It is a rainy, cold day here in New Hampshire. Molly is tucked under my desk as I visit with you. It is not a good day for a walk so we will visit in my study. As you may have figured by now, I have not been sitting at my desk for quite some time. You see, I am involved in a major project behind my garage.
Some of my tools that I use are in my garage, and if I wish to use them, I have to move my truck out of the garage and move my heavy machinery into the center of the floor. Also, I do not have a good place to store the lumber I use on many projects. So, in my eighties, I am into a project that demands my attention before the snow flies. I miss being in my study and taking our walks, but by the end of my day of carpentry, I am totally fatigued. Some nights I almost crawl up the stairs to our bedroom. If you don’t believe me, and I am sure you do, you can ask Dale.
One of my philosophies in life is to attempt to live each day fully and not think of my being halfway in my eighties. That was my dad’s philosophy as well. My dad planted trees where he wished them around his home into his late seventies; however, he was not to see his eighties. Some might think it strange to work so hard, for indeed my bones and joints ache from my activity, but I recall that the Chapel in Attleboro was begun in my seventies. Dale and I agreed to turn our carriage house into a chapel ,and until my health did not allow it, I loved my ministry there. We were a chapel people who welcomed all into our midst for baptism, marriage and funerals; we were open to all who sincerely wished God’s blessing. I mention the Candleberry Chapel today on our walk for on Sunday October 18th, the people of the Candleberry Chapel burned the Chapel mortgage. How wonderful is that?
This retired pastor is so proud of those who have continued to worship and serve our Lord in that small chapel. The members of the chapel come from many different communities in Massachusetts and also in Rhode Island.
One of the sorrowful thoughts in my life is that so many Christian Churches are failing. Here in neighboring Concord there is a beautiful First Congregational Church. When I was a pastor at South Church in Concord some forty or so years ago, First Church was alive and flourishing. That church is now for sale for its dedicated but small congregation can no longer afford to maintain their building for services and events. My childhood Baptist Church in Melrose, Massachusetts is also struggling to keep and maintain its place of worship. This should not ever be the case with Candleberry Chapel. The expenses to keep the chapel heated, insured, and have the presence of a pastor, etc. are significant but not overwhelming. Candleberry Chapel should be there for many years in the future because of its dedicated and loving members. If you are near Attleboro someday, you really should attend the Chapel to meet its faithful people and to enjoy its beautiful location on the Ten Mile River.
There are thousands of stories I could tell you about that chapel and the people who are members and the people who have been married, baptized or faced the loss of a loved one. There was the couple one day who were married in the chapeland who asked if after their wedding they could dance for a moment. Dance in the chapel? The middle-aged groom was terminally ill, and the days of their marriage were uncertain. As they held each other and quietly danced, you knew you were in the presence of a wonderful love and a compassionate God.
There were wonderful Christmas Eve services with the chapel full to capacity. In the candlelight, you could see the faces of little children and their tired parents, and your heart was filled with the wonder of our Savior’s birth. There were evensome Christmas Eves we went out to find a beautiful white snow falling, the perfect setting for Christmas celebrations. I believe hundreds of lives were changed by our Chapel and that they are still being changed by those who call that chapel their home.
Before I was called to the ministry and when I was attending college, I came to believe that the reason for my life was people and loving and serving them. Looking back over my fifty-seven years of being a pastor, I am blessed with memories and stories of people who have shared their lives with me. Sitting here in my study and visiting with you, all those people flood back to my memory – their sorrows, their joys, their blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ. But most of all, I think of you on this walk with me. You are all called as well to be a pastor to others. You are called to love people and to reach out to them for they are all a part of God’s creation. And when we know the most important part of life is caring for our brothers and sisters in this walk of life, we are doing God’s will – what we were born to do. So, ministers of Jesus Christ, look around you and give love in this difficult time to others who need a friend. Although we may not be able to meet in church or chapel because of this pandemic, we can talk on our phones, we can be thoughtful of those who need comfort, we can be messengers for Christ and give hope to those who are lonely and need a friend.
Congratulations to those in Candleberry Chapel for being faithful to the Lord and for making it possible for a place, a home for God and for people to be there for others in the years to come – CANDLEBERRY CHAPEL.
“And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”