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TEWKSBURY — First Baptist Church of Tewksbury encourages the community to take part in their year-long 175th anniversary celebration.
The church is hosting guest speakers throughout the summer, all leading up to a big celebration on Oct. 22.
Rev. Simeon Damas, the church’s pastor, said, “We’re going to have a service followed by a reception and then the speaker for the day is William David Spencer. He’s been here many times and the people really, really like him so we’re bringing him back.”
Damas said the accomplishment to celebrate is not that the church has existed for 175 years, but its the commitment to faith throughout those years.
“The emphasis is on us being faithful for 175 years and that’s what we want people to know,” Damas said. “What we want to accomplish is to make sure people keep in mind that we are still here and we are celebrating and not only that we are faithful, but we are staying faithful to the mission that is preaching the Gospel, teaching the word of God to people within the community, and staying faithful to that word.”
Inspired by the anniversary, Damas researched what was happening in the U.S. 175 years ago.
“I traced (Abraham Lincoln) down to I think Feb. 22, 1842. He gave a passionate speech to the Temperance Society in Springfield, Illinois and he was speaking about the freedom of the will, freedom of the mind,” Damas said. “We as Baptists, we have a big thing, we call it freedom of the soul, like soul freedom, meaning that you’re free to worship whoever you want, wherever you want, but we as Baptists, as far as we’re concerned, we’re going to worship God.”
Damas said he noticed a correlation between Lincoln’s speech and the ideologies of the Baptist church.
“To go back in history and see when Lincoln was speaking about certain things in ’42 and we are here, trying to put this thing together, this little church,” Damas said. “It was fascinating to see the correlation between what was happening in Springfield, Illinois in 1842 and what was happening here in Tewksbury in 1842.”
Betty Dick, a long-time member of the congregation and the church moderator, expressed gratitude for First Baptist thriving over the years and she wants the town to know what the church can offer back to the community.
“In the turbulent times that we live in, many churches are closing. We’ve been fortunate to be the church on the hill in Tewksbury for a long, long, long time,” Dick said. “Simeon is very good about finding (support services) and we have a lot of resources, untapped resources, within the congregation.”
Dick said members of the community do come into the church when they need a helping hand or if they notice a clever quote on the sign out front of the church.
“We’ve actually had people stop and come in here and say they like their instant sermon going to work that they see.”
Damas encourages more people to step inside and get to know the congregation.
“I urge people, I encourage people to come and see, see what we do. Going by the church, you can see the sign, the one-man sermon. I think it’s important to know who’s in there,” Damas said.
“We have good people, decent people in here. People who really care about other people and the community and I think it would serve the community well to get to know who we are as a church and as a people. The church is not the building, it’s the people. So I think it would be nice for the people to know who the people of First Baptist Church are.”
Moving forward with the celebration, First Baptist Church is planning their welcoming on the first day of Sunday school, gathering church members to reenact a photograph of the congregation from the early 1900’s, and scheduling a basketball game against the Tewksbury Police Department.
With the emphasis being on remaining faithful and helping the community, Damas looks forward to the coming months.
“The people of 1842, they left us a legacy and that legacy, the hope is that we’ll give it to our children, our great grandchildren and that dream still continues to live and we continue to preach the Gospel,” Damas said. “I think it would be nice for (the community) to come along and see hey, there’s a good group of people here trying everyday to do good things.”