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 October, he and his wife, Dee, had resigned from the pastoral staff of a Manchester congregation - where they had been for 20 years - and come to Newington. They rented a small office in Market Square to teach Bible study and get a sense of their new community.
In January 2017, they began leasing space in 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.
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 at another time, he caught a glimpse of a car out front. That’s when he decided to stop in and introduce himself.
Ron Cox, then the pastor of the church, 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 remembered.
Newington United Methodist Church had a large building - more space then needed to accommodate its 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.
Joseph Yang has been there for a few months now. He is looking forward to growing his congregation’s membership 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 under the 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 Dee 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, it has four principles to 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 residents who contribute in a special way. In August, Dr. Jessica Quintero-Villa from Judson Chiropractic was selected for providing chiropractic care to people in need. In September, Bob Newbold was honored for 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 of them 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 welcomes potential new members to 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.