon” from 1996. Some people will want to kill me but I got so choked up by seeing the walkathon photos that I threw them out. That was also true of some of the church people photos. I DID save photos of my brother and father. Our church dumpster is just about full and it’s being removed on Wednesday. I think removing it is insane but that wasn’t my call. I did fill several bags of trash just from my office. I took one bag home and will put it out with my family trash this week. I jammed the others into the dumpster.

I know that if my family goes into my office they’ll say, “You haven’t done ANYTHING in here!” It LOOKS like that, but I’ve gone through a lot of stuff and thrown out a lot of stuff. I know I could have and should have thrown out even more. I’m sure there’ll be a 2nd and 3rd time going through the office and more and more things sorted out and thrown out. THEN I will be ready to start packing my books, photos, plaques and other things into boxes.

Mary Ann is saying we may need to rent a storage site for now to put things like that in. I have a file cabinet in my office which I “go into” constantly. It’s very important to me, but there’s no room for it at my residence.

I just never figured on the church closing. I thought some day I’d get a different pastorate or ministry position and just be moving all these things to a new office. As it is, my library is only about HALF the size of a typical 55-year-old Assemblies of God minister’s library. And, my paraphernalia is less that half of what you’d find for most clergy. My office is VERY small....one of the smallest pastor’s offices you’d ever see. Even so, this is going to be a big job and an emotional job.

It’s tough cleaning up after a death.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matthew 7:6 New King James Version)

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14 New King James Version)

I start with those verses because this piece will surely cause a lot of misunderstanding. Some people who read this will conclude that I’m mentally ill and in need of psychiatric intervention. Others will be a bit less critical but will wrongly believe I’m opposed to the selling of First Assembly of God of Framingham’s 32 South Street, Framingham property, OR that I do not want to see it sell at fair market value. (None of that is true!)

For those of you to whom this piece will make absolutely no sense, please keep in mind that John the Baptist of the First Century was eccentric and weird. He wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey. He went out into the WILDERNESS proclaiming the coming of Messiah; and he said some very offensive things in his preaching. Despite his weirdness, he had an important and special calling from God, and through this “different” prophet of God, a mighty work was done.

My friend D.C.M. used to constantly proclaim from the Book of Amos, “I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet”. Well, in the eyes of THIS world, I am quite an unsuccessful guy, and an inconsistent guy, yet frankly God has used me as a prophet several times. After my last few blog postings about First Assembly of God of Framingham having its last service and closing I had determined that I’ve beaten that topic to death and that I’d give it a rest. BUT, after reading the main headline in this morning’s (March 10, 2010) MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA), this is a piece that HAS to be written!



This will be a LONG read but please stick with me ‘cause it’s truly worth reading this STORY!

In 2004, Great Brook Valley Health Care purchased the property at 380 Waverley Street (corner Waverley and South Sts.) in downtown Framingham. It borders our 32 South Street First Assembly of God of Framingham church property. Their plan was to build the “Framingham Community Health Center” there.

Almost from the beginning, the health center began pressuring us for use of our parking lot. The director at that time (who is now long gone) was very pushy. She left a very bad taste with us. I began receiving phone calls, e-mails, and visits from all sorts of key people from various Framingham human services agencies and from some local politicians. There was enormous pressure to use our lot. I don’t know how many times I said “NO”. At one point I met with several Framingham leaders and several of our church leaders and again we said, “NO”.

The health center took their project before the Framingham Planning Board and there was session after session about this project. My poor bored family had to endure me watching numerous Planning Board meetings about this project on cable TV. Finally, in 2006, the Planning Board voted “NO” to the project. Great Brook Valley charged they were treated improperly and were victims of discrimination and actually took the matter to court.

Going back at least to 2005, I began to be strongly led of the Holy Spirit to PRAY AGAINST this project. I have nothing against the Framingham Community Health Center. They currently meet in rental facilities in downtown Framingham; BUT in my spirit, the Lord witnessed to me that this SITE was wrong and this PLAN was wrong. God showed me our church was to have the 380 Waverely Street property and that there was to be a great church and ministry center on the sites of the proposed health center and the church property. Admittedly that seemed absurd. The health center had paid over a million dollars for that property. We couldn’t even afford to buy toilet paper. We were barely afloat. Our church was seriously “under resourced” as Chicago’s Bill Hybels would say. Yet, I kept praying against the health center being built on the 380 Waverley Street property. AND, I kept declaring OUT LOUD that “only the Word of God and the Will of God and the Plan of God and the Glory of God” be done on that piece of property. I would walk by the lot and pray that out loud. I would stand in our church’s parking lot and face the health center property and declare that right out loud.

