Category Archives: First Central Bible Church

The hard work of healing

The hard work of healing is my task right now. God has set me aside and given me an enforced season of sabbatical where my sole responsibility is simply to get stronger and healthier.

The adventure began 10 days ago on Monday, November 6, when I was putting Christmas lights on our house. Having done it so many times in the rain, snow, and cold, I take advantage of any decent weather in early November to get them up. I wait to turn them on until after Thanksgiving Day, but they are ready to go.

The weather that day was gray and 60 degrees. I was three-fourths of the way through the task. I had already been up and down the extension ladder several times putting lights along the roof line of our 2-story house. I was now using a 6-foot step ladder to place lights under the eaves on the first story. With the ground being uneven, there were a couple of options of how to place the ladder. Hindsight says I chose the wrong option, but it was one I’ve used several times previously without incident. What happened next was simply a fluke.

The ladder started to roll and me with it. My right hip landed on the ladder and my right leg was caught up in the ladder. I had to roll off the ladder and extract from leg from the ladder itself. When I wasn’t able to move my foot, I knew I had either broken the leg or dislocated my hip.

As I lay on the ground, our next door neighbor came running up asking, “Do you need an ambulance?” I said, “Yes,” and he called 9-1-1. The ambulance arrived a few minutes later along with EMS and one or two police cruisers. While I was in the ambulance, Rick Cody, one of FCBC’s attenders poked his head in the door and asked if I needed any help. I asked him to contact the church so they could let Carol know. One of the officers put the ladders in the garage, closed the door, grabbed my wallet and keys from the house, and locked the door. We were now on our way to Bay State Hospital.

When I arrived at ER at Bay State, I was met by Jack Gilbert, First Central’s Minister of Adults and Outreach, and Pat Warner, part of the security team at Bay State, and husband to one of FCBC’s admin assistants.

During the afternoon, I was taken for X-rays. Two of the ER nurses said the break was “impressive.” Medically speaking, I suffered an “intertrochanteric reverse oblique” break. The femur is broken in two places near the hip. If you say, he broke his leg, or if you say, he broke his hip, both are correct.

I checked into a room late Monday for surgery on Tuesday. Everywhere I went I was known as the guy putting up Christmas lights.

Surgery was Tuesday morning and rehab on Wednesday. When I almost passed out moving from the bed to the chair, they pushed it back a day. By Thursday, it was determined I needed to go to a rehabilitation center before going home.

Friday morning, I was transferred to Mary’s Meadow, a five-star rehabilitation facility in Holyoke. The staff, care, attention to detail, food, etc., is top shelf. I’m fortunate to be here. I am being retrained how to walk, sit, dress, climb stairs, and take care of bodily functions. All of this is needed to make sure I am safe when I go home. Today, I was declared “independent” meaning I can walk to meals, bathroom, etc., without an escort or attendant. The tentative plan is to be discharged on Monday. An in-home therapist will continue the process.

Carol and I were supposed to go to SoCal to visit family over Thanksgiving weekend. Since I can’t travel, Amanda & Phillip decided to come here. When I heard the news, I broke down and sobbed. I didn’t realize how discouraged I had become and how much I needed the support of others.

I’m told I’m in for a six-month process. The focus of the first three months is health and healing. The focus of the second three months is getting stronger and back to normal.

I am extremely grateful I am part of the body of Christ at First Central Bible Church. I am grateful for Jack Gilbert picking up the preaching load while I’m on the Disabled List. I am thankful for Robin Dolbow and all she does for our children’s ministries. Her care package of Reese’s Peanut Cups and popcorn was appreciated. Thanks go to Robin Warner for giving Pat a head’s up and for her popcorn gifts as well. Thanks as well to Doug & Nancy McVeigh for their visit and care package. I appreciate the cards made by the Awana children and youth group. I deeply appreciate all who stopped by to visit, sent cards, care packages, and especially all who prayed.

