Redeemer Community Church as Story
Once upon a time, 300 years ago, people in the area we now call Needham traveled to Dedham to go to church. It was a long way to go on horse or by foot – especially in winter. So in 1711, 250 people filed “The Farmers Petition” requesting that a parish church be established locally – where they lived. The General Court granted their request. The town of Needham and its church were born. As Needham grew, outliers in the far west of the town also got tired of trekking all the way to Nehoiden and Central for church. They wanted a church near them. Seventeen times they petitioned the court for a local parish. Things moved slowly: church politics, human orneriness, and a mysterious fire at the Needham Church played their part. Finally in 1881, the court halved Needham’s population and acreage creating the parish of Wellesley. Both town centers had steeples as visible evidence that people wanted a word from Heaven.
Years have passed and steeples don’t necessarily mean that a church is centered in Christ or grounded in orthodox biblical authority. So as the 21st century took hold, some people from Needham and Wellesley began trekking to other towns to worship God. Other residents stayed local but hungered for biblically-based, Christ-centered teaching and community. Through a series of happy coincidences and divine providence, these people (Dave Drake, the Newbold, Jester, McNeill, DiCamillo, Anthos, Tall and Rossi families) found one anther. They shared meals, told their stories, met in living rooms, prayed and began to dream about what God could do locally. Catching the wind of the Spirit, they risked sharing visions for a new community. They brought in chairs and picked up guitars. They invited neighbors and friends in. Children curled up on the floor as they gathered to meet with the living God in worship. Week after week as they met, they made culture together fostering a safe place where grace abounds – a place where faith, hope and love abide. It wasn’t a perfect place with perfect people. But it was a place where the intentional welcome and hospitality of God made family out of strangers. Through discussions sometimes heated, through decisions sometimes tough, people hung on to faith, hope and love. As they did, they kept growing closer to God and growing closer in community. Eventually living rooms got too small. REDEEMER COMMUNITY CHURCH was a reality that needed a building.
In March of 2005 on the spit of land linking Needham and Wellesley, God provided a home for RCC at Babson College. For five years RCC looked through the windows of Glavin Chapel as the breathtaking outward world moved through its seasons. Inside Glavin, RCC moved through seasons too. The Spirit was breathing life and creating RCC’s unique DNA. Arms and hearts reached out to Ann Adams as she was dying. Solid biblical teaching and hospitality attracted college students. Graduates from Babson joined God's mission of love to the world. RCC eagerly responded with support – stewarding God’s gifts for the kingdom. Parents jumped in making a RCC culture where children belonged. Longing to parent followers of Jesus, they told children’s sermons and taught Sunday school. A local body of people had begun to cooperate with the Spirit for radical change into Christ’s likeness.
RCC was a living, breathing organism of “God-reflectors” in Needham and Wellesley. Their desire was to equip people for spiritual maturity, so that the towns they lived in flourished. To that end, RCC began searching for a Shepherd. They found two. In 2008 Doug and Adele Calhoun moved from Chicago to hold the wonderful new life of this lay-lead community. Their calling was to nurture the beautiful RCC culture that was happening in groups, in worship and in local communities.
Glavin Chapel eventually got too tight. Redeemer needed more space for Sunday school, parking and worship. No one was eager to move or to plow resources into mortgages, facilities and upkeep. The church wanted to remain nimble, so resources were available for those in need locally and globally. On the first Sunday of Lent in 2010, God moved RCC from Glavin Chapel to the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church in Needham. Letting go of a room with a view, they moved to a room with blue linoleum tile and a basketball hoop. Thank goodness, God wasn’t constrained by aesthetics; Redeemer continued to meet the living God in worship, to grow in spiritual maturity and to extend hospitality in Jesus' name.
For the time being, RCC has landed. The initial season of creative energy, risking on God to become a new community is now turning into a new season. A season where the fruit of who we are gets lived out in individuals, in small groups, in congregational life and in the communities we represent. We are charged with joining God’s mission of love to our worlds. Let’s not simply go with the flow of the world around us. Let’s press on to know the Lord. Let’s put on faith, hope and love and collaborate with God as culture-makers in our local communities – now and into the age to come.