There is something quite different and special about Open Arms Church. We could sense it the moment we arrived. Taking a walk around the impeccably kept grounds, we saw 3 wooden crosses in the distance, on a “hill far away”. An array of colorful flowers surrounded us. The outdoor pavilion and playground were quite impressive, being newly constructed. What a beautiful atmosphere for outdoor events.

The congregation embraced us the moment we walked in. We instantly felt like part of the family. The sanctuary was full, but we still easily found seating up towards the front. The worship began and it was done with excellence and purity. There was nothing distracting you from worshiping God. What a beautiful medley of songs, all played skillfully and with reverence. The cello was a perfect addition to the contemporary arrangements. Scanning the room, we noticed a sign language interpreter. And just a few rows back stood Pastor John Mulligan, with his hands raised as he worshiped God.

Youth Pastor Shaun McDonald shared the announcements; there are so many exciting things happening here! Then a young man, Darren, gave his testimony before he was baptized.   He stood before the congregation in a white robe as tears streamed down his face, as well as ours. Suddenly, when he came up out of the water, the entire church rose to their feet and wildly applauded. Darren was then ushered off the platform with applause unceasing until he was completely out of view.

Pastor John was called to Shepherd at Open Arms in 1994. His focus is to teach God’s word in a practical way and watch it come alive in people’s hearts. His teaching was entitled, “Our Battle Belongs to the Lord – Pay Attention to the Details”, based on Joshua 6:1-27. He approached the pulpit singing the well-known Negro spiritual, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho … and the walls came tumbling down”, as the congregation joined in.   Joshua followed God precisely every step of the way. He obeyed God’s instructions, thus he got the victory. “SHOUT, for the Lord has given you the city.” (Joshua 6:16). God wants it known that HE is the one leading. By faith the walls of Jericho fell. Likewise, by faith, we can have victory and take down the walls in our own lives. We must obey God as Joshua did. We should be content to follow His plan each day knowing He has a complete strategy for our total victory. Let tomorrow take care of itself. God will give you directions to handle each phase of your Christian journey.

Open Arms is an independent church who is affiliated and voluntarily cooperates with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The primary reason for this is to better position them to support missionaries, church planters and to help other ministries locally and internationally. They partner in sponsoring 5500 missionaries in 137 countries through the “Cooperative Program”. Open Arms has also contributed to the planting of 7 churches in the Capital Region. They support food banks and other community outreaches. Pastor John likes to support those ministries who “do it better” so that he can focus on teaching and equipping people to grow. This is the FRUIT of UNITY. He also has qualified and capable elders who are regularly scheduled to bring the Sunday message. This helps develop them and enables Pastor John to do all God has called him to. Pastor John displays great, Godly wisdom by delegating and remaining focused on the passion God has given him. He knows that we are not called to “do everything”. There is strength when working together in UNITY, and he understands the importance of being ONE in Christ.

Open Arms is a healthy church walking out the great commission. They know the true meaning of discipleship. Discovering Open Arms 101 workshops are periodically offered and are excellent tools to find out more about the church. The Open Arms Institute offers a variety of teachings that cover core aspects of the Christian faith. Schedules and registration can be found on their website. They also offer “Growth Groups”, which are groups of 12 people or less who meet weekly with the key values being: Loving God, Discovering Truth, Sharing Life and Serving Others. The church is also chock full of youth activities and special events, dynamically lead by Pastor Shaun McDonald. If you are looking for ways to serve the Kingdom, Open Arms offers opportunities to volunteer at the church or locally at places such as the  City Mission of Schenectady and Alpha Pregnancy Center, as well as international missions.

Open Arms Church is true to its name … that is how they will welcome you!   They open their arms and their hearts to serve God and others within the church, in the community and internationally. They open their church doors to all who want to come and receive. Open your heart to God’s leading. He may be calling you there. Feel what it is like to be hugged by God.

Church Website – www.openarmsonline.org

By Donna Hansen Munafo
Edited by Michael Frati