Words fall short of thanking my wife, Carol, for her love, care, and support. I felt so bad because the one thing she wanted for her birthday was to go to CA, and I messed it all up. But her love continues strong. She has also gone above and beyond being a Sherpa bringing the various things I’ve asked for. While we committed to love and honor during sickness and health almost 37 years ago, going through surgery and rehab certainly pushed that to a new level of commitment. I love you, babe.

Most of all, I am grateful to Jesus Christ. He protected me and brought help at the right time. He continues to remind me of Scripture and truth to encourage and build me up. The fact he brought another trial into my life says that he is not finished with me yet and continues to shape my heart.

Despite my pain and discomfort, I am grateful. God is to be praised.


Posted by on November 15, 2017 in First Central Bible Church, Personal growth


Building Renovation update – the vote

The congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, voted today on our building renovation proposal. (I used an absentee ballot since I’m laid up in the rehab center.) The vote was 92-12 in favor of the proposal. I had been praying that it would be decisive one way or the other. God certainly made it so. Now we move forward.

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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in First Central Bible Church


No More Hunger – “I am the bread of life”

Someone once said that life is like eating Chinese food. It’s tasty and filling, but 30 minutes later you’re still hungry.

We long for 100% satisfaction guaranteed. We want perfect kids, the perfect computer and entertainment system, the perfect vacation, and a life filled with meaning and significance. Regardless of what we have, it’s never enough. We always want MORE! C. S. Lewis once said, “I cannot find a cup of tea which is big enough or a book that is long enough.”

We long to experience what Jesus promised in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35 is the first of seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John where Jesus reveals his nature and purpose. Each statement addresses a particular need we all experience. In the first one, we discover that Jesus is the bread of life who satisfies our deepest longings.

The full account is found in John 6:22-59. In verses 22-34, Jesus’ followers are seeking the next meal. In verses 35-59, Jesus challenges them to be satisfied with the best meal.

The story begins on the day after the feeding of the 5,000 (22). The crowds realize that Jesus slipped away unnoticed. They find him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum (59). Naturally curious, they ask Jesus how he got there (25). Being a master teacher, Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly. Instead, he engages them in a dialogue to help them discover the answer for themselves. He whets their appetite to know more.

Setting the table

Whetting the appetite
When did you get here? (25)

Check your motives (26-27)

What can we do to earn God’s approval? (28)

Trust me, you can’t (29)
Where is the proof? (30-31)

Faith based on miracles is not very strong (32-33)

Feed us now! (34)


Now that Jesus has their attention, he reveals that he is the bread of life (35, 48) who satisfies our deepest longings (35, 50-51). Jesus came from heaven (38) and was born in Bethlehem, the house of bread. He satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts—the desire for satisfaction, direction, security, belonging, hope, certainty, and significance. If we come to him, we will never hunger or thirst for anything else (35) and we will live forever (50-51).

To be satisfied by this meal, we must believe (35-40). We must believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. We must trust that he is sufficient to meet our needs. We must be confident that his promises are true. A disciple is characterized by his/her continuing trust in God.

To be satisfied by this meal, we must receive it (41-58). We must stop resisting and making excuses (41-43). Rather than settle for food for today, we must pursue life for tomorrow (47-50). A full, complete relationship with Jesus is available for those who consume it totally (51-58). Jesus must become a staple of our spiritual diet. Not everyone, however, is ready to make this type of commitment. Even some who followed Jesus found it too difficult and chose to walk away (66).

Rather than settle for substitutes, pursue a relationship with the one who can satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 5, 2017. It is the first sermon in a series asking the question, “Who is Jesus?” Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


The FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about the Building Renovation Proposal

As part of our building renovation proposal for First Central Bible Church, we developed a list of the frequently asked questions. Below is a letter we mailed to the congregation answering those questions. Click on the link to download a pdf copy of the letter. You can also download a pdf copy of the PowerPoint presentation and the brochure which gives more details about the project.


Q: What was the process that brought us to this point?

