There it was, First Parish Church staring at us as we walked up Meeting House Hill in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Not only is First Parish Church (1631) the oldest congregation in the City of Boston and one of the oldest in the United States, it is a symbol of the Christian movement in the founding of our country. It was March of 1630 when 140 people arrived from Dorsetshire, England aboard the ship, “The Mary and John” to begin the work of building a new nation centered on the ideal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. One of the very first things they did was to establish First Church, a church known as a foundation stone of our nation. Out of this church:
• Harvard University was formed for the sole purpose of training and educating Christian clergy
• The first public school was created in America
• The first town hall meeting in America was held
For the next 150 years, it was a faithful Trinitarian Congregational Church. But around 1793, and like many other puritan churches in New England, First Church devolved into something unrecognizable as Puritan or even Christian; they became Unitarian (the rejection of the trinity) Universalists (the rejection of Hell). Unitarianism holds that Jesus was a prophet, but not God Himself, and Unitarians do not believe in original sin. Therefore Unitarianism is a nice moral group but not a Christian Church.
Like many Boston churches, this theological bankruptcy matched both the deplorable condition of their exteriors and Sunday attendance. As we prayed around the church, the Rev. Dan Rodgers told us that First Church was down to about 20 people attending on a Sunday. It was a sad picture, amplified by the fact that the steeple was literally off the church sitting in a vacant lot across the street surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Imagine, in Dorchester there are 13,000 people per square mile, many of whom are in spiritual, physical and financial straits, yet this Unitarian church attracts only 20 people on a Sunday! Yes, the symbol of the church with a broken steeple is a symbol of a broken and impotent theology that has no power to change and transform peoples lives. As an aside, as I was reviewing my pictures, I was shocked when I looked at the steeple picture and found that near the steeple was a road sign that read: “Dead End Street.” Nothing could be more true. Broken steeple = broken people. We walked and prayed around this church 7 times (what they call a Jericho walk from the Old Testament Book of Joshua). We prayed for the day when not only would the steeple go back up but that the 18th century theological shift would be reversed into an Orthodox faith in Jesus Christ. I believe this miracle is needed not only for First Church, but for our nation as a whole!
That revealing prayer walk was only day two of our Hurting Coast mission to Dorchester. This was our second mission trip under the guidance and authority of Christ the King Dorchester pastored by the Rev. Dan Rodgers. Like last year we had parents and their children as well as the guidance of our own youth director Justin Hare. This year we had four objectives established by Christ the King:
1) Teach, train and start a healing ministry at Christ the King
2) Conduct prayer walks throughout the city praying for Gospel impact through Christ the King Dorchester and her partner churches
3) The youth of St. Michael’s would produce a video on the challenges of Dorchester and the powerful ministry going on at Christ the King
4) The youth of St. Michael’s would establish relationships with the inner city “King’s Kids”
As you will be able to see, these dreams became a reality thanks be to God! On a personal note, it was wonderful being on mission with 13 year old daughter Wimberly. Last year I vowed I would not go on any mission trips without at least one member of my family going with me. Wimberly and I were able to bond in a way that we will never ever forget. It was also a beautiful thing watching all of our youth being exposed to one of the most diverse cities in our nation. The Holy Spirit was at work transforming hearts both on our team and on the hurting coast!
~ The Rev. Alfred T. K. Zadig, Jr.