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Governor praises church rebuilding

Date: 8/23/2010

Aug. 23, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SIXTEEN ACRES -- Gov. Deval Patrick took the opportunity to visit the site of the new Macedonia Church of God in Christ being constructed on Tinkham Road on Aug. 18.

The Macedonia Church was burned down by arsonists on Nov. 5, 2008, and with the help of local and state government, Bishop Bryant Robinson and the rest of the congregation have been able to start rebuilding.

Robinson, who said it was "exhilarating" to see the building's walls starting to take shape, told Patrick the church is expected to be completed by August, 2011.

"This is a triumphant project," Patrick said. "It is a triumph of love and community and faith over hate. It's also a triumph of the leadership of this extraordinary bishop and his congregation, which has worked so closely with the mayor and with our team at the state level and with so many others to move this project forward."

Patrick, along with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Ward 5 City Councilor Clodo Concepcion, had a chance to assess the progress of the construction.

Robinson said the project might never have gotten to the point it has without the governor's support and the support of all levels of government.

"I think here you have an example of a faith-based initiative where the state is sharing and participating without violating its constraints," Robinson said. "We came together so that we effectively were able to get the funding that would allow us to rebuild. It's a pragmatic manifestation of collaboration."

Sarno called the cooperation between clergy and government on getting funding for the project "unprecedented."

"Many times when you deal with these hateful situations, government barriers go up," Sarno said. "It's very refreshing that the governor, our commonwealth and local government are working together to have triumph over a hateful tragedy."

Sarno added that the resurrection of the church sends a message to those who set the blaze in 2008.

"To the individuals who perpetrated this negative act, the will of the people in the tens, the hundreds, the thousands, the millions would rather send a message that this is unacceptable in Springfield, unacceptable in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unacceptable anywhere in the United States," Sarno said.

Patrick agreed with the mayor's sentiments and expanded upon them.

"The forces of good and reconciliation vastly outnumber the forces of hate and that's an affirming thing," Patrick said. "But I think the other thing is [that] the message is stronger than being [directed at] those who perpetrated this. The message to everybody is that a sense of community lives and, in fact, that people are hungry for it."

In an example of that sense of national community, the contractor overseeing the church's construction is being aided by volunteer helpers of all faiths from all over the country.

"There were 60 of us in the [past] three weeks," Ken Ellis, North Hollywood, Calif., resident and member of the California Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, said. "We're team number three. Last week they were from Santa Barbara (Calif.) Methodist Church and a synagogue in Santa Barbara, mixed half-and-half.

"We have never worked on a Methodist church. Every church we've worked on is something different."

Patrick lauded the outpouring of volunteer support that the project has received.

"It's wonderful that it has come this far and it's wonderful how it's come this far," Patrick said. "The fact that there are volunteers coming from around the country to make the common cause with Macedonia is a really beautiful thing. I'm just glad to be associated with it and glad to be here to continue to encourage the bishop and all of his friends."

For Robinson, the fact that so many have come out is what sends the true message.

"I think it shows that truth will prevail, that the goodness of this nation outweighs that not-so-nice part of us. I think their not knowing us and our not knowing them just gives testimony for that," he said.

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