STERLING – Hope Chapel has much to celebrate with the church’s 20th anniversary and the opening of a new community garden.
On May 29, a special anniversary service was held at Chocksett Road Church, attended by Select Board Vice Chairman John Kilcoyne, State Senator John Cronin, Representative Meghan Kilcoyne, State Representative Michael Kushmerek and hundreds attended by church members.
“We had a full house,” said Hope Chapel senior pastor Neal Davidson. “You could feel the joy, which is actually quite typical, and we were also grateful to have representatives from our community join us for the celebration.”
The service included the burning of a copy of the mortgage deed, which was actually paid off late last year, followed by a lunch served by Il Forno.
“It was great to take the time to review the many ways Jesus kept His promise to give life and life to the full, John 10:10,” Davidson said.
Longtime church member and city resident Barbara Foster said the celebratory service was “absolutely perfect.
“(It) was good to hear the story and the music was phenomenal,” she said. “The four speakers were excellent and complemented the music very well.”
Davidson said the church building project cost $2.5 million and they moved into the building in February 2006 with a $1.3 million mortgage.
“It feels great to be paid so that we can figure out how to use those funds to serve God and people in the future,” he said.
Davidson and his wife, Christina, the Minister of Worship, have been holding public services for over two decades, beginning April 28, 2002, years before the church was built. Townsman Ken Hall has been the pastor for students for 19 years, Townsman Steve Blumer has been the pastor for families and adults for 10 years, and Jay Tilley is the children’s pastor.
“We started in April 2002 with just a handful of people committed to planting a new church,” said Neal Davidson. “We have about 300 families now and after the pandemic Sunday mornings average about 325 with another 100 watching online.”
He said it feels “great” to celebrate the anniversary.
“It was such a privilege to have a front row seat and see all the good things that God has done over the past 20 years,” he said. “Christina and I joined Sterling 28 years ago and never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be celebrating a milestone like this.”
The pastor said there are several elements that help the church thrive.
“There are a few important things among many,” said Neal Davidson. “First, our people have a sincere obligation to follow the Bible and learn to love God and others more fully. This was the soil that God used to produce a crop that has allowed Hope to attract people of all ages from 20 different communities.
“Second, the people of Hope are committed to being a multigenerational church,” he continued. “Essentially, that means loving most of the things we do while also being willing to support the things that aren’t really their thing because it works for a different age group. Another way to put it might be that not everyone necessarily loves everything we do, but they love why we do it.”
He said they “have come a long way from our humble beginnings of meeting in the theater at Chocksett Middle School for almost four full years.”
“In a way, we feel like we’re just getting into adulthood, with all the possibilities that it creates. We hope and pray that the future of Hope will continue to be filled with opportunities to be a blessing to our city and region.”
One of the outreach projects that the church is currently offering is the recently opened community garden, open to all in the area. Once you have reserved a free 4ft x 10ft lot, you will be given a lot number and can then come during daylight hours every day except Sunday mornings for church services to plant seeds and cultivate your own plot. Water connection will be available.
Church members Mary Bezek and Jennifer Knipe said the idea for the community garden came about because they “felt the community could be reached more.”
“It seems food costs are going up almost every day,” Knipe said. “We wanted to give the community a space where people can come together, plant a garden and make friends.”
About half of the 100 plots are still available. The two women and other volunteers have recently placed a fence around the edge of the garden and will continue to create plots as needed.
“Some people don’t have enough space at home for a garden or their space isn’t ideal for growing,” Knipe said.
To reserve a community garden plot email firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information visit online at hopechapelsterling.org and follow Hope Chapel on Facebook and Instagram.