The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8
With the embers of the 2nd Great Awakening still kindling in the in the Northeast in 1828, it was the conviction and vision of a prominent man, along with several others in the surrounding towns, to erect a “house of worship” for the service of the “One Living and True God.” The man’s name, whose descendants were from Lancaster, England and were instrumental in the formation of a town by the same name in the “new world,” was Sampson Vryling Stoddard Wilder. His maternal ancestry can be traced to Solomon Stoddard who was a congregational pastor in Northhampton, MA, and was the grandfather of the greatest American theologian, Jonathan Edwards.
Wilder was an industrious man with deep religious convictions. He recognized the disastrous effects of the Enlightenment and lamented its results upon the church. Committed to the spiritual imprint his mother left upon him, as she taught him from the Bible, “line for line, precept upon precept,” what it means to be an evangelical Christian, he could not sit back and allow a vacuum of evangelical teaching to exist in the area any longer.
In the March 4, 1828 edition of the Lancaster Gazette, Mr. Wilder inserted a notice that all those who are interested in a central place of worship devoted to the “great elements of evangelical truth,” where invited to a meeting on March 5th at 2pm at the home of Mr. Wilder in Bolton. This “for the purpose of adopting such measures as will, with the blessing of God, accomplish this object.”
As a result of Mr. Wilder’s leadership and vision, an assembly of likeminded individuals from Bolton, Lancaster, Sterling, and Stow, began to meet for worship. Several people were drawn to this work because of the concern with the liberal preaching emanating from the pulpits and a deep desire to see the gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, as the one and only savior of all humanity, faithfully preached each and every Sunday morning. With Mr. Wilder’s energy, zeal, and resources, a meeting house for religious worship was erected on July 9, 1828 on what today is Wilder Rd., and the Hillside Church was officially formed on March 17th, 1830.
What started there caught fire in the summer of 1831, when a series of revival meetings resulted in the significant increase in church membership and the burgeoning of other evangelically minded churches in the neighboring towns. As a result, the Hillside Church and the community of people became the “wellspring” of evangelicalism in the Nashua Valley.
Included in that cluster of churches in the area, was the town of Lancaster, which originally included all of these town and more. Beginning in 1830, evening preaching services began to be conducted in Lancaster in the old academy hall and even in the town hall as occasion permitted. The congregation continued to grow and by 1839, it was the will of another prominent man of Lancaster, named Revered Asa Packard, whose family name adorns the street beside the present church, to work toward making their mission a reality. He was joined by others who desired a local place of worship and together they worked toward this goal. Friends of the movement began to meet by appointment at the house of Asa Packard in Lancaster, on February 20, 1839. “Fully realizing the heavy burden they were about to assume, 17 signers committed themselves to the sacred task of forming a religious society in Lancaster, MA.” The first meeting for worship was held on April 14th, 1839, and the Evangelical Congregational Church of Lancaster was officially formed on May 22, 1839.
It is from this wellspring of evangelicalism and the gospel that this church continues to find its identity and hope even today. Surprisingly, many people today are confused as to what “evangelicalism” really means. They identify it with those who ascribe to traditional moral values or those who support conservative political views. These characteristics may apply to some but not all, and it surely misses the profound biblical, historical, and theological richness of the term. It describes the hope in one who truly can be the world’s savior. An evangelical is one who desires to see that message shared with those who understand they need something more and apart from themselves. The word “evangelical” in its simplest form is the message of the gospel, of the “good news” that in Christ God has chosen to save hurting, dysfunctional, betrayed, hardened, ignored, forgotten, frustrated, and broken people, just like you and me. It is that message that has endured for 175 years in this town and by God’s grace, may it endure for many more.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. - James 1:12
“The Pentateuch" (Genesis-Deuteronomy) – God’s Promise and Instructions from the King” - We, as believers, need to understand that the Pentateuch, or Torah, is God the King relating to His creation and people. Literally everything of value in life is touched upon in these books. Plus, the majesty of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ can be seen everywhere one looks in these sacred books from the test of Abraham to the construction of the Tabernacle to the institution of the Levitical Feasts and much, much more. I hope you will join us for an exciting journey through what God has revealed to us, His people about the nature and meaning of life, both now and forever.
All are invited to participate in Bible Discussion groups led by Frank Mitchell every Sunday morningat 9am; and Friday morning at 10 AM . Both groups meet in Bailey Parlor. Feel free to join one or both of these lively discussions as we seek to engage the truth of Scripture for real life.
Each month on the fourth Tuesday, all are invited to meet in Bailey Parlor @ 7 PM for one hour of corporate prayer. We are called by Scripture to pray together, so please join Pastor Tim Andrews in Bailey Parlor for this monthly gathering.