A: In January 2016, Pastor Mark recommended to the elders that we consider renovating our sanctuary for more effective ministry in the 21st Century. The Elders agreed and asked Dave Guilbert and the Trustees to put a plan together. The Trustees, in turn, suggested forming a small task group that would be representative of our ministries. The elders concurred and appointed Dave Guilbert (Staff & Trustees), Doug McVeigh (Elders & AV), Dave Krok (Youth & Worship), Kevin Kelly (Trustees), and Carol Wheeler (C.E. & Women’s Ministries). The task group was given the charge of bringing back a proposal that the congregation could vote on.

After meeting several times, the task group felt it wise to bring in a church consultant who specializes in church renovation projects. At the June 2016 semi-annual meeting, the congregation approved the expenditure of funds for this purpose. The consultant met with the team during summer 2016. In addition, Dave Guilbert consulted the City of Chicopee Building Inspector to see if there were other issues in our facility that needed to be addressed.

After receiving recommendations from the consultant and the building inspector, we realized the project needed to become a building renovation rather than merely a sanctuary renovation. The task group also consulted an architect and structural engineer. In addition, the team talked to chair manufacturers, flooring experts, painters, contractors, and other specialists who would be needed for the project.

Over the past 18 months, the team has put in countless man hours researching and talking through a myriad of options. They presented the proposal to the elders who approved it before it was presented to the congregation last week.

Q: What is the purpose of the Development Fund? Can it be used for renovation?

A: In 1995 we put a large addition on our building. Building loans were obtained to fund it. The Building Fund was created to pay off this loan. The mortgage was paid off mid-2001. By a unanimous vote at the 2002 annual meeting, the Building Fund was changed to the Development Fund. In 2012, the Development Fund budget was reduced and people were encouraged to give their tithes and offerings more toward the General Fund and Missions Fund and less toward the Development Fund. In 2013 the Development Fund was removed from the General Fund budget due to budget constraints. It has remained a separate fund set aside for the development of the church facility.

In reading through the annual reports from 2002 – 2016, the following language was found that helped clarify the purpose of the Development Fund. This statement is included in the brochure that was passed out at the proposal meeting.

“The Development Fund was created to ensure that we can meet the future facility and development needs of our growing congregation. It was previously used to raze the United Methodist Church and turn the property into additional parking, renovate our parking lot lighting, and upgrade our exterior cement steps. As we grow, we will continue to have new and varied facility needs. While the fund cannot be used for minor repairs or general maintenance, it can be used to renovate our building to make it more effective for ministry in the coming years.”

Q: What will our seating capacity be? How will it be different?

A: Our current seating capacity is 289 people (Main Floor 197; Balcony 92). Using the proposed church chairs, our seating capacity will be 278 people (Main Floor 186; Balcony 92). If we kept our pews, we would have to shorten them to meet ADA standards (Americans with Disabilities Act) such as wider aisles. The seating capacity with the modified pews would be 241 people (Main Floor 149; Balcony 92).

One reason our current pews are not comfortable is that they were designed for a previous century when people were shorter and smaller. The proposed new chairs come with a book rack for Bibles and hymnals, a communion cup holder, and a pocket for giving envelopes and prayer request cards. The chairs are interlocking in order to form a solid row.

Q: What will happen to the organ pipes, baptistery painting, baptistery, divider wall, and pews?

A: The painting will be hung in the hallway between Gail Grant’s and Jack Gilbert’s offices. Every effort will be made to repurpose the other items. We will donate or give away what we can. We have had some preliminary conversations regarding the pews and discovered that the New England market is saturated with pews. If we are unable to find another user, the items will be disposed of.

Q: What is the timeframe for construction? What happens to worship, Sunday School, and children’s ministries in the interim?

A: The proposed timeframe is that we would do some preliminary work during the winter. Construction would begin the Monday after Easter 2018 and we hope to be finished by fall 2018. Our worship services would be held in the gym during this period of time. The Elders, Christian Education Board, and staff would flesh out the details for our C.E. ministries. While we have had some initial conversations about what we could do, we wanted to wait until after the vote to make detailed plans rather than presume the outcome.

Q: When will the vote be taken? What percentage is required for approval? What if I can’t be at the meeting?

