I remember walking into a church voluntarily for the first time when I was twenty years old. It was a very snowy February morning in New England. At that time I was anxiously searching for significance as a bass player in a heavy metal band. My life was a wreck in every direction. After reading the Bible for about a week or so, I decided that I should go to church. So I put on my best Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and black skinny jeans and headed off to church in my girlfriend’s car. The snow came down fast and hard. Unable get up the long steep driveway, I just slid backwards off to the side, put the car in park, and trudged up the hill on foot.
Already late, I was cheerfully met by a man who eagerly introduced himself with a smile and handshake. “Hi, I’m Marc,” he said, “Welcome.” The congregation was already singing as Marc found me a seat. The music was robust, beautiful, and joyful. As I was getting my bearings in this foreign environment, I looked over to the man playing the piano singing with all his heart. He glanced over my way and give me a warm welcoming smile. He seemed to know what the wind just blew in.
When the singing concluded, the man at the piano made his way to the pulpit. To my surprise, he was the preacher, too. There was one very impressed bass player in the congregation that morning. This was my first introduction to Rev. Carl Guiney. I later would call him pastor.
Mission: Woonsocket, RI
I could write pages and pages on Pastor Guiney’s impact on my life, which I intend to do, but for now, I want to highlight his influence on me regarding missions. Pastor Guiney had a heart for missions and it was contagious. He planted that church where he wholly gave himself to until the day the Lord took him home. That was no small task in a small New England city chock full of Catholic churches. Fresh out of Bible college, he drove from Indiana and went to Woonsocket, RI. He took different jobs to support himself and held Bible studies until a nucleus was developed and a church was born. He didn’t apply and wait for a job as a pastor; he simply planted a church where one was desperately needed. He tied himself to the mast and committed himself to serving the people of Woonsocket.
Mission: Native America
At our church we didn’t have to wait for an annual missions conference to meet missionaries. Pastor Guiney had them coming through the church all the time. I was always excited to hear what the Lord was doing throughout the world. He had them speak either Sunday morning or evening services or Thursday night Bible study. One particular missionary really got my attention as he talked about life on an Indian reservation. His name was Joe – “Injun Joe” as his Native friends dubbed him. He was actually Italian, but his heart was for Native America. He awakened me to the need in Native America. I would love to be able to say that it was that night I decided to become a missionary to Native America – that would make a really great story – but that is not what happened. I can tell you that it was because of that particular missionary and Pastor Guiney’s passion for missions that I am a missionary today.
During those years, First Assembly of God in Woonsocket struggled to pay the mortgage, and sometimes even the pastor. Yet Pastor Guiney was committed to missions. Some churches would never think of giving only $25 a month to a missionary. How would that look? Always willing to give more, First Assembly was not too proud to give a little. Pastor Guiney was not concerned with appearances in that regard. He simply wanted the name of Jesus exalted among the nations.
To my Reformed brothers and sisters, yes, I ultimately left Assemblies of God to pursue my studies in Reformed theology. Leaving that church was one of the most painful decisions I ever made. I am a confessional Calvinist just as much as the the next guy, but I must confess that I am starting to feel a chill, only this time it is not coming from outside. Yet my heart is warmed when I think of the day when I was welcomed by Pastor Guiney’s smiling eyes (yes, he was Irish). I am grateful to the Lord for his life example of sacrifice and faithfulness. He taught me to endure and wait upon the Lord – a lesson I need to learn again and again.
Until next time…
You may further read about Pastor Carl Guiney here: