NATICK — Doctors gave Kathy Sorabella three months to live when she was diagnosed with colon cancer nearly two years ago.
“But I don’t plan to die anytime soon,” said Sorabella, 46, after the Christmas Eve service at the newly formed Common Street Community Church on the edge of the Natick town common. “I have plans, and those include the church I’ve been going to.”
Sorabella, a member of the church’s leadership team, said she credits the prayers of her fellow congregants with helping to prolong her life. Before she became involved with this church, she said, she was skeptical about the power of prayer, but has found it to be a source of nourishment.
“It just, it feels like it feeds me, physically, spiritually, and mentally, and that’s important,” Sorabella said.
It was precisely that spirit of hope, community, and life that the Rev. Ian Mevorach, the church’s 28-year-old pastor, was celebrating during the Monday night service, the first official service that the church held after eight weeks of informal gatherings.
“Thank you for being here tonight for the celebration of Christ’s birth, and the birth of this church,” Mevorach told the congregation of about 80 during his sermon.
He delivered his remarks after a rousing performance of hymns and carols from Jonathan Hoard & Band, a jazz band led by the church’s 24-year-old music minister, as well as a children’s Christmas pageant.
Mevorach said that his new church, located in a historic building his flock inherited from a Baptist church that disbanded last year, will seek to honor the legacy of Christ’s love, as well as other faiths and their leaders.
“The light of life is not specific to any race, religion, age, or class,” he said. “It’s a universal light. It’s the light of God that is within all people.”
And that light, he said, is a feature of the observance of Christmas, which is celebrated on one of the shortest days of the year.
“It comes only a few days after the darkest day of the year,” Mevorach said. “It’s no coincidence, because we believe something about Christ — that he brings light.”
That point was emphasized with a closing blessing. The lights were shut off and the church illuminated only by the glow from candles held by parishioners, who told each other that “the light in me honors the light in you” before closing the service by singing “Silent Night.”
After the service, Paul Castiglione, 52, a Natick resident on the leadership team, deemed the inaugural service a success.
“It was totally awesome,” Castiglione said as he collected candles from exiting attendees. “The church was founded [around] 1850, and we’re honored to be a part of what’s starting as a new life out of an awesome legacy.”
Mevorach said after the service that the previous congregation, the First Baptist Church in Natick, closed in the fall of 2011 due to declining membership, and the denomination contacted him in April to see if he would like to start a church there from scratch.
“I basically made my decision in one hour,” said Mevorach, who moved with his wife, Amy, and their three young daughters to Natick from Somerville to begin the daunting task of starting a new congregation essentially through word of mouth.
He said he draws his inspiration from Howard Thurman, a civil rights leader who mentored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mevorach said followers of Christ must embrace “a new day of Christianity” in which the faith is not viewed by adherents as the only true religion. The church’s board presently includes a Jewish member, who is not converting but who supports the group’s mission, he said.
That spirit of openness is what drew Sorabella to the church after she received her devastating news, she said after the service. “When one is faced with such a diagnosis, you look for a way to find your way spiritually,” she said. “These people prayed for me, they prayed with me, they laid hands on me.”
Mevorach closed his sermon with an appeal to that sense of community and compassion.
“Let us seek to live and move and have our being in the compassion, justice, faith, prayer, and life of integrity and good deeds that we find in Jesus,” he said. “Together let us discover our center in the light of life and let us indeed live in that center. Can I get an amen?”
His congregation joined in an enthusiastic “Amen!”