By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Like many, Pastor John Taylor, the minister at the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Westborough, is disturbed by acts of terror. But he believes in the power that “one simple act of love” multiplied can have on the world.
“You know what we need? An explosion of love. We need to do the exact opposite,” said Taylor. “Be there for people. Put yourself out there; be involved. Show love through sacrificial acts, and that’s the answer. And that’s Jesus.”
Taylor – who describes himself as blessed to have a wonderful wife, Nancy, and four wonderful children – and the congregation he serves have been striving to live their faith, while walking in those footsteps. They’ve been there for people who have needed a listening ear and a compassionate heart. They’ve put themselves out there by lending their voices to those whose voices are seldom heard. And they’ve worked together to sow seeds of love.
Taylor grew up in the faith as the son of a minister and an art teacher; he learned the value of simply being there for someone when he was studying art at Springfield College. When a young man who had been freed from addiction knocked on several doors to talk to students about his faith and the grace and forgiveness he received, most doors were slammed in his face. But Taylor not only answered the door and joined his prayer group, he was touched by the man’s joy in sharing his faith.
“If he didn’t come knock on my door, I don’t think I’d be a pastor right now,” he said.
That desire to listen to others also served him well when he had a summer job assisting the elderly in their homes. After he helped them, he would visit with them, and they would share their stories and troubles. Many times, he would ask them if they wanted to pray.
“When I left, I could see the difference,” he recalled, “that God was present, and there would be hope…so that sort of moved in my heart that maybe I could be a pastor.”
While he was in seminary to obtain his Masters of Divinity, he continued to learn the value of listening. While visiting a patient the night before her legs would be amputated from the knees down, he gently listened to her as she cried and told him how she was once abused and how she didn’t believe God cared about her.
“I said ‘Would you like me to pray?’ And she said ‘No!’ And I just sat there, and it felt like forever. And at the end, I said ‘Would it be OK if I thought about you tomorrow?’” confided Taylor, choking back tears. “And she said ‘That would be nice.’ And then, I left, and I shared it with the group. And I felt like, oh, my goodness, I went there and what a failure…and one of the people – a retired nun – said ‘You know, she never told you to leave.’ That sort of taught me about just being there. Just showing up and listening…”
And that compassion is a big part of the church and its pastor’s life today. Taylor and church members not only reach out to help people locally who are homeless, ill, in need or addicted, they reach across the world as well. Each year, volunteers travel to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to serve people living in poverty. One of those mission trips was especially fulfilling because of an encounter Taylor had with a pastor to whom the FUMC had given medical supplies.
“He was just about to go back over, and I felt the money in my pocket. I said ‘Whatever I have, I’m giving it to you.’ God just said [to] give it to him. Here’s the $140, and the pastor…said ‘We’ll take this; we’ll pray over it! I’ll gather all the church leaders,’” recalled Taylor. “They prayed over it, and God said [to] start a school for orphans. Now, there’s 190 kids getting a meal, getting an education. And I actually went there last February…and visited that school, and it’s beautiful.”
Volunteering, along with donating funds, is how Taylor, his wife and the FUMC like to make a difference. Whether it’s bringing people from different backgrounds together to serve people in Africa or bringing them together to serve homeless families at the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Worcester – which Taylor mentioned is in need of funds – Taylor finds that “explosion of love” in people uniting to care for others.
“We all have brokenness. It’s pretty awesome to face our community with faith,” said Taylor. “God takes the pieces…and through God’s love, puts them together, and it’s amazing.”
To learn more about the FUMC of Westborough, visit www.firstumchurch.com. There, you can also learn about the Lay Witness Mission Weekend, which will be held Friday, April 29, through Sunday, May 1. Taylor said it’s an uplifting, life-changing event filled with stories of faith. All are welcome.