Rev. John Dale arrives in time to celebrate FPCC’s 375th year

May 17, 2019 by

Published ion the May 17, 2019 edition.

By GAIL LOWE

WAKEFIELD — On Sunday, April 14, Reverend John Dale delivered his first official sermon as new pastor of First Parish Congregational Church, the big stone house of worship on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt.

Since then, he has been getting to know the Wakefield community, its people and its traditions.

Reverend John Dale (Gail Lowe Photo)

Rev. Dale arrived in the year that the church is celebrating its 375th anniversary. In his spare time, he has been reading books about the history of First Parish so he will be well versed about the church and the community he is serving, from the early days to present.

In preparation for this milestone, several major church projects are either underway or are in the planning stages. This year, parishioners can look forward to new bathrooms on the lower level of the church, restored stained glass windows, new red carpeting and pew cushions in the Sanctuary and lighting upgrades.

To commemorate the church’s anniversary, an hour-long celebratory concert is scheduled Sunday, May 26 at 4 p.m. beginning with familiar hymns and ending with contemporary music. Organist Don Hodgkins and the church choir will present traditional music during the first half, while Doug Jackson and the Cornerstone band will play during the second half. The event is free and open to the public.

If this isn’t enough, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 23 Rev. Dale will be officially installed as pastor of the church.

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, but the easy going pastor is taking it all in stride.

“We are doing a new thing,” he smiled, borrowing scripture from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43, Verses 18-19.

Rev. Dale said his first impressions of Wakefield have been positive. He referred to the town as “beautiful” and its people “friendly and welcoming.”

“My wife Kathy and I are enjoying living here,” he said.

The couple live in the parsonage on Curve Street with Kathy’s mother Mindy O’Toole, age 94. Their son Luke and his wife Amber live in Lancaster, Penn. Daughter Erin and her husband Mark live in Wareham on the South Shore.

Rev. Dale came to Wakefield from a church in Speculator, N.Y., an upstate community, and now has his eyes trained not only on what is currently before him but on the future. One of his missions at First Parish is to grow the church by adding new members, whether entire families or those who are single, widowed or divorced.

“Outreach will be our primary focus,” he said. “We’re hoping to appeal to a wider group of people.”

As an incentive to bring in new members, two church services soon will be offered every Sunday morning. One will be traditional and feature familiar hymns and liturgy while the other will feature contemporary worship. Child care will be available at each service. (Times for each have yet to be determined.)

“The church is in a great location,” said Rev. Dale. “We can attract all age groups, and there’s a strong potential that we can reconnect with families.”

If Easter Sunday is any indication, attendance is already on the rise. Approximately 230 people turned out for the holiday service.

“The Ten Commandments are important to follow,” Rev. Dale said. “If Christians don’t follow the Bible, they have no anchor.”

Asked about his world view, he said that each generation has believed that theirs is the worst, noting the Spanish Inquisition, Civil War and the Holocaust.

“We’ve always seen bad things,” he said. “We’re lucky in America to have freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We need to wait for God to guide us and not make decisions for ourselves. We need to constantly ask, seek, and knock.”

Though he is centered on the church and its growth, Rev. Dale does take time out for rest and relaxation. He loves baseball and football and follows the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers, Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. He also enjoys reading, especially mysteries; history (his own family came over from England in 1621); riding his bike and skiing. He also plays many instruments, including guitar, mandolin, banjo and others.

As the days continue, Rev. Dale will look forward to meeting new people in Wakefield, seeing new faces in his congregation and welcoming them into the church family.

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