January 1, 2012 Unity Service in Cambridge
Kelly Steinhaus, Boston-based missionary and UniteBoston Director of Operations, shares her experience at the Cambridge Unity Service on New Years Day and her passion for unity in Boston.
On January 1, 2012, sixteen churches in Cambridge and over 800 people gathered to worship the name of Jesus at First Baptist Church in Central Square. This was the first time in city history that sixteen different congregations representing various Christian denominations have come together for a single Sunday morning worship service.
The diversity of the Kingdom of God in Cambridge
Bishop Brian Greene of Pentecostal Tabernacle played an instrumental role in organizing this gathering. He believes that “Revival cannot, come, unless the church is one.” I echo his belief, and the presence of God that filled the room was one of the closest things to revival that I have experienced. At 11:00am, people of all denominations and cultures kept streaming in the door to worship Jesus, until there was no more seats, and then barely any standing room. I was ushering at the service, but we all agreed that this was a good problem for us to have. We even had to bring in TV monitors so people could watch the service in the lobby..Pentecostal Tabernacle’s choir led us in worship as they sang chords which rang with heaven’s sounds. Denominations, cultures, church identity fell to the wayside as we worshipped our one true God, Jesus Christ, together with one voice. It made me think of Revelation 7:9, where it describes heaven as “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Words honestly cannot describe this gathering, so I recorded the video above so everyone could see and experience it.
In some cultural and denominational backgrounds, there is a particular emphasis on the pastor’s first sermon in the new year. Congregation members wait in anticipation to hear what will be “The Word of the Lord” for that coming year. I personally inspired by the message that Pastor Larry Ward of Abundant Life Church shared on how we can seek the peace of our city – with prayer, equipping, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. But even more than that, I sensed how powerful it was for the churches in our region to have a collective vision to bring us into the new year.
Yes, God says that He commands a special blessing in unity (Psalm 133) – and every single person I talked to after the service said something to the effect of, “That was really cool.” My friend and fellow ministry worker Ralph Kee asserted, “the many components of today’s service displayed hopes being fulfilled that I’ve had for Cambridge (and all of Greater Boston) for 40 years,” and he believes this is a sign that 2012 will be the most productive year in our lifetimes for the gospel in our city.
Above all else, I came away with the sense that, “This is the way it’s supposed to be.” As the Church, each part of the body has a unique function, but we also must have opportunities to come together and remember that we are part of something larger. I see this type of regional worship gatherings becoming more and more common in the coming seasons and years. Jesus’ dying prayer is that the church would be one, ”in order that they may become one and perfectly united, that the world may know and [definitely] recognize that You sent Me and that You have loved them [even] as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23, AMP) Gatherings like this – shared experiences that we have together as the body – break down the denominational and cultural walls and allow us to be the Church that God designed us to be.
Participating Congregations: A Place to Heal Ministries, Abundant Life Church, Bethel Assemblies of God, Calvary Praise & Worship Center, Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, Cambridge Church of the Nazarene, Cambridgeport Baptist Church, Christian Mission Holiness Church, First Baptist Church, First Holiness Church, Pentecostal Tabernacle, Journey Church, RUSH AME Zion Church, Spirit of Power Living Word Ministries, International Union Baptist Church
At least once a year, many Christians become aware of the great diversity of ways of adoring God. Hearts are touched, and people realize their neghbours’ ways are not so strange" – World Council of Churches
January 18th – 25th is International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Join us in praying with over 349 church bodies representing nations and denominations around the globe. For more than a century, leaders from Orthodox, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Protestant backgrounds have come together annually to develop an 8-day prayer focus to unite every Christian everywhere. This year’s theme is “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Cor 15:51-58)
Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ
Over the coming week we are invited to enter more deeply into our faith that we will all be changed through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The biblical readings, commentaries, prayers and questions for reflection, all explore different aspects of what this means for the lives of Christians and their unity with one another, in and for today’s world. We begin by contemplating the Christ who serves, and our journey takes us to the final celebration of Christ’s reign, by way of His cross and resurrection:
Jan 18, Day One: Changed by the Servant Christ
- The Son of Man came to serve (cf. Mk 10:45) On this day we encounter Jesus, on the road to victory through service. We see him as the "one who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life, a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Consequently, the Church of Jesus Christ is a serving community. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ.
Jan. 19, Day Two: Changed through patient waiting for the Lord
- Let it be so now, for it is proper to fulfil all righteousness (Mt 3:15) On this day we concentrate on patient waiting for the Lord. To achieve any change, perseverance and patience are needed. Prayer to God for any kind of transformation is also an act of faith and trust in his promises. Such waiting for the Lord is essential for all who pray for the visible unity of the church this week. All ecumenical activities require time, mutual attention and joint action. We are all called to co-operate with the work of the Spirit in uniting Christians.
Jan. 20, Day Three: Changed by the Suffering Servant
- Christ suffered for us (cf. 1 Pt 2:21) This day calls us to reflect on the suffering of Christ. Following Christ the Suffering Servant, Christians are called to solidarity with all who suffer. The closer we come to the cross of Christ the closer we come to one another.
Jan 21, Day Four: Changed by the Lord’s Victory over Evil
- Overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21) This day takes us deeper into the struggles against evil. Victory in Christ is an overcoming of all that damages God’s creation, and keeps us apart from one another. In Jesus we are called to share in this new life, struggling with him against what is wrong in our world, with renewed confidence and with a delight in what is good. In our divisions we cannot be strong enough to overcome evil in our times.
