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A new church opens, takes its place in Florence community

  • Francisca Lebron, Hector Orta, center, and Nemeso Orta of Springfield raise their hands in worship at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Francisca Lebron, Hