When Rev. Nick Granitsas interviewed for the pastors job at Revere’s First Congregational Church some 40 years ago, he immediately knew that God was leading him to Revere.
Call it a hunch, or as Rev. Granitsas calls it, the Holy Spirit, but there was no mistaking the fact that Revere and Rev. Granitsas were going to be joined.
This past weekend, several members of the congregation and local dignitaries – including House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Mayor Dan Rizzo – gathered to congratulate the popular local clergyman on 40 years in the pulpit.
“The Lord led me to Revere and it was exactly what I was looking for,” said Granitsas this week. “The first time I met the people at the church, I told my wife, ‘I think this is where we’ll settle.’ Right from the beginning I knew God had planned for me to come to Revere. I’ve never turned back. I love Revere and I love the First Congregational Church family.”
Granitsas grew up in Marlborough and had attended Seminary while serving in a couple of churches. Once finished with Seminary though, Granitsas didn’t want to start off at a new church. Rather, he wanted to go to an old established, urban church to engage in church renewal.
When he arrived in Revere, First Congregational was made of only a small amount of elderly women, most of whom were born in the 1880s and knew a far different and more pastoral Revere than the diverse city of the 1970s.
Granitsas said he credited those women for hiring him and recognizing that they had to come out of their comfort zone in order to keep the church alive for the next generation.
“They knew they had to change and that Revere had changed,” he said. “They knew we were going to have to do something different if we were going to have a viable church going forward. They supported the changes we made and the church wouldn’t have made it if they hadn’t done that. It wasn’t their cup of tea, but it was the cup of tea of the people we needed to reach out to…These were older folks and they wanted the church to survive and there was no future for the church unless it changed.”
Granitsas said since he has arrived, he has been proud to support members of the congregation who have grabbed certain visions to establish specialized ministries. Now there are scores of special ministries – including the popular Reach the Beach annual Gospel music festival – and a vibrant membership.
Some of the highlights Granitsas recalled was the fact that the church was very instrumental in bringing Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee families to the City – families that mostly settled in the Shirley Avenue area and changed the landscape there for decades.
Granitsas said the church had sponsored four families from Vietnam in the 1970s for resettlement, but things really picked up when Cambodian refugees began to flee the Khmer Rouge regime.
At that time, Granitsas recalled that a young family had a passion for sponsoring Cambodian refugees, and at the same time a man donated a home in Malden to the church to help with that effort. Those two things combined led to the sponsorship of more than 285 Cambodian refugees.
“We used that nine room, six-bedroom home in Malden Square to help 150 refugees begin their life in America at that time,” he said. “Altogether our church sponsored 285 refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam. The majority were Cambodian and some of those folks were anchor families here in Revere…Our congregation really was hands on. It was nitty gritty stuff with international refugees living in the homes of our members. There was no agency or anything, just our church.”
He also listed the establishment of the Food Pantry with the city’s other Protestant and Catholic churches many years ago. First Congregational agreed to host the Pantry and the other churches agreed to support it. That promise has never been reneged upon and the Pantry continues to serve about 1,000 families per year.
“For more than 30 years that promise has been kept,” he said. “Churches have changed pastors and ministers, but the churches all still support the Food Pantry to this day.”
More than anything, Granitsas said the support of his congregation and a close relationship with God has kept him from burning out over 40 years.
“The community is always changing in Revere and the church is very dynamic,” he said. “I always try to keep my time with the Lord and have a strong Bible study and prayer life…The congregation gives me so much support. A lot of pastors get burnt out, and I feel for them and understand it, but my congregation is so supportive and when you have that, it does wonders for you.”