A couple of times, the health center made offers to buy our property. Some of our church leaders thought it would be a good idea to sell to them. Some of them thought it would be a bad idea. At one point, I spoke pretty strongly to one of the representatives of the health center and really “put the kibosh” on them buying our property. Several of our church’s leaders, including my wife, were furious about this. I have paid dearly in relationships and respect for my actions. But I’d do it again! I’d stake my LIFE on this one, and in many respects I already have!

In March of 2008 the court found in favor of the health center. The matter went before the Framingham Planning Board. Once again, I continued praying against it and praying my declaration prayer about the 2 properties. In May of 2008, the project was approved. Initially, I felt like a fool, but (many of you won’t understabd this) God told me to KEEP up my prayers and declarations. He told me the project would NOT be built and that the Town’s approval meant absolutely nothing. So, I kept up my prayers and declarations.

I will admit that maybe my faith was weak. I was keeping up the prayers and declarations but the reality was that the Town had approved construction. I kept looking for them to break ground and start building. It never happened. Never.
They never built. A project they’d fought SO hard for and pushed so hard for. They never built.

Last spring the lot at South and Waverley was a mess- covered with growth. God told me to complain; to go to the Town and really make a big issue about it. I did. This also cost me dearly with several folks at our church, and I took some serious criticism and disrespect from them, but I was following God. I went and spoke before the Board of Selectmen. It was all on cable TV. The Town made a big issue of it, and the health center owners were forced to clean up the property.

About 6 weeks ago, I was walking along South Street. I hadn’t spoken out my prayer and declarations for several months. God spoke SO clearly to me that day- almost an audible voice. “Bob, you need to go back to your prayers and declarations about the 380 Waverlet Street property. Trust me. That health center will NOT be built. I have a higher purpose for that property.”

At least twice, shortly after that, I DID go out on the stoop at our church building’s back door and OUT LOUD speak my prayers and declarations about the property at 380 Waverely.

Many of you know that on February 21 I was informed by the Southern New England District of the Assemblies of God that our church would be shut down in the very near future. March 7 was the last day. I am no longer pastor there and thus no longer drawing a salary there. The District is selling the 32 South Street property.

For a guy who had the above experiences, that news was like opening up a treasure chest and finding out it was filled with old animal feces.

That’s why I was so jolted when I read today’s headline.

Listen, there are churches and ministries that have access to multi-millionaire donors and also have access to skilled grant writers and grant money.

At this point, First Assembly of God of Framingham is closed and the Southern New England District is selling the property.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s some ministry with access to the kind of funding I’m talking about that wouldn’t want to investigage purchasing the 32 South St. property and then also investigate purchasing the 380 Waverley St. property.

That 380 Waverley Street property is PRIME downtown Framingham frontage. We never had the resources or the workers...not really...but for some church or parachurch group that’s able...there is the potential for a dymanic urban ministry center at these locations. There is the potential for something like a “mini dream center” here. There is the potential for large, successful suburban church to set up an urban ministry satellite church here.

Let’s not drop the ball, here. Whatever happens to me, per se, is not so much the issue. The issue is the prophetic word I’m praying and speaking...the prime real estate here, the urban ministry needed, the prime opportunity...the opportunity for Believers with “big bucks” to make a big investment for eternity.

There could be some mighty downtown Framingham ministry opportunities.
Spread the word. Pray pray pray...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; ... The elder women as mothers; ...” (from I Timothy 5:1-2)

There are SO many ramifications of a church closing. Most of you know that First Assembly of God of Framingham where I pastored for over 23 years held its last service this past Sunday. The corporation will remain open...probably for at least a year. The worship services, classes, and all the “religious life” of the church are pretty much over. People speak of the church as a “family”. That’s particularly true of a small church. In a church of under 30, there is a STRONG sense of family. There is a HUGE sense of loss when such a church closes.

I’ve been told “People are resilient...even elderly people are resilient...they’ll find other churches”. In some cases, I’m sure that’s true. But let me tell you about CLAIRE.

That’s her real name. Claire is 81-years-old. Claire is an AMAZING person. Claire is one of the finest people I have ever known. I first met Claire in late 1986. She was the Church Secretary at First Assembly of God of Framingham. That did NOT mean she had a paid position or that she took shorthand or anything like that. Claire was the elected Secretary of the Corporation; (sometimes called a “Clerk” in certain Protestant churches) and she also came into the church office several times a week to check the mail, put out a newsletter, keep up records, and just plan do all sorts of things. Claire was the person I dealt with when the church was looking to hire a pastor in late 1986 and Claire was the person who helped me get settled in and pretty much gave me the “low down” on the church and its workings in early 1987.