Jan. 22, Day Five: Changed by the peace of the Risen Lord
- Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you! (Jn 20:19) Today we celebrate the peace of the Risen Lord. The Risen One is the great Victor over death and the world of darkness. He unites His disciples, who were paralysed with fear. He opens up before us new prospects of life and of acting for His coming kingdom. The Risen Lord unites and strengthens all believers. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of our transformation in the resurrection.
Jan. 23, Day Six: Changed by God’s Steadfast Love
- This is the victory, our faith (cf. 1 Jn 5:4) On this day we concentrate our attention on God’s steadfast love. The Paschal Mystery reveals this steadfast love, and calls us to a new way of faith. This faith overcomes fear and opens our hearts to the power of the Spirit. Such faith calls us to friendship with Christ, and so to one another.
Jan. 24, Day Seven: Changed by the Good Shepherd
- Feed my sheep (Jn 21:17) On this day the Bible texts show us the Lord strengthening His flock. Following the Good Shepherd, we are called to strengthen each other in the Lord, and to support and fortify the weak and the lost. There is one Shepherd, and we are his people.
Jan. 25, Day Eight: United in the Reign of Christ
- To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne (Rv 3:21) On this last day of our week of prayer for Christian Unity we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Christ’s victory enables us to look into the future with hope. This victory overcomes all that keeps us from sharing fullness of life with him and with each other. Christians know that unity among us is above all a gift of God. It is a share in Christ’s glorious victory over all that divides.
* excerpt from World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spirituality/spirituality-and-worship/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity.html
On January 15th, 2012, StoryHeights Church will be starting weekly services here in Boston. StoryHeights is a new church meeting in the AMC Theaters in the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center, and is led by Tyler and Crystal Tullos, who moved here from Baton Rouge. This week Tyler and Crystal will share a little about their mission and community and how they hope to join with the churches in this city to impact Boston for Christ.
We moved here from Louisiana following a call from God to tell the greatest story ever told about Jesus Christ. StoryHeights started meeting monthly in September 2011, and God has grown it to about 60 people in each service thus far. We design the services to be contemporary and relevant with a full band leading worship, teachings that are practical and biblical-based, and are driven by a heart to reach people through practical acts of serving and kindness. The mission of our church is to connect people’s stories with God’s story so that He can take their stories to new heights.
We have already witnessed God taking people to new heights with Him. The best story yet is of a girl who had been raised in the church but had not been to church in over 10 years. Her parents were very ill and after searching for a church to go to online, she somehow ran across the new website this fall, and emailed us and set up a coffee meeting. She told her story of how life was hard, and she realized that she needed to get God back in her life. She agreed to be on the launch team for the church, volunteered at each of the four monthly services, and has come alive in Christ. She has shared that coming to Christ at StoryHeights and being reminded that God loves her and is for her has been the greatest thing that has happened to her thus far in life. Her circumstances are still rough, but she has found a God who cares and a community of believers that support her.
We invite anyone looking for a church family and home to come and visit the service on the 15th. We’d love to meet you, hear your story, and see God take your story to new heights. For more information about the church, visit storyheights.com.
Fourteen Local Churches Host The First-Ever New Year’s Day Unity Service. The Cambridge Unity Sunday Morning Service, sponsored by churches in Cambridge, marks the first time in the city’s history that fourteen different congregations representing various Christian denominations will come together for a single Sunday morning worship service. The event will take place on Sunday, January 1 at the historic First Baptist Church, 5 Magazine Street Cambridge, MA, and will begin at 11 a.m.
This service marks an important step not only for the congregations involved, but also for the neighborhoods they serve. Pastors, individual church members and welcomed guests will be setting aside more than just denominational differences during this time; they will also set aside race, class, ethnic and age differences toward the common purpose of uniting the body of Jesus Christ. “Revival cannot come, until the church is one,” says Bishop Brian Greene, pastor of Pentecostal Tabernacle and a member of the organizing committee. While many people hope to begin the New Year with renewed promises and goals, one community in Cambridge is not waiting too long into 2012 to begin making its resolutions a reality.
In a city that is traditionally known for its intellectual institutions and high real-estate market, the sponsoring churches hope to put Cambridge on the map for a new thing, which is putting the unity back into community. In a social and political climate in which every issue seems to be polarizing, this service is aimed at bringing people together initially for Sunday morning service. Eventually, it will act as a gateway for addressing social issues that collectively affect the church and individual communities such as poverty, faith and family.
“This is above and beyond what any of us could have dreamed even a year ago,” says Greene. Thus, while the service may be a first, it follows in the wake of many years of prayer and partnership among the participating congregations.
In addition to a full Sunday service including a worship band, an inspirational message and communion, the morning will conclude with a prayer of blessing for each person for the New Year, as well as refreshments following the service. For more information on this event please visit www.ptspice.org.
A Place to Heal Ministries
Abundant Life Church
Calvary Praise & Worship Center
Cambridge Community Fellowship Church
Cambridge First Church of the Nazarene
Cambridgeport Baptist Church
Christian Mission Holiness Church
First Baptist Church
First Holiness Church
RUSH Memorial AME Zion Church
Spirit of Power Living Word Ministries International
Union Baptist Church
Speaker: Reverend Lawrence A. Ward, Senior Pastor, Abundant Life Church
Worship Director: Austin Marks, Pentecostal Tabernacle
Communion Service: Pastors of Cambridge
New Year’s Day Prayer/Blessing: Pastors of Cambridge