Getting beyond the Century mark in serving God and the community is no small thing, but at the Glendale Christian Lighthouse Church on Broadway, COVID-19 has taken the winds out of their celebration this fall – but it hasn’t stopped the church from remembering the milestone and holding out for a bigger celebration later.
Pastor Larry Russi and his wife, Judy, said the church celebrated 130 years on Oct. 31 – with its articles of organization as the Glendale Baptist Church on Oct. 31, 1891 (It was changed to the Lighthouse name in 1991). Dinners, celebrations and a lengthy program of praise had been in the consideration as the leaders of Lighthouse had wanted to let everyone know about their anniversary and the needs they have also to keep their old building going.
“We were actually incorporated as a church one year ahead of the City,” said Russi, with a smile. “There’ a handful of people that have been here 30 years or more and they like to say that. We’ve gotten knocked down by COVID-19 and that’s prevented a lot of what we wanted to do. We had banners we were going to put up and we were going to have dinners and a celebration on Nov. 1 with everyone invited.”
Naturally, that had to be toned down, and on Nov. 1 they had a small service and invited members to come up and share their memories of the time they have spent in the church. For a lot of people, the church is a place that they grew up in and have continued coming to their whole lives. Others have discovered the church more recently and hail from countries all over the world, while others have been coming for some time and credit the church with turning their lives away from drugs, alcohol or other negative influences.
“We feel God wants us to continue doing this work another 130 years or more,” said Russi. “When I got here in 2017, I really had to solidify a vision for what we wanted to do. The main thing we came up against is a lack of youth. Many churches are up against that too. Before COVID-19, we had some kids coming to Sunday School…But COVID-19 has knocked us for a loop. We can’t do Sunday School. We used to meet once a month for coffee and dinner and fellowship. So many looked forward to that, but we can’t do that now.”
Russi points to a string of national flags from around the world that hang behind the pulpit in the sanctuary.
“We are really an international church, and like Everett has changed, so has this church,” he said. “Each flag represents a person who hails from that country. That’s something we’re really proud of at the church.”
What they have been concentrating on in a very difficult year to celebrate a milestone is what they can control. The church has been allowed to meet in person since May, and they have carried out many services and are in close contact with the City about regulations and best practices. It is a victory, but it’s not exactly how they envisioned celebrating 130 years.
“We’re back at church, but it’s not the same,” said Russi. “The City doesn’t want people lingering here after church. You can’t greet them and they have to leave right after church…We’re happy to be open, but it’s not quite the same yet.”
What they can concentrate on is reaching out to the community around them, and helping to revive their historic building.
The church was part of the City’s Operation Backpack this fall at the start of the remote school year, and saw an outpouring of generosity from the membership – which Russi said isn’t uncommon. It is, he said, a very giving church for its size. Those efforts will continue throughout the holidays as well, with many plans to support the community near and far.
As for their building, like a lot of old structures in the city, time had taken a toll on the Lighthouse Church. The building has just undergone some emergency electrical work that brings it up to code and allows the building to be insured. However, there was a much bigger capital campaign planned to coincide with the anniversary that would help to refurbish the church and bring it up to date.
There is a lot of hope that they will be able to raise some of the money they need to fix things like windows, doors and handicap access. Russi said they have a GoFundMe page that is up, and they also are taking donations by mail. Those can be sent to Glendale Christian Lighthouse Church; Attn: Cammy Consalvi, Treasurer; 701 Broadway; Everett, MA.