At the time I came, Claire was in her late fifties. To my surprise, she had only been a “born-again Christian” for 5 years and she had been the Church Secretary a little over 4 years. I was also surprised that she’d been a devout Catholic from birth to her fifties and had been “led to the Lord” by her young adult children. My own experience with Catholics born in the 1920s is that most had no interest in being “led to the Lord” in Pentecostal fashion, and certainly not by their baby-boomer offspring! THIS was a very different lady!

I learned that Claire’s husband Jack was not a born-again Christian nor a church goer, but rather a “lapsed Catholic”. I also learned that Jack was an M.I.T. graduate and a very intelligent man. Claire described Jack to me as a man who “has all the fruits of the Holy Spirit without the Holy Spirit”. I was kind of taken back when she told me that and I tried to tell her that’s theologically impossible. But when I met Jack, I understood. Jack is one of the most pleasant, kind, generous, gracious men I have ever known. Everybody at church just kind of wished he’d put a Bible under his arm, come to church, and become a guy who had “all the fruit of the Holy Spirit WITH the infilling of the Holy Spirit” but to date, that has never happened.

I have a very, very close relationship with Claire. Truthfully, she reminds me VERY much of my late maternal grandmother, Mary MacDonald Richard. My grandmother almost never raised her voice or got cross in any way. She was kind, and cheerful. My grandmother was around 3 inches taller than Claire (Claire’s REALLY short) and probably weighed 60 pounds more than Claire, but in the FACE and in the whole attitude and persona, they’re SO much alike! I LOVED to go over my grandmother’s as a kid. Having Claire in the office was like going over my grandmother’s every day!

Claire loved her church. Claire believed that when you joined a church, you committed yourself to it NO MATTER WHAT! Today people say, “People will NOT come to a church if it’s in such-and-such a neighborhood, if it’s small, if it doesn’t have all the modern amenities,” etc. NOT Claire. If Claire’s church met in the worst “...hood” in the area, had an absolute DUMP for a building, and didn’t even have running water...she’d be there every Sunday and every midweek service WITH A SMILE ON HER FACE! No kidding! Anything I needed done... Claire did it. ANYTHING.

As she was getting older and older it was getting harder and harder for her to do things, but she would insist on vacuuming the whole building, mopping floors, filling towel dispensers, running off bulletins, and all sorts of other stuff. Claire and Jack are of modest financial means, but if you looked at Claire’s giving records you’d THINK she was “loaded”! Many years ago when we were in rental facilities, we had to come up with a security deposit, and a first and last month’s rent in order to rent a church office in a modern professional building. Claire took her FAMILY’S “emergency money” and used it for that purpose. When we moved out almost 4 years later, the professional building’s management were not happy with us because we did damage to sheetrock walls, etc. We did not get our security deposit back. Claire did not care. Another time at our present building, a large plate glass window shattered. Claire brought in $500 and told me to have the window replaced. There are at least 30 more stories like that. Claire used to say, “Jack is SO good. No matter HOW MUCH money I give to the church, he never complains.”

Claire needs a hip replacement badly, but she has other complications. She walks with a cane, now with difficulty. This is very hard for me to write, but Claire is slipping a tad mentally. I think of my Dad who had Alzheimer’s Disease. Claire has a long way to go to be as bad off as he was; but there are episodes of definite forgetfulness and confusion. Usually those episodes are not TOO bad; but once in awhile, they CAN be. Claire’s hearing has also deteriorated quite a bit over the past ten years. She wears a hearing aid, but it doesn’t seem to help very much any more. And her voice is getting weak and faint.

Again, this is a woman who has given her all...tirelessly...for 28 years....to First Assembly of God of Framingham. Claire officially stepped down as Church Secretary in February of 2009. Even so, she’s still been at the church building at least 2 weekday mornings every week. “Bill”, a longtime Board member recently observed, “This is Claire’s PURPOSE. If Claire’s purpose is taken away...” and he added the consequences could be dire. My daughter Amy told me that Sunday it was so hard for her to talk to Claire without falling apart emotionally. “Claire’s eyes were full of tears,” observed Amy, “and she kept saying over and over... ‘I’m going to miss my little desk’.”

Claire called me yesterday, wanting to go to the church building by herself and take some of her personal belongings out of the building. (Yes, she’s STILL driving; I’m not sure she should be.) I feel bad, but I kind of spoke sternly to her and said, “Look, I’m NOT in charge there any more. Whatever you do, DON’T go in there by yourself!” I did tell her I’d try to make time to go in there with her sometime this week.

