Saturday, October 17, 2009

Immanuel Chapel joins the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Immanuel Chapel becomes Immanuel Chapel OPC

At 8:30PM on Friday October 16, 2009 as Pastor Mark Marquis closed the reception service with these words “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you allImmanuel Chapel of Upton, MA was officially and formally received as a particular congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This evening was the culmination of at least 2 years and 8 months worth of prayer, study, and discussion related to the topic of Biblical Church Government. I provide here an extract from the minutes of our session meeting of February 10, 2007:

“VII. It was decided unanimously that we would call a Congregational Meeting on February 28, 2007 to open up the question about church government for discussion. The purpose of the meeting is to determine if the congregation would be willing to consider Presbyterianism as an alternative to our present form of Cambridge Platform Congregationalism.”

This decision by the session was prompted by a series of prior discussions and concerns over matters such as mission’s oversight, ordination practices, and membership matters that were seen to be complicated especially by our form of government. Immanuel was founded and established as a Congregational church in the Reformed Tradition expressed in such documents as the Cambridge Platform and Savoy Declaration of Faith. This heritage, though rich and in many ways Biblical, had left Immanuel virtually independent in the regular exercises of the government and ministry of the church. And so, under the gracious and guiding hand of God and for His glory, this body of believers began in early 2007 a sort of wilderness journey together which brought us to the evening of October 16, 2009 and our reception into the OPC.

The reception service actually began at 6:40PM with a meeting of representatives from the OPC Presbytery of New York and New England in the basement classroom of Immanuel Chapel. The representatives were:

· Pastor David O’Leary – Pastor of First Presbyterian OPC church of Ipswich, MA
· Pastor Stephen Migotsky – Pastor of Jaffrey Presbyterian church in Jaffrey, NH
· Pastor Richard Dickinson – Ordained minister of the OPC and full time military chaplain
· Pastor Allen Tomlinson – Ordained OPC minister and pastor of First Congregational Church of Merrimack, NH
· Pastor Greg Reynolds – Dr. Reynolds is Pastor of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church in Manchester, NH

The meeting was opened in prayer and the representatives of the Presbytery approved the order of the service which was to follow. It was discussed and agreed that the session of Immanuel Chapel could, on the basis of this reception service tonight, accept into OPC membership all those members currently on the rolls of the church, even those who for various reasons could not attend the reception service that evening.

The reception service began officially at 7:00PM and in attendance was, along with the members of Immanuel Chapel, various visitors and friends who shared with us in the joyful events of the evening. After a word of welcome from Pastor O’Leary, former Immanuel Chapel Pastor, Leonard Gulstrom (who served Immanuel from 1995-1999), was invited to open the reception service in prayer.

Following this the congregation sang a favorite Psalm together, Psalter selection 98A. The words were fitting for the occasion as the Psalmist says “Oh, sing a new song to the Lord, for He has done marvelous things.” Indeed, what we were doing and seeing this night was nothing less than a “marvelous thing” in the history of Immanuel Chapel.

Following this Psalm Pastor Migotsky read to the congregation Philippians 3:1-16. Following which Pastor Dickinson preached the Word to those gathered. This passage encouraged believers to build all their hope and lives firmly upon the person of Jesus Christ. “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (vs. 8).” Pastor Dickinson solemnly reminded us that Christ must remain central to our life as a church. We are joining the OPC, but the OPC did not die for Immanuel Chapel…Christ did. He warned us about looking elsewhere for guidance. The world around us is changing. We are changing. But Jesus Christ never changes. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” Come to Him! Keep coming to Him. And in Him, he reminded us, we will find all the fulfillment, fellowship and satisfaction that our hearts long for.

After his message, Pastor Mark Marquis read a moving and thoughtful letter to Immanuel Chapel from our former Pastor, Irfon Hughes (who served Immanuel from 1983-1993), who could not be with us that evening. In it he said that he had felt long ago that the OPC was the best place for Immanuel, and was so pleased that the Lord had guided us in His timing to this place.

Pastor Allen Tomlinson reviewed for those present the process that had been followed by the Presbytery in receiving Immanuel Chapel, including the examinations of officers and meetings with the congregation.

Pastor Greg Reynolds then proceeded to ask the members of Immanuel Chapel to rise and respond to the 4 vows of membership as found in the OPC book of church order. Following these Pastor Reynolds issued a charge to the congregation, especially focusing on the much neglected subject of the “Biblical importance of church membership.” After this, Pastor O’Leary officially welcomed in the members of Immanuel chapel to the OPC. He then proceeded to ask the elders and deacons to come forward and take the vows of office as prescribed by the OPC.

