STERLING — Hope Chapel has a lot to celebrate with the church’s 20th anniversary and the launch of a new community garden.
A special anniversary service was held at Chocksett Road Church on May 29, attended by Vice Chairman of the Board John Kilcoyne, State Senator John Cronin, Rep. Meghan Kilcoyne, Rep. of State Michael Kushmerek and hundreds of church members.
“We had a full house,” said Hope Chapel, founder of senior pastor Neal Davidson. “You could feel the joy, which is actually quite typical, and we were also grateful to have had representatives from our community with us for the celebration.”
The service included the engraving of a replica mortgage note, which was actually paid off at the end of last year, followed by a lunch hosted by Il Forno.
“It was great to take the time to review the many ways Jesus fulfilled his promise to give life and life abundantly, John 10:10,” Davidson said.
Longtime church member and town resident Barbara Foster said the celebratory service “was absolutely perfect.
“(It was) good to hear the story and the music was phenomenal,” she said. “All four speakers were excellent and very complementary to the music.”
Davidson said the church construction project cost $2.5 million and they moved into the building in February 2006 with a $1.3 million mortgage.
“It’s great to have it paid back so we can figure out how to use these funds to serve God and people in the future,” he said.
Davidson and his wife, Christina, the minister, have been holding public services for more than two decades, starting April 28, 2002, years before the church was built. Town resident Ken Hall has been the student pastor for 19 years, town resident Steve Blumer has been the family and adult pastor for 10 years, and Jay Tilley is the children’s minister.
“We started in April 2002 with just a handful of people committed to starting a new church,” said Neal Davidson. “We now have around 300 families and as we come out of the pandemic we average around 325 on Sunday mornings with another 100 viewings online.”
He said it was “great” to celebrate the anniversary.
“It was such a privilege to have a front row seat to watch all the good things God has done over the past 20 years,” he said. “Christina and I moved to Sterling 28 years ago, and never in our wildest dreams would we have thought to celebrate such a milestone.”
The pastor said there are several things that help keep the church thriving.
“There are a few key elements among many others,” said Neal Davidson. “First, our people have truly committed themselves to following the Bible by learning to love God and others more fully. It is the soil that God used to produce a harvest that has enabled 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 being willing to support the things that aren’t really their thing because it works for a different age group. Maybe another way of doing it. say is that not everyone necessarily likes everything we do, but they like why we do it.
He said they “have come a long way from our humble beginnings dating in the theater at Chocksett Middle School for nearly four full years.”
“In a way, the meaning is that we are just coming of age with all the possibilities that creates. Our hope and prayer is that the future of Hope will continue to be filled with opportunities for be a blessing to our city and our region.
One of the outreach projects the church is currently offering is the recently launched community garden, which is open to anyone in the area. Once you have reserved a free 4ft x 10ft plot, you will be given a plot number and then you can come any day during the day, except Sunday mornings due to church services, to plant seeds and mind your own plot. A water outlet will be available.
Church members Mary Bezek and Jennifer Knipe said the idea for the community garden came about because they “thought there could be more community outreach”.
“The cost of food goes up almost daily, it seems,” Knipe said. “We wanted to give the community a space where people could come together, plant a garden and find friendship.”
About half of the total 100 plots are still available. The two women and other volunteers have recently installed a fence around the garden and will continue to develop plots as needed.
“Some people don’t have enough space for a garden in their home or their space isn’t ideal for growing,” Knipe said.