Claire’s not going to find another church. Not with forgetfulness and confusion, needing a hip replacement, a major hearing loss, and a faltering weak voice. During the entire tenure of my pastorate, no one supported me more...no own worked harder...gave more, etc. Incidentally, during the years, there were those families and individuals who would sometimes ANGRILY leave the church. Some of them made a point to let it be known what they thought of me- and it wasn’t much. What they DIDN’T realize is how hurt Claire was when they’d say things like that and leave. Every time someone left the church with a bad attitude, it was as though Claire went through Jesus’ scourging.

I must say, it pained me to see that. She kept in all very quiet, but sometimes she did tell ME about it. Numerous people have deeply hurt Claire over the past 23 years. I will admit, I used to “stew” about that and I really had to wrestle with God about it. I would think, “If they want to hate me and be nasty to me and leave the church, FINE, but WHY cause disappointment, pain, and heartache for Claire?!”

No, Claire’s not going to find another church. She gave and gave and gave... She sacrificed. Everybody else came first. She loved and she served, and loved, and served, and loved, and served, and worked.

What has happened to Claire...the loss of her church...no matter what the church financial picture was, or the low attendance, or my own leadership failures or anything else...

it just doesn’t seem right.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


“He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.” (Proverbs 27:14)

On Saturday, someone called me and asked me how I’m feeling (regarding the church closing, not having a job, etc.). All I could answer is “surreal”. I think it’s going to be a long time before I can really put together an objective/balanced commentary on what has transpired in my life and in the life of the church I pastored over the past year and especially over the past couple of months. I was continously employed as a church associate pastor and then as a “solo” pastor for 28 and a half years. That’s a lifetime.

The GREATEST part of my week was Sunday morning! I loved teaching my Sunday School class and I especially loved “being in the pulpit”. A lot of folks will not understand this, but I have the personality and temperament of a performer. Two of my kids, Jon and Rachel, have this SAME personality. The late radio and stage personality Larry Glick had it. My uncle J.P. Keddy was a personal friend of Larry Glick’s. He told me Larry Glick was actually a very shy person. I brushed by Larry Glick one time in “Islington Center” on Route 1A in Westwood, MA. I was going into the post office and Larry Glick was just coming out. I recognized him from having seen photos, and had seen his car, a black Cadillac with the license plate N 777 parked out in front of the post office. Larry looked quite retiring and almost timid as he walked by me and got into the Cadillac. It was hard to believe this was the guy who made people in 38 states and 10 Canadian provinces laugh every night on WBZ radio Boston. It was hard to believe this was the charismatic stage hypnotist. I’ve ALSO heard Rush Limbaugh is a shy person off the mike and off the stage.

My son and daughter can be almost painfully shy- yet once they walk on stage, they “OWN” the stage and the audience loves them. I know, I know. Ministry isn’t supposed to be “performing”. It’s ministry. I know. Although, having met and seen healing evangelist Benny Hinn up close and personal (I really HAVE) you can’t tell me he doesn’t “PERFORM”. Listen, he DOES! Losing that Sunday public speaking time is frankly very tough. There was also the identity of being “Pastor Bob Baril”. I have had that title for over 28 years. Today, as one woman left the building, she said, “Well, NOW I’ll call you ‘BROTHER BOB BARIL’!”.

“Yeah, I guess you will,” I replied. I kind of didn’t know what to say.

Today someone also asked me if I have a business card. I realized my business cards all have the church address and phone number...so I guess I DON’T have a business card.

Finally, several people have said to me, “You must feel SO relieved that it’s over...that the church is closed...that you don’t have to carry that burden anymore!”

Well, to use a Richard Nixon type of phrase, “Let me just say THIS”: I still have keys to the church building. I was told by my ecclesiastical superiors that since they are letting me live in the parsonage for at least 6 months, I shouldn’t mind getting the mail at the post office, checking in on the church building several times a week, etc. So, I used to be at the head and now I’m the tail. I wonder, if the building gets sprayed with graffiti or the windows get smashed out...who’s gonna take responsibility for that?

When I go to the church building....am I trespassing? Am I the leader? Am I the custodian? Am I an interloper? who and what am I?

And, yes, now in a sense I feel like an interloper and moocher living at the residence for the pastor of a church that doesn’t exist any more...or DOES it?

The corporation still exists.

So, I gotta be honest:

Maybe I’ll feel a lot differently in months to come, but right now I don’t feel relieved. I don’t feel one bit relieved.

Would you?

Friday, March 5, 2010


"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." (Proverbs 25:11)

This is a very, very difficult time in my life. However, in the midst of this difficult time, I've been receiving very kind notes, phone calls and e-mails.

