A group of spirit-filled believers desired to start a new church to share the Gospel of the Lord and somehow we were divinely aligned through a number of Godwinks to meet the person who would become our founding pastor, Reverend Donald H. Bradley. He had planned to eventually retire to his home on Martha's Vineyard, but while visiting another church he met two of our group who introduced him to two more. They mentioned that we were looking for a pastor to start a new church and he enthusiastically accepted the challenge!
And so we began in June 2014! The other fourteen of us met Pastor Don for the first time as we gathered at the American Legion Hall in Edgartown. Being a talented musician, he provided the music for worship and shared a message about looking forward to a Christ filled future and not to focus on the rear-view mirror! Afterwards, we sat around tables and introduced ourselves to him and expressed how excited we were to begin this new journey with him to share Christ.
We had no name for our church, but several weeks later when the American Legion Hall wasn't available, we met at Al Norton's garage and enjoyed worship. Afterward we talked about a name and this is how Beacon of Hope with a vision of "A Church Bringing Light to Martha's Vineyard through Jesus Christ" came to be.
As we continued to grow and needed more space we had the opportunity to move to a much larger venue...the Edgartown School, where we continue to worship today.
What started as a small group of excited spirit-filled Christians has now grown to 50-60 caring friends and neighbors worshiping and praising God every Sunday at 10 a.m. We are excited about what God has in store for us and our island community. We look forward with great expectation about our future and growth.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
We, at Beacon of Hope, believe in the major tenants of the Christian faith. In a short and simple statement we believe:
the Bible is God's word, His love letter to us, that Jesus was born of a virgin. that Jesus taught his disciples and others about having a real relationship with God, that He died on the cross for our sins, that Jesus was miraculously raised from the dead - the tomb was empty! that Jesus is coming again and will take us to be with Him forever in heaven.
We believe in the incarnation and that Jesus is the life-giver! He has given us a new life here and eternal life in heaven.
We believe that we should be witnesses and followers of our Master and Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Martha's Vineyard Times
The Reverend Don Bradley may have thought he was retiring five years ago, but he soon found out there was a different plan in store for him.
Now he’s the spiritual leader of the Beacon of Hope Church, founded in 2014 by a group of Islanders looking to form a new evangelical church. Rev. Bradley had been pastor of Second Baptist Church in South Hadley, Mass., for approximately 22 years, and was looking forward to spending more time in the house he and his wife built on the Island in the late 1980s.
As luck would have it, an incident from the past resurfaced and now he’s leading a small but growing congregation on Martha’s Vineyard.
Approximately 15 years ago, his daughter Allison was waitressing in Western Mass., and a customer, Squire Rushnell, had just spoken at Smith College about one of his books on Godwinks, “coincidences” that don’t feel like coincidence, but instead seem to have a connection to a divine source.
Rushnell asked Allison about herself and during their conversation, she told him her father was a minister. Years later, Rev. Bradley and his wife Gayle were attending a service at the Federated Church in Edgartown, and one of the speakers was Rushnell.
“My wife said, ‘That’s him, that’s the guy from the restaurant!’” Rev. Bradley told me during a visit to his West Tisbury home last weekend. They soon met Rushnell and the two had lunch in Edgartown, where Rushnell lives with his wife Louise DuArt, a comedic actress and impersonator. Rushnell was a successful television executive at Good Morning America, the founder of Schoolhouse Rock, and is responsible for many ABC Afterschool Specials. He’s the author of several books about “Godwinks,” and tours as a motivational speaker as well. Rushnell and his wife, along with some other like-minded Islanders, reached out to Rev. Bradley about forming a new church.
“About 11 months after my retirement. I was asked by a group of people to start a church on the Island,” Rev. Bradley said. “I was surprised by the whole thing, and I had multiple meetings with this group, making sure they knew this was the right thing for them. I accepted this invitation to have a church planted in Edgartown.”
With a congregation of around 60 regular members, Beacon of Hope meets at the Edgartown School Sundays at 10 am. They have men’s and women’s groups and Sunday school for children. This past Sunday the children stood for a blessing with the valentines they made to take over to Windemere. The sermon was on social justice in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History month, something Rev. Bradley thinks evangelical churches overlook at times. He went to college for football in the late 1960s in North Carolina, and said he remembers what that was like.
“I’ll be talking about Martin Luther King and his dream, social justice, and what I saw in North Carolina in the 60s and tying in my experience,” Rev. Bradley said before his sermon. “The church has to be interested in not only salvation but also be concerned about the plight of people and being salt and light to people.”
A former football player and coach, the Rev. Bradley serves his church very much like a coach, cheering them on and preaching in a way that would make it impossible to fall asleep in church.
He’s 68 years old and looking forward to slowing down, but still very much a part of the new Island church. He’s been married to Gayle for 47 years and in church ministry for 40 years, having been ordained after graduating from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1977 with a master’s of divinity. He first served at Community Baptist Church in Whitefield, N.H., then at churches outside of Pittsburgh, and in Connecticut, where he’s originally from, before landing at the South Hadley Church, which he left in 2012.
Rev. Bradley and his wife have three grown children and nine grandsons. Their oldest grandson, Luke, is their son Ryan’s son. Ryan followed in his father’s footsteps and served at the Second Baptist Church in South Hadley as well. Luke has been battling leukemia for six years, and the congregations at their churches pray for him regularly.
“It’s been a struggle,” Rev. Bradley said. “We exist on the prayers of the righteous who pray for us every day.”
Rev. Bradley splits his time between Western Mass. and the Island, keeping close to his family when he’s not preaching at Beacon of Hope.
One of his loftiest goals as far as the Island goes, is to help promote a revival of Christianity, especially, he says, in light of the history of the Campground.
“At one time the Island was a seabed of wonderful spirituality and loving Christians. There were a lot of big revivals here. My hope is that the churches would all be growing and moving forward,” Rev. Bradley said.
He and the pastor of the Assembly of God Church are trying to come up with a plan for a combined Good Friday service at the Old Whaling Church this year.
“Being a football player and coach, I know that you’re only as good as your team,” Rev. Bradley said. “It’s people and it’s God moving people’s hearts and it’s a team effort [being in charge of a congregation]. It’s like when I was a head coach for a high school team; you learn you can’t go play the game yourself from the sidelines but you’re watching your team win the game. I was amazed that the congregation pulled together and we began to grow. The philosophy of teamwork and what I learned in football, obviously I carried with me. God working with a team of people can do some tremendous things.”
Well, maybe we can all watch and see how the spirit moves him.
For additional information, call us at 774-563-5767. We would be more than happy to assist you.