An audio clip of these vows is included here:

Following this Pastor Mark Marquis was called forward and asked to take such pastoral vows as is in accordance with the recommendations of the OPC.

These vows being taken Pastor O’Leary gave a charge to the officers of Immanuel Chapel drawing specifically from 2 Timothy 4:5Be watchful in all things.” He pointed out that one modern translation says “keep your head in all situations.” When things seem to be falling apart, “keep you head.” When tragedy strikes, when problems arise, when confusion threatens to overtake the church…”keep your head.” Be watchful of each other. Be watchful of yourself. And remember, he told us, the Lord Himself is watching you.

At this point the founding pastor of Immanuel Chapel, Norman Brower, came to the front and shared some of his own personal joy and love for this congregation which he began serving in 1975. He pointed out that Immanuel is actually the 3rd church that he planted which has eventually joined the OPC! He then offered a prayer to the Lord for this church and her officers.

The concluding hymn, “For all the saints,” was then sung together. Pastor Mark Marquis closed the meeting with a benediction, and Immanuel Chapel officially became the newest congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

What spiritual lessons can be gleaned from this process? What has the Lord done at Immanuel Chapel? How can we apply something of this history to our own souls? If ‘history’ is “His Story” then what does this brief portion of our history tell us of the wonderful works of Jesus Christ in His church?

1) Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. Let us never forget this. What happened here in this process was not our work but Christ’s work. The moment we begin to think of the church as “our church” is the very moment things begin to go wrong. There are so many little things that happened and that coordinated in making this transition possible that only God Himself can be credited with the glory. Oh my soul, remember this truth, and do not be discouraged when difficult days draw near. Christ still is the Head of His church.

2) Jesus Christ often drives His church into uncomfortable and unfamiliar places to strengthen our faith in Him. There was no real blueprint for this process. But this body of believers was convinced that the Lord is glorified when churches work together in tangible unity, fellowship, purity, accountability and service for the glory of Jesus Christ. The Lord called this little flock of believers to step out of the comfortable boat and walk to Him on the water. I can confess personally that I often, like poor Peter, found myself sinking and looking around at the waves. But He who began this work, would also complete it.

3) In Christ are all the provisions needed by His church. Many helped us through this process. But all who did were ultimately doing so as the arms, hands, and mouth of Christ Himself. Paul wrote to the Colossians and said “you are complete in Him.” Elsewhere he, speaking of Christ, writes of “the exceeding greatness of His power (Eph 1:19).”

4) Finally, all such who see Christ’s work in His church should submit and accept the provision of forgiveness as offered in the gospel. What other response is rational dear reader? If Christ is so working and moving and orchestrating His church…what shall become of your soul if you continue to resist and refuse to surrender to the call of the gospel? “Who then is able to stand against Me” (Job 41:10) says the Lord. Shall you? Will you overthrow the advancing of His kingdom when Christ Himself said that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it?” Oh my friend, you who possess a soul that lives here for a moment and must forever enjoy or regret the decision you now make, please “be reconciled to God.” Turn from your sin today. You have run up a great debt of iniquity in heaven’s account. “But there is forgiveness” with the Lord, that He may be feared (Psalm 130:4). Repent and believe the gospel today. May this little history of the work of Christ at Immanuel be the beginning of God’s work in your soul!

We welcome you to come and visit us at Immanuel Chapel Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

To God be the Glory!

I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to all the men named above, as well as others, who were instrumental in so many ways related to our joining the OPC.
A few pics:

Pastor & Mrs. O'Leary from Ipswich, MA OPC

Pastor Richard Dickinson and our own Pastor Mark Marquis

Founding Pastor and Mrs. Norman Brower

Pastor and Mrs. Leonard Gulstrom with their daughter


David C. Innes said...

I must say that I did not know that this was happening last night. Thank you for this account, and your soul stirring call at the end of it. How deeply pleasing it is to see my beloved Immanuel Chapel in my beloved OPC. I pray that you are a blessing to one another, and together a greater blessing to the kingdom of God.

Jason Poquette said...

Dear David,
Thank you for your encouragement. I am sorry you were not informed about this, as it would have been nice to have you here...should that have been possible. The Lord has been so good to us through this whole process.

Your soul's well-wisher,