The following is the text of an e-mail I received from a female local church pastor here in MetroWest. She intended this for me and not for publication, so I'm going to leave off her name and her church's name,but I was so blessed I wanted to share it with you.

Here it is:

"Bob, I was so sorry to hear about the closure of your church. What a painful, heart-wrenching time, for you and for the folks whose lives have been changed at that church. In the midst of all the grief and complication, I hope you are able to look back on your ministry there and see how many lives you have touched, how you have created space for the Spirit to move and heal and transform lives and communities. You have certainly made a tremendous impact on the town of Framingham, and on the Interfaith Clergy.

I will always treasure your willingness to be who you are and also respect who other people are--and to honor the different ways we live out our faith. You have done so much to break down stereotypes and barriers--that is a huge gift. And your dramatic presentations of biblical characters at Good Friday are unparalleled.

You are a very gifted person, and I trust you will find a new avenue for your ministry; I know that along the way it is very difficult to trust that.

I plan to be there on Sunday afternoon.

Can a group of us take you out to lunch to celebrate your ministry sometime soon?

Peace, (....her name....)"

I wrote back that I do hope we can arrange a lunch with many of our colleagues sometime soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010


“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version)

“All Things Must Pass” is a song that was written and sung by George Harrison of The Beatles. I guess it’s a fitting title for this piece.

The decision has been made by the local Assemblies of God hierarchy to close First Assembly of God of Framingham. My wife, kids, and I came to Framingham to pastor over 23 years ago. This is a surreal experience for me, for our family, as well as for our church congregation. I’m not writing with any animosity toward the Assemblies of God hierarchy. My “denominational” leaders have been pleasant, fair, and gracious to me and my family during these very difficult days.

The final decision to close the church in Framingham was made recently. Mary Ann and I were informed about it a little over a week ago. Yesterday, at our church’s Annual Business Meeting, Rev. Bill Button from the District Office in Charlton, Mass. came and told the church of the decision to close its doors. I also read my resignation letter; resigning as pastor.

First Assembly of God of Framingham has been small for many years and very small for the past few years. Church finances have been at the crisis stage for at least a year. That’s been very stressful for my wife (Our Church’s Treasurer) and for me as the Pastor. Despite our church’s decreased size, we have touched the lives of a number of people, not only at our church, but also throughout the Framingham and MetroWest communities.

The largest percentage of our regular attenders are over age 60 and many of our regular attenders are disabled in one way or another. Most of our church’s people are going to need quite a bit of pastoral care and spiritual and emotional support over the weeks and months to come. That greatly concerns me.

Our church building’s doors are soon to close, but they’re still open for a few more days.

This coming Sunday, March 7, 2010, will be the final Sunday at First Assembly of God of Framingham. As always, we’ll have Sunday School at 9:15 a.m. and the Morning Worship Service at 10:30 a.m. And, as always, visitors are welcome; although this service is especially meant as a time for present and past members and attenders of our church to heal and get some “closure”.

We do have a PRIVATE dinner for our church family at 12:30 p.m. Part of the reason it will be private is that we have a limited amount of food being brought in from a caterer and cannot accommodate “extras”. But in addition, this dinner will be a time for the church family to come together and remember many good times and some not-so-good times; to support each other, and to laugh and cry together.

I hope this next part will not sound too much like like announcing “calling hours” at a funeral home, but after the church dinner, from approximately 1:30 p.m. to approximately 3:30 p.m. (and MAYBE a little bit longer) I’ll be present at our church building to have coffee with any of my clergy friends and personal friends who want to stop by for a little while, say hello, and enjoy coffee and socializing with me. Even my blog readers who have never met me in person are welcome to drop by on Sunday afternoon for coffee and “meet & greet”! We’ll just keep making pots of coffee as long as we need to!

First Assembly of God of Framingham is located at 32 South Street (corner South and Taylor Sts.) in downtown Framingham. We’re right off Route 135 and our property borders that of the Chicken Bone Restaurant. We’ve got a parking lot which is accessed off Taylor St.

Incidentally, for those who know my daughter Amy (who is a nurse, married, and lives in Missouri), she will be present on Sunday and I’m sure she’d also love to see some of her MetroWest friends!

Finally, my resignation letter is a matter of public record. If anybody wants a copy of it, just send me an e-mail requesting it to


I’ll be happy to e-mail you a copy.

God bless you.

P.S.- It looks as though I may not be working in full-time ministry for quite awhile. As of Monday, March 8, I am unemployed. I need some sort of secular employment ASAP. Any leads or info. would be much appreciated!