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First service at Steeple Fellowship Church draws large crowd

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • John Hicks Mackenzie gives the sermon at the first service at his church, Steeple Fellowship, in Orange on Sunday, Jan. 12. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2020 8:40:31 AM
Modified: 1/14/2020 8:39:56 AM

ORANGE — If anyone showed up, it would be a success.

More than 100 did.

On Sunday Steeple Fellowship church held its first service on the third floor of the Orange Innovation Center on West Main Street.

The church is founded by John Hicks Mackenzie, 30, of Orange, a quadriplegic man who says his faith deepened after he became paralyzed in 2006 as the passenger in a car that crashed in a street racing accident.

“I always said I would be tickled if we got just three people,” said Mackenzie, who is also the church’s pastor. “Well, we got more than that. We’ve exceeded expectations.”

Behind him, dozens of people trickled into the service Sunday evening. Many stopped to greet him.

“I am so, so blessed. It’s beyond words. I am really, really blessed,” Mackenzie said.

Steeple Fellowship is a scripture-based, protestant, Christian church heavily influenced by churches of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, including the North New Salem Congregational Church, which Mackenzie previously attended.

Sunday’s service was a mixture of song and sermon, with passages frequently read or cited from the Bible. The service started off with three songs played on guitar with singing from Mackenzie’s mother and a few of the teenagers he works with at Revive Youth Ministry, a group that meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at 133 South Main St., where teens eat, play games and hear and share Christian messages.

Mackenzie’s mother, Johnna Mackenzie, gave a welcome message to the crowd, who applauded after the service officially kicked off.

“I’m so overwhelmed everyone came out to support John,” she said.

According to John Hicks Mackenzie, Steeple Fellowship will meet every second Sunday of the month at the same place and at the same time. Eventually, the plan is to increase to weekly services, Mackenzie said.

“It is encouraging to see everyone here tonight, not like it’s expected,” said Aaron Thibeault, Mackenzie’s friend. “We are Christians.”

Thibeault said Steeple Fellowship was not started with the intent to draw people away from other churches, and he said he and Mackenzie hope the congregation will have members who regularly attend other churches as well as people who have no established church to go to and “unbelievers.”

“This fellowship has not been started as to tear down anything God has established here,” Thibeault said, adding he hopes attendees will “love God more” at their own churches after joining Steeple Fellowship.

“There is so much excitement here tonight and so much joy,” he said. “We’re here tonight in Orange with the book open.”

Mackenzie, who grew up in Orange in a Christian family, says he was particularly spiritually influenced by his mother and grandmother, Tillie Hicks.

As a teenager, however, Mackenzie says he drifted away from God as a teenager and, at age 17, he was in a car accident while street racing another car with his friends. He was a passenger and found himself in the hospital severely injured and without the use of four limbs, a C6 quadriplegic.

According to Mackenzie, his struggles since 2006 are part of why his faith is so strong.

He has spent countless days and nights in hospitals, has had a multitude of surgeries and says he “never felt God’s presence stronger” than when he was in the hospital after having a staph infection after breaking his elbow in 2017.

During his sermon, Mackenzie talked about personal struggles relative to Christian faith.

“Literally every person in this room has gone through something. Every person has been overwhelmed by the circumstances in their life,” Mackenzie said. “It’s been through the hardest moments in life that I’ve felt the presence of God.”

“The trials and tribulations of life, they can be conquered by belief in Jesus Christ,” he added.

Mackenzie also spoke to what he sees as the “struggle” of being a Christian in the modern era.

“If we are truly living out authentic, biblical Christianity, it is counter-cultural,” he said. “We are called to live by a different standard, and it often goes against the grain of the world.”

Mackenzie’s theology, like most of Christianity, includes the “promise” of heaven for believers. He said his wounds, and all earthly things — bodies, sickness, death — will not matter in the afterlife.

But, while the tone was serious, Mackenzie’s sermon was not without some lighthearted humor.

“We stand — or, in my case, sit — on the resurrection side of the tomb,” he said.

Mackenzie has been involved in youth ministry for the past decade, running a ministry group that meets at his home and having attended and preached at a number of churches in Massachusetts, including in Orange, New Salem and Greenfield. He has a degree from Christian Ministries from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.


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