A: The vote will be taken on November 12 following the 11:00 worship service. Paper ballots will be distributed prior to the beginning of the meeting. It will be a simple “Yes” or “No” vote on the entire proposal.

The proposal will be decided by a simple majority. In researching our church constitution, there are only two places where a specific percentage vote is required: (1) a two‑thirds majority is needed to change the constitution; and (2) a three-fourths majority is required to call or dismiss a pastor. All other matters, such as electing officers or approving our annual budget, are decided by simple majority.

Absentee ballots will be available on November 5 in the back of the sanctuary or from the church office from November 6-10. We encourage all to attend the meeting.

If you have any questions, please contact Pastor Mark Wheeler (, Doug McVeigh (, or Dave Guilbert (

Thanks for praying.

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Posted by on November 4, 2017 in First Central Bible Church


Trunk ‘R Treat 2017

Trunk ‘R Treat is First Central Bible Church‘s annual community outreach on Halloween. We provide a safe, fun environment where families can come for candy, hot chocolate, hot cider, and games. This year we added four stations where we told the gospel story from creation to fall to redemption to restoration. It was a very good evening with lots of families in attendance. Thanks to all who made it a success.


Count Your Days to Make Your Days Count

How many days do you have left on planet earth? 50 years? 10 years? 6 months? 25 days? How will you use your time? How will you invest your days for the kingdom of God?

Moses was no stranger to conducting funerals. Over the course of 40 years of wilderness wanderings, he buried 1.2 million people. It comes out to one funeral every 17 minutes; over 82 funerals each day for 40 years.

Spending time with death gives you a unique perspective about life. In Psalm 90, which was written by Moses, he encourages us to count your days to make your days count. He communicates this theme in three movements.

Man is immortal, but God is eternal (1-6). If we want to characterize someone as old, we say they are older than the hills. Moses pictures the oldest object he can imagine, the mountains, and recognizes that God is older still. He has no beginning or end (2). Throughout the generations, people have found him to be a welcoming presence (1).

While our soul may be immortal, our lives are relatively short (4-6). We came from dirt and will return to that form. Even if we live as long as Methuselah who reached 969 years, our lives are a blip on the timeline of eternity. We are like a page on a calendar, a 3-4 hour night watch, a puddle after a rainstorm, or a short dream. Like the grass, we are here today and tomorrow in the compost heap.

Life is short because of sin (7-11). As sinful people, we live under the wrath of God (7, 9, 11). Our days are brief and filled with pain and sorrow. While we may put on a mask and hide from each other, God knows the secret sins of our hearts (8). Life on earth is brief, even for God’s best (10).

Because sin mars our lives, we need help to enjoy any kind of significance or success. Consequently, Moses begs, “God, help me count my days to make my days count” (12-17).

Moses asks God for four things:

  • “Give me wisdom” (12). Moses asks God for a sense of perspective about the shortness of life.
  • “Give me mercy” (13). Moses recognizes he desperately needs God’s help.
  • “Give me joy” (14-15). Enduring a dark night of the soul, Moses longs for joy just as a night watchman looks for the sunrise.
  • “Give me success” (16-17). Moses asks for sense of success and significance.

The movie, Papillon (1973), starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. It told the story of two prisoners in the French penal system who were sentenced to Devil’s Island. Throughout the movie, Steve McQueen’s character proclaims his innocence. Towards the end of the film, there is a dream sequence where stands before a judge. The judge declares him guilty and McQueen continues to proclaim his innocence. The judge states, “I accuse you of a wasted life.” McQueen drops his head and says, “Guilty. Guilty.”

Each of us should ask God the question, “What do you want to do with my life? Where should I invest my time?”

Count your days to make your days count.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 29, 2017. It is the final message in a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Building Renovation Proposal

During yesterday’s meeting at First Central Bible Church, the elders introduced a proposal to renovate our facility.

Here is a pdf version of the PowerPoint slides that will give you a better understanding of the scope of the project.

Here is the brochure that was handed out at the conclusion of the meeting.

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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in First Central Bible Church