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The Pentecostal Tabernacle was founded in 1927 with about 30 members. By the 1940s, the congregation included a Sunday school class, a far-reaching radio program and twice-yearly revival weekends. A notable year for congregants is 1972, when a week-long revival ended up stretching out for over a year. After this, the church went through a period of decline as the founding generation aged and many younger members moved away. In 1995, Rev. Brian Greene, the son of the previous pastor, was elected pastor. Since that time, church membership has grown significantly. For the Pentecostal Tabernacle this membership is taken seriously; every member is a partner in ministry who is expected to take ownership of the church and have creative involvement in its ministry.
The church structure dates from 1903, when it was built as a Swedish Baptist Church. The Tabernacle bought the building in 1947 and refurbished it in 1986 under the leadership of Rev. Herman L. Greene. While maintaining as much of the original architecture as possible, the congregation has installed new pews and updated the lighting. Today, the sanctuary seats 180 comfortably. It has a dark wood balcony and pews and is decorated with simple stained glass windows. In the basement, there is a dining/reception hall, a resource center, offices and a computer room. About four years ago, the congregation expanded their space by leasing the first and second floors of a house at 345 Washington Street, across the street from the church. This building now houses the children’s church, offices, and a space for small group meetings.
The average age at the Pentecostal Tabernacle is about 25, but people of all ages attend. Students comprise about 30-35% of the church, with a significant constituency of foreign exchange students. Many young families also attend, most of which travel to the Tabernacle from the suburbs. In the past, church attendance dropped greatly when school was not in session, but over the last four years attendance has remained quite stable. This could signal a shift in the church’s demographic.
Worship is vibrant, with singing, clapping and much congregational participation. Rev. Brian Greene says that in some ways the Pentecostal Tabernacle is not “typically Pentecostal," as it follows a more charismatic approach, featuring mainly contemporary music as opposed to strictly gospel, and more casual dress. The use of media, PowerPoint, and visualization tools are extremely important to the church’s emphasis on interactive sermons. The shift from more traditional Pentecostalism occurred naturally over the 1970s-1980s, as the baby boom generation took over church leadership.
Activities and Schedule
A morning prayer is held every day and two worship services take place on Sunday mornings. The women’s and men’s ministries also run small groups for enrichment. The women’s ministry, run by Rev. Greene’s wife Carmen, meets once a month. The men’s ministry meets in small groups. The church also holds Bible studies, membership classes, marital counseling, and regular retreats. There is a children’s church on Sundays and an active youth ministry called C4L (“Christians for Life”). Every July, the church puts on a week-long, themed children’s Vacation Bible School. Past themes have included safari and sci-fi.
The Tabernacle tithes ten percent of its gross income for charitable ministries. Money has been given to help a Trinidadian pastor remodel his church, to Cambridge Cares about AIDS and to a Central American village. This last project, spearheaded by a member, was an effort to replace 100 stoves that were spewing carbon into homes. In the Cambridge community, the church runs a number of outreach programs for youth. “Sundaes on Wednesdays” is a program where local kids can come for ice cream sundaes. In June, a yearly service is held outdoors in the park across from the church. The congregation also provides live music and a cookout afterwards for the neighborhood. One of the biggest outreach projects at the church is MOVE, a youth enrichment program run by one of the church’s members. About 25 students in grades 8-9 are enrolled in a course where they work through aspects of leadership and enrichment. Upon completion of the program, each student is given a college fund in his or her name.
Affiliation with Other Organizations
The Pentecostal Tabernacle is part of the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God (UPCAG). This denomination began in 1917 and comprises about 35-40 churches in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Rev. Greene’s title “Bishop” comes from his position as the head of the UPCAG. His role, for which he was elected by other church pastors, encompasses traveling to oversee conferences and chair meetings, and inviting speakers to events. More generally, as Bishop he shapes the direction for the UPCAG. The church has also been a long-time member of the Cambridge Black Pastors Conference and Bishop Greene meets informally to pray with other Boston-area evangelical pastors.