Have Faith: Celebrating faith

Two ways to celebrate next weekend.

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I talked with a couple of ladies I know who are on fire about the work they’re doing. Gina Williams and Lisa Belcastro discovered around a year ago that they had a common goal that was then really just a pipe dream: They wanted to bring internationally known Christian music artists to Martha’s Vineyard. Gina had moved back to the Vineyard last June with her young daughter after living in New Hampshire, where she said they enjoyed going to concerts together. She realized there wasn’t much of an opportunity to do the same thing here. Before she met Lisa, Gina put some feelers out, asked around, and really got nowhere as far as bringing Christian music to Island venues.

“I reached out and looked for venues, and checked around, seeing what I could find,” Gina told me. “There were a lot of closed doors. I was discouraged and disappointed. I met Lisa a few months later, and we got to chatting and I shared what God had put on my heart, and she had the same thing on her heart.”

Lisa and Gina formed a nonprofit called Light Up the Rock, and together they took the first steps and then more steps, and by last February, they had arranged an Island concert with contemporary Christian band Carrollton. There have been a few more performances since February, and now they’re bringing a full-blown Christian music festival to the Island, the Sing for Joy Music Festival, from 4:30 to 8 pm at the Tabernacle on Saturday, July 13. A couple of major players, Josh Wilson and Ryan Tremblay, will perform, as well as musical guests from First Renewed Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven. “They’ll be singing in Portuguese and English, and we’re so blessed to have them join us,” Lisa said.

I asked them why Christian music was so important to them, and I asked if either of them had musical experience. That question made them both laugh. “We sing loudly and with great joy, but no one’s going to give us a microphone,” Lisa laughed. “We both have a great connection with music. It’s so uplifting.”

I also asked them if they were getting much of a turnout at their musical events. “It seems to be spreading, and people are coming,” Gina said. “It’s not always about tons and tons of people in the seats. It’s about people coming to hear the message of the Gospel.”

“Who comes is in God’s hands,” Lisa added. “Whoever the Lord sends, who needs to hear a message … our only goal is to serve God in this and to be obedient to him, and we pray that the people who need to be uplifted, who need to be revived, whatever their reason is for coming, that it is met there.”

Gina explained that not everyone feels comfortable walking into a church; maybe they’ve had a bad experience, or maybe they’ve had no experience at all.

“We’re not part of any one particular church or denomination,” Gina said. “The goal is to bring everyone together, it’s still the same God. Denomination doesn’t matter.”

“These days everybody needs hope,” Lisa added. “We just love the Lord, and we’re trying to spread the message and have fun while we do it.”

You can get tickets to the festival at the Tabernacle on the day of, or you can purchase them online at singforjoymusicfestival.bpt.me.

I think that Light Up the Rock is the result of two friends who had the same goal, and with some answered prayers, a nonprofit was formed, and with some more prayer, it will be able to sustain itself. 

Earlier in the day on Saturday, July 13, at 10 am everyone is invited to Grace Episcopal Church where the congregation hosts “A Celebration of New Ministry.” The Right Rev. Alan M. Gates, bishop of Massachusetts, will formally install the Rev. Stephen Harding as rector of the church that morning. The event isn’t going to be a stuffy affair where the men in stoles are the sole interest, Harding explained in a phone conversation.

“With installation in the past, the thinking focused too much on the cleric and not the congregation,” he said. “This is about the congregation and the rector being commissioned and blessed for ministry. The bishop will address the parish and charge them to do things, and will address me and charge me to do things, and then ask us both to engage in the practice.”

Harding will be formally acknowledged as rector of Grace Church, and he said he’ll be reminded of his responsibilities to “care for all — young and old, equally, and to remember to honor their trust.”

He’s been at the church serving since November 2018, and said he wanted to have the celebration in the summer when more seasonal members could be there, because it’s their church too. When he’s seated as rector of the church, it will make it easier for the congregation to move forward with everything they’re doing.

“This will make it easier for us to begin to address all the things we want to address,” Harding said, “but from my point of view, it defines the relationship between me and the parish and gives us permission to do our work together.”

There will be a reception following the service. “It’ll be fun,” he said. “It’s a celebration, a time to acknowledge that a) we found each other, and b) we have things to do.” 

Welcome, Pastor Harding, and we can’t wait to see great things.

Teen Challenge Rhode Island Women’s Choir visits Vineyard Assembly of God on Sunday, July 7, at 10:30 am. The community is invited to hear inspiring music and stories of changed lives from addiction to wholeness as residents of TCRI share personal accounts of how their lives have been changed.

With overdoses on the rise, addiction has become somewhat of an epidemic. The Teen Challenge Rhode Island Women’s Home addresses addiction. They reach out to restore the lives and to offer hope. Feel welcome to go hear their stories and be inspired.