Pastor Gary's Story

Have you ever felt alone? Like no one knows you exist? I have. I grew up on Long Island (a small island off New York City), and, in junior high, I felt alone. That’s when I started experimenting with many things that I’m not proud of. As a young drummer just starting out, I slowly made my lifestyle start to resemble that of many famous drummers I admired. 
Let’s fast forward through a few years of these behaviors escalating to a night when I indulged harder than ever before in drinking, girls, and marijuana. I was 24 years old, at a frat party, and I began to feel my heart rate drastically slow down to the point where I feared I was going to die on the floor of the upstairs bathroom I’d collapsed in. I was alone, afraid, and desperate, so I prayed. “God,” I said, “I don’t know if you exist, but if you are real, please get me out of this mess.” 
I awoke the next morning, grateful to be alive; and I realized that my prayer for a second chance had been answered. That day marked the beginning of my journey to discover the God who had answered it. You see, at that point in my life, I recognized there was a higher power of some sort, but I had been surrounded by more evil than good for quite a while. From what I had personally experienced in my life up to that point, I knew that at least the devil was real. 
Not long after, I got my hands on a Bible and regularly felt drawn to read it. The more I read, the more I saw how the Bible was unlike any other book. Around this time, I ran into one of my old high school party friends. I shared with him that I had been reading the Bible. He quickly reconnected me with another mutual friend of ours, and they both told me that they had become dedicated Christians since high school. 
“So, Gary,” they asked me, “have you accepted Christ?” The term “accepted Christ” was foreign to me. 
“What are you talking about?” I said. “I believe everything in this awesome book. I do accept Him.”

They replied, “Yeah, but have you prayed to receive Christ?” I told them that I prayed every day. I still did not fully comprehend what they were talking about.
After explaining it to me a little more, my friends asked if I was ready to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was winter, and Christmas was just days away. I said no. I wanted to think about all of this after they explained in full detail what it all meant. Shortly after my friends left, I walked outside into the evening darkness and began to feel the Lord’s presence. 
“God, you are so real,” I said as I began to weep. In a moment of total surrender, I prayed to receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. It was the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received. 
Beyond the personal importance of the life-changing decision I had made, I realized that I was the first Christian in my family, and none of them wanted anything to do with this new “relationship” I had found. 
So, I began attending a local church with my friends. The three of us would also meet regularly for prayer and Bible study. The Lord was transforming my life as I found a new “spiritual high” in living for Him. 
Fast forward again about 20-something years this time and many of my family members now have a relationship with Jesus too. I have an awesome wife and two daughters, and I am pastoring City United Church with my family beside me every step of the way. 
All that being said, I want you to know that I am no better than any of you who may be beginning your journey now. I always try my best to show everyone that I am just like you. I’m very transparent in saying that it’s okay to not be okay! I want you to discover Jesus Christ and His love, uncover the truth of the Bible, and recover your life back from the enemy – the devil – through God’s power. 
My desire for this church is that spiritually healthy and self-feeding Christians will move out of their comfort zones and take the next steps in their walk with Christ like I did. We are about people – not programs. When someone walks into our church, I don’t want them to ever feel alone again like I did before I found Jesus. It’s a terrible feeling. You can be a part of something bigger than any of us. We get to be on mission for the kingdom of God and to experience all that God has for us. I pray every day that our church will be a training center for future leaders and the next generation. I want to do something with my life that will outlast me, and I want the same for you.
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