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`Church Without Walls' coming to Lancaster throughout the summer.

Byline: Rachel Halmesmaki Lahti

LANCASTER - A church without walls and free concerts are coming to the Fairgrounds in Lancaster June 30, and every Thursday night in July and August.

The idea to have midweek, outdoor worship services with concerts during the summer was conceived by Thomas C. Brownell, who owns Circle B Barn Company of Lancaster. He builds barns and sells barn components. He and his friends belong to various Bible-believing churches and want to break down barriers that tend to stop people from attending church. Brownell will bring his 18-wheeler flatbed truck as a stage for the praise team, band and guest speakers to the Route 117 site.

The public is invited to come and tailgate or bring a blanket and lawn chairs. The general format will be: Fellowship and refreshments from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Bring your cooler and snacks, and some food to share. Music and praise songs are scheduled from 7 to 7:45 p.m. A message will be given and prayer held from 7:45 to 8:30 p.m.

The Church Without Walls, as it is named, will gather in the fields next to Gate 2, rain or shine.

"Come early. Come late. Come alone. Come with family. Come as you are," Brownell said. If it rains, the service will be held under the pavilions.

Members of the core group organizing the outdoor services include Brownell, 55, of Trinity Church, Congregational in Bolton; Dan Powderly, 40, of both St. Benedict Abbey in Still River and Hope Chapel in Sterling; Andy Roldan, 46, of Restoration and Grace House in Fitchburg; and Richard Hammond, 77, of Trinity Church, Congregational in Bolton.

Brownell said, "In the name of Jesus, we are coming together." A sandwich board will be placed on the side of Route 117, next to the Fairgrounds, advertising the weekly event. A cross will be drawn on it and the words "All Welcome. Church Without Walls. Join Us For Fellowship, Praise, and Prayer."

Brownell said he saw a need. Some of his "rough rider" employees, as he nicknamed them, feel comfortable coming to an Easter sunrise service in a hay field, but they are not comfortable coming to a traditional church they consider a clubhouse. He is hoping for a mix of people at the Fairgrounds, where no one should feel intimidated.

Powderly, a business consultant, said he is involved in this project because "I am just about spreading Jesus' name. I am a practicing Catholic and go at 7 every morning to St. Benedict's in Still River. I go to Hope Chapel on Sundays to hear Neal Davidson (senior pastor). About three years ago, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I was very close minded for many years, and I realized as long as people are worshipping Jesus in his name, it doesn't matter what church I went to."

Roldan, a welder at Circle B Barn Company, said he came from Puerto Rico in 2007 and started working for Brownell. Roldan is worship team leader at his church and will lead the praise team and band for The Church Without Walls at several of the Thursday night services. He has been a Christian "from my mother's belly. I was born in church," he said and smiled.

He has gone to Costa Rica twice with Brownell on mission trips to help an orphanage. Roldan's other missions trips were to El Salvador twice, Honduras, and to rescue street people and drug addicts in Florida.

"God is good to me, and God gave me a gift, my voice. People say I have a good voice. I love singing. I will spend my life worshipping him," Roldan said.Hammond, a retired construction estimator, said only lay people are in the group that planned this project.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 24, 2011
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