The Congregational Christian Church of Ravena first opened their doors in 1888. For 130 years, this church has gone through many seasons, but has stood the test of time. One of their greatest challenges took place in 1951 when they had a major structure fire. The pictures in their fellowship hall reveal the severity of the destruction that took place. But this didn’t stop them from rebuilding and pressing on. A few years ago, the church was without a lead pastor and they were faced with the potential of closing their doors. But when Pastor Jim Williams and his wife Sue heard about this, they knew God was calling them to do everything possible to keep those doors open.
Pastor Jim is no stranger to persevering in ministry. He has served God for decades, and in whatever capacity God calls him to. He was formerly the pastor of the nearby Wesleyan Church in 1984 for about a year. Following that, he continued serving there as a Bible study teacher for nearly 30 years. He has a denominationally diverse background, all of which has helped him to prepare for such a time as this. In addition, he currently serves as the lead pastor at Dormansville United Methodist. After the 9:00 am Sunday service at Dormansville, he heads over to Congregational Christian Church for the 10:30 am service. This double duty is a labor of love for Pastor Jim.
The opening hymn, “Spirit of the Living God” was appropriate given the title of the message, “Walking in the Spirit”. The service progressed through some liturgical aspects and into “children’s time”. The young children were quite participatory, answering all of Pastor Jim’s questions. This was followed with several announcements and I was given an opportunity to share my vision for UNITY in the Capital Region.
The message began with a music video of a song entitled, “I Will Fear no Evil”. It was a catchy, upbeat song with a country flavor that got everyone focused on the VICTORY we have when walking in the Spirit. He based his message on Galatians 5:18;25, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. We can do nothing on our own. John 14:26 states, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. God has put His power within us (Acts 1). We were marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:13-14). We have a new nature and our old, sinful nature, in the “same cage”. There is a struggle within that the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 7:15-16. Paul encourages us to live by the Spirit. In Galatians 5:19-21, the characteristics of the old nature are listed out. In contrast, the proceeding verses (Galatians 5:22-23) list out the fruit of the SPIRIT. We need to choose this day who we will serve. This is all part of the SANCTIFICTION process.
The offering was taken and then there was a time for prayer requests. The congregation spoke these out, and then they all came to the center aisle, joined hands and prayed together. The “family” joining together was a wonderful reflection of the UNITY in this house of prayer. Afterwards, during a time of fellowship and coffee, Pastor Jim took us for a tour of the building. The fellowship hall recently had new hardwood floors put in, and the stage in that room had also been redone. The kitchen was quite impressive as well. What a beautiful space to hold fellowships, meals and other community outreaches. The downstairs, though mostly unfinished at this time, has generous space with multiple classrooms, all ready for the growth that Pastor Jim envisions.
I met Ciara afterwards … a delightful and happy young girl, wearing a beautiful red dress. She excitedly brought me to the altar in the now empty sanctuary. She asked me to stand in the pulpit and wanted to know what I saw. As I looked out over the empty seats I envisioned the pews all being filled. I asked her if she wanted to be a Pastor, and she enthusiastically said “YES!”. Then she took my hand and lead me over to the giant Bible that was opened to the book of Ezekiel. She began reading to me Chapter 3:1-3, stumbling over a few of the words. She told me how much she loved reading the Bible. A future leader for the Kingdom. What a wonderful way to end my visit!
This church has been growing since Pastor Jim’s inception, and it is in a wonderful position to continue with that momentum. Pastor Jim was walking in the Spirit when he took on the role of lead Pastor here, and he continues to do so. Walking in the Spirit made it all possible!
Sunday Service: 10 am / Bible Study: Monday night at 7 pm
By Donna Hansen Munafo