by karen l. willoughby
Photos from top: Compass Community Church Easter
Service. Members of Compass Church take time to fellowship while they prepare
the room for the next service. Ellias Savides serves the Lord's Supper to Kyki
Savides, Nasya Savides, Melissa Sidiropoulos and David Deligiannides. Pastor
Hariton Deligiannides promotes the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering as a part of
the Easter service.
What does it take for six congregations to successfully share one building?
The same thing it takes for a handful of college roommates to remain on
speaking terms: sensitivity to schedule, common purpose, flexibility and
cooperation. In Newton, Massachusetts-metro Boston-six Southern Baptist
congregations call the same red granite building with Tiffany windows "my
Hellenic Gospel Church, a Greek-speaking congregation, is legal owner of the
building, but Pastor John Metallides says God is the real owner. When several
new church starts needed a place to meet, Hellenic Church opened its doors.
"It's not hard to share the building," he says. "The good thing is we all have
a place to worship. There's no conflict whatsoever, and there's something going
on at the church all the time, which is a good witness in the community."
Carol Dame's recent baptism is an example of how they work together.
Philippine International Church ended worship early so Compass Community Church
could set up Dame's 90-minute baptismal celebration, an extra service. Every
congregation had to begin and end services on time so no one was tripping over
another group. The willingness of all to respect the others' schedules and to
work together for the specific good of one are key to the success of this group
"The baptismal service was so beautiful, like a wedding," says Compass
pastor's wife Meta Deligiannides. "Carol invited a lot of her friends who are
Jewish. They heard clear presentations of the gospel as well as testimonials
from people who brought her into the church. Many of us got to know them at the
reception. They said they'd like to get together again. We foresee great things
happening from that."
A master calendar posted in the foyer of the church, coupled with telephone
calls between pastors, makes it possible to juggle the schedules of Compass,
Hellenic Gospel Church, Philippine International Church, Eglise Baptiste
Haitienne Church, Arabic Baptist Church and the East Indian Telugu Christian
In many ways, they're a microcosm of the 4 million people in 140 language
groups who live in Metro Boston. Compass, one of a dozen churches started
during Boston's recent Strategic Focus Cities thrust, targets a multicultural
community that responds to a contemporary worship style and intense
discipleship. The other congregations meet the needs of other people groups in
the Boston area.
"Because some of the expenses of the building are shared by all, each
congregation contributes to mission causes and is part of Southern Baptists'
global missions thrust," Metallides adds. A recent missions dinner was one of
the times all six congregations gather throughout the year for a joint
Newton's central location just south of the Massachusetts Turnpike and
within Route 128 that encircles Boston is one reason the Hellenic building is
home to so many congregations. The desire by members to retain cultural
distinctives is another. The value of the arrangement outweighs compromises
necessary in what is essentially a "roommate" situation. They respect each
others' worship times. They clean the building after each use. And they leave
the building arranged the way the next group wants it.
"It's important to be flexible," says Hariton Deligiannides, pastor of the
multicultural Compass. "When we're out visiting, we're as apt to talk about one
of the other churches, depending on who we're talking to, as we are to talk
about Compass. It's all kingdom work."
One challenge for the imposing church built in 1885 is its upkeep. The rent
covers utilities and insurance, but there's no budget for building maintenance,
and no "ownership" of the deed. The organ was broken and piano out of tune when
Compass checked into using the main sanctuary-the one with 30-foot ceilings-for
its baptismal service. Compass usually meets in the smaller downstairs
Photos from top: John Metallides, pastor of Hellenic
Gospel Church. Natish Etienne opens the Eglise Baptiste Haitienne morning
service with songs. Youth from Eglise Baptiste sing during the service.
Pastor Prospect Etienne preaches an Easter message. Mary Eginne reaches for
little Victoria Etienne who was dedicated during the Easter morning
Photography by Morris Abernathy
Sharing a building and tending to resultant relational issues is one way to
model Christian living with people from different cultures. "It's like being in
a family and still maintaining your individual identity," says Hariton
Deligiannides. "Different cultures might have a different perspective, but what
we have in common is that our culture is that of children of God who give
preference and deference to one another."
Karen L. Willoughby is a writer living in Salem, Oregon.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC