Meet Pastor Josh Wyatt of the Charles River Church and leader of the West Roxbury Connection Group. It was in October 2010 that the church had its Grand Opening at the West Roxbury Education Complex. As of May 2011, weekly worship takes place in the auditorium of the Boston School of Modern Languages, 814 South St., Roslindale.
Patch: Tell me a little bit about you.
Wyatt: My wife, Becky, and I have two sons, Isaiah (5) and Luca (3), and a daughter, Norah (7 months). One of my greatest joys in life is spending time with my family. We are always on the go, whether exploring new spots in the city or playing in the woods at the Arboretum. In my free time, I enjoy snowboarding and I also do some traveling to speak at various student events around the Northeast.
Patch: Briefly describe your call to ministry and your call to Charles River Church.
Wyatt: Just before graduating high school, my pastor asked to meet with me in his office. The funny thing is, I thought I was going to be scolded, but he just wanted to affirm me and point out pastoral leadership potential in my life. In that meeting he gave me a small budget and encouraged me to spend my summer before going off to college beginning some sort of ministry in the community. I had been volunteering for the Boys and Girls club, and decided to invest that small budget into starting a day camp for children in the local housing projects. After aggressively recruiting friends and a few responsible adults, we launched our first day camp. Year after year, as the summer day camp grew, so did my heart for motivating people to serve.
My weekends during college were spent traveling and teaching the Bible at youth events along the east coast. It was during this time, that the pastor’s affirmation became undeniable in my own heart, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. After college I landed in Princeton, Massachusetts, to help with a new church. The church in Princeton grew rapidly and after seven years of ministry (and honing my snowboarding skills – the church is on the backside of Wachusett Mountain), our heart grew for the city of Boston and we knew it was time for us to launch a similar ministry, and after much prayer and preparation, Charles River Church was born.
Patch: The mission of Charles River is 'Connecting Boston to Christ.' What is the church doing to achieve that mission?
Wyatt: Our strategy is summed up into three words: Reach, Connect, and Disciple. We want to reach out and serve the community as a tangible expression of the sacrificial love displayed by Christ in the Scriptures. We then want to connect people to a meaningful relationship with Christ and His church. Then we want to disciple or teach people what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in our world today. Ways that we have reached out and serve the community include: This summer we hosted two “Movies in the Park” in Roslindale Square; Involvement in community events like the Roslindale Farmers’ Market and Summer concert series; Hosted community clean-up days at the West Roxbury Education Complex; and we have people serving weekly with residents and children’s programs at the Washington-Beech Housing Complex - personal finance seminar, resume building seminar, basketball clinic. As for connecting people into meaningful relationships with Christ and his church, our connection groups are our primary means of doing this.
Patch: I am curious about your West Roxbury connection group. What is a connection group? What does a typical connection group look like?
Wyatt: In the Bible, Acts 2:42-47 describes the church gathering in the temple and in homes. As a church, we seek to follow that model of gathering weekly as an entire church, but also gathering regularly in homes. This way, as the church grows larger, in a sense, we also grow smaller and people can remain connected. Like these home meetings of the early church, our connection groups take place in Boston-area homes or apartments. These very casual group meetings include a time of hanging and getting to know each other, food, prayer, and discussion on the Bible. People grow to love their group and find themselves developing meaningful relationships and a real sense of community.
Patch: I am not a member of your church, can I come to your connection group?
Wyatt: Definitely. Our groups welcome guests with open arms. We encourage people to drop in and engage in dialogue on the Bible and how it pertains to our lives.
Patch: Where do you meet? Do I need to RSVP or can I just show up?
Wyatt: The West Roxbury Connection group meets in our home on Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8 p.m. It’s best to RSVP since our particular group has a rotating schedule: week 1: men only; week 2: women only; week 3: men & women; week 4: men, women and children; the occasional week 5: community service night. RSVP to email@example.com.
Patch: Will there be childcare available?
Wyatt: The West Roxbury Group is primarily families, so the above structure works so that families only need childcare on the 3rd week of the month. Weeks 1 & 2 a spouse can watch the children, and week 4 kids join us.
Patch: There aren’t much group meetings without food... who supplies the food? Is it potluck?
Wyatt: The members of the group rotate bringing food to share. Coffee, tea, and water are always available.
Patch: I know you have connection groups in Roslindale and Brookline… do all groups study/do the same things?
Wyatt: The Roslindale and Brookline groups do not follow the rotating schedule of the West Roxbury group; instead all members go every week. All three groups discuss the content from Sunday’s sermon.
Patch: How important are these connection groups, especially in these tough times?
Wyatt: In our culture, people often drift towards isolation in the comfort of their own home, making many “friends” via social networking, but having very few meaningful and honest relationships to journey through life in. We believe that connection groups provide an avenue for people to develop meaningful relationships. Members understand that groups are not simply designed to come and receive, but to come and give.
Patch: As pastor what are some of the most pressing needs you see in the community?
Wyatt: I am deeply convinced that, in any community, plugging into community life and serving others is essential. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his live as a ransom for many.” We believe that God has given us an example and mandate to follow: Serve me by serving others! The one being served is given joy and hope, while the one serving, experiences the life-changing benefits that come when we take our eyes off of self.