Quadriplegic pastor eagerly reopening Steeple Fellowship in Orange

  • Pastor John Hicks MacKenzie in the Steeple Fellowship at the Orange Innovation Center. In-person services will resume at the church on June 13. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Pastor John Hicks MacKenzie outside the Orange Innovation Center, where he started a church called the Steeple Fellowship. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2021 6:06:10 PM

ORANGE — John Hicks Mackenzie realized a dream in January 2020, when he started a church in the Orange Innovation Center. Steeple Fellowship held three monthly services before the global COVID-19 pandemic closed the doors. But Hicks Mackenzie believes God always finishes what He started.

“And that’s why we’re going back,” Hicks Mackenzie said.

The church will resume services on the Innovation Center’s third floor at 6 p.m. on June 13. Services will be held the second Sunday of every month until September, when a weekly schedule will kick in. The Orange Innovation is at 131 West Main St.

“We decided, for the safety of others and to love our neighbors and be smart, to go online. We did online services for as long as we could,” Hicks Mackenzie said of changes necessitated by the pandemic. “It wasn’t working too hot online. We kind of waited it out. It’s time to go back.”

The 32-year-old was particularly sensitive to people’s concerns about COVID-19 because, as a quadriplegic, he is immunocompromised. He arrived at his decision to reopen after a great deal of prayer. He said he did not want to be one of the churches that defied COVID-19 safety procedures.

“I’m not bashing them or anything, but I understand there are people who can really be in trouble and compromised if they’re exposed to COVID. It’s a real thing,” Hicks Mackenzie said, adding that he is ecstatic to reopen. “I’m hoping we can see some familiar faces and some new faces as well. I’m thrilled.”

Hicks Mackenzie is a lifelong man of faith, having grown up in a Christian household in Orange. He attended the North New Salem Congregational Church, part of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, as well as other churches in New Salem, Orange and Greenfield. However, he became rebellious in his early teens and drifted away from God until an accident forever changed his life, and his life path.

A 17-year-old Hicks Mackenzie was hanging out with friends on Aug. 9, 2006, when he crammed into the back of a crowded car. The idea was to go joyriding around town but, as he once put it, “one thing led to another” and the vehicle he was in wound up racing another. The vehicle Hicks Mackenzie was in crashed and he fell out of it, severing his spinal cord and leaving him a C6 quadriplegic. He said it was only after this that his faith became as real as it can get.

“As soon as I woke up in an intensive care unit I knew that God had a purpose and a plan for my life,” Hicks Mackenzie recalled.

He spent five years forming Steeple Fellowship and received a Christian ministries degree from Liberty University in Virginia.

“For the longest time, I have wanted to serve in my hometown,” Hicks Mackenzie explained. “These are the people that God has put on my heart.”

Steeple Fellowship can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/steeplefellowship.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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