NORTH SMITHFIELD – As a church in North Smithfield approaches its third anniversary, Pastor Martin Capeles is once again asking the town for permission to worship outside on their property.
Pentecostal Church of God, previously known as Igniting Life Praise and Worship Center, has been at 233 Eddie Dowling Highway since February 2020, just before COVID-19 broke out in Rhode Island.
Shortly after, in May 2020, the congregation held a drive-in style service to accommodate social distancing measures. The police arrived, however, after noise complaints from a neighbor.
Last March, Capeles approached the Town Council with a request for another permit for outdoor worship, once again to accommodate their elderly and vulnerable congregation members. Councilors Kim Alves, John Beauregard, and Claire O’Hara all shared their concerns, with Beauregard and O’Hara in particular citing negative feedback from neighbors from their first outdoor service. The request failed due to a lack of motion on the matter.
Now the church is holding their third anniversary service in Dunn Park in Woonsocket, Capeles told The Breeze, although their preferred location would be at their church in North Smithfield.
The church was invited to participate in the town’s 150th Parade at the beginning of the month, and they received a lot of positive feedback from members of the community who didn’t know they were in North Smithfield, Capeles said.
“We’ve pursued permits to give services outside mostly because of COVID. We’re trying to give people an option. We have enough parking to accommodate 30 to 40 people, and wanted to have the drive-in special service on church property,” Capeles explained, mentioning that they’ve had members of their community die due to COVID.
It’s important to Capeles that these outdoor services be held in North Smithfield because they’re appreciative of the community and want to worship in their own town. In addition to COVID safety, it’s important to their pentecostal tradition that they celebrate with music outdoors to let all know that they are welcome, he said.
“We just want to bring consciousness that God is real, does exist, and we want to share that with all,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’re happy in North Smithfield and we’re blessed where we are. I have no intention of leaving, I’ve been asked that, but no, I have no intention of leaving,” Capeles added.
Now, given the fact that the Town Council is composed of the same members who denied his request last year, Capeles is asking the council for permission to alternate locations in town where they may hold their services. He’s also welcoming participation from the town administrator and members of the council, saying if they receive permits for outdoor services, it may open the door for more community building events, like a touch-a-truck or community service projects down the road.
Capeles submitted a request on Tuesday to be seen by the council at its next meeting. The request is for an outdoor service on July 9 from 2 to 6 p.m., where they would also distribute groceries and COVID testing kits, according to the letter from Capeles to the town.
Pentecostal Church of God is now hosting bilingual services in-person and streamed online. Their anniversary celebration in Dunn Park in Woonsocket will take place on June 25 at 2 p.m. and all are welcome, said Capeles.