NEWINGTON - Pastor Jim Wiltshire was driving through town in early 2016 when he felt an overwhelming need to move here and start a church.
By that October he and his wife, Dee, had resigned from their positions on the pastoral staff at a Manchester congregation - where they were for the prior 20 years - and came to Newington. They rented a small office in Market Square to teach bible study and get a sense of their new community. That January they began leasing space inside the Polish Club on Wilson Avenue to host Sunday services for a small group.
“Starting a church is interesting, especially when you don’t know anyone,” Wiltshire said.
His mission became finding one roof under which to host Sunday services and school for the growing congregation. The power of prayer would soon prove itself.
Wiltshire had driven by the Newington United Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street and New Britain Avenue and was surprised to see a nearly empty parking lot. Passing by another time, he caught a glimpse of a car out front. That’s when he decided to stop in and introduce himself.
Former Pastor Ron Cox answered the door and answered the family’s prayers.
“We got to talking and he said to me, ‘I think you just knocked on opportunity’s door,’” Wiltshire remem-bered.
Newington United Meth-odist Church had a large facility and more space then they needed to accommodate their membership. UMC staff voted unanimously to join forces with the newly formed congregation. The Chapel arrived in August of this year, just shortly after NUMC welcomed a new pastor.
Pastor Joseph Yang has been there for a few months now. He is looking forward to growing his congregation’s membership right alongside The Chapel.
“We’re excited about the new energy and spirit they’re bringing,” Yang said this week. “I feel like both of us together can really reach out to the community better as a team.”
The two churches have already started collaborating on activities, including a recent movie night held outside under stars. NUMC’s upcoming fall pumpkin sale will be another joint effort.
“It’s two churches coming together and creating community,” Wiltshire pointed out. “God will always make provisions when you step out in faith.”
NUMC’s Sunday services take place in the morning and members of The Chapel gather at 2 p.m. in the same sanctuary. Mondays at 6:30 p.m., The Chapel hosts an open prayer meeting known as “The Upper Room.” Anyone is welcome. Thursdays at 7 p.m. is a mid-week church service, featuring film screenings and spiritual discussions.
“It’s not just a preaching church, it’s a teaching church,” said Wiltshire, who is also hoping to start a Saturday course on youth leadership.
He and his wife have three children, Clayton, 18, Mason, 14, and Walker 7. The family has fallen in love with Newington.
“It’s just an amazing place to raise your kids,” Dee said. “The school system is phenomenal. It’s like a little piece of heaven here.”
As an apostolic Pentecostal church, they have four principles they live by: Meet God, connect with others, equip yourself for ministry and find avenues to give back.
The Chapel’s monthly Community Hero program honors members of the town who contribute in some special way. In August they selected Dr. Jessica Quintero-Villa from Judson Chiropractic for her work providing chiropractic care to people in need. This September, Bob Newbold was honored for his ongoing mission of raising awareness about strokes.
“A really good community begins with people who pour themselves into volunteerism,” Wiltshire said.
One of his church’s new members crafts her own greeting cards and leaves a basket-full inside the church for people to take free-of-charge. She only asks that takers leave the plastic packaging behind and give the card to someone who needs some encouragement.
The Chapel is welcoming new membership. Come to a Sunday service or stop in anytime, at 401 New Britain Ave.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.