See how these Christians in Rhode Island love one another:
Twenty years ago, a Catholic diocese would have never made room for the First Baptist Church congregation in a place where Catholics came to worship, says the Rev. Dorian Parker.
But one generous gesture on behalf of the Diocese of Providence has allowed the 30-or-so members of the Baptist Church to celebrate their faith inside a Catholic chapel in nearby North Smithfield.
The First Baptist Church, at Blackstone Street, Woonsocket, has not had the best of luck this year.
Badly in need of roof repairs, the church paid to patch it in February of this year. When that was complete, Parker was told the water damage from the leaks in the roof had seeped into the walls of the church, which he saw as a potential health problem for the elderly members of the congregation. Whatever work needs to be done will involve tearing the walls up, he said.
“My congregation is a little on the mature side,” Parker, the congregation’s pastor of six years, said. “I was concerned that people would develop health problems. I wanted to be safe.”
So he did what any pastor might do: he reached out for a helping hand. The hand that grabbed his, however, was an unexpected one.
Close enough for at least some of his church patrons to travel, the Catholic Diocese of Providence – particularly former Bishop Louis Gelineau – offered a spot at The Villa at St. Antoine in North Smithfield, an assisted living community with a small chapel seating more than 40. The baptist church “moved in” in March, not knowing how long it would have to stay.
“Most churches aren’t able to host some other congregation without paying into the pot,” Parker said. “But we even offered to give them what we had for compensation, and they wouldn’t take it.”
Parker was overwhelmingly grateful for the space, which he said he will hold until the congregation raises enough money to fix the water damage at the historical Blackstone Street church. He has high hopes for a grant by next spring, he says. Parker said he has also spoken to Alan Shawn Feinstein, a nationally known philanthropist in Rhode Island, about the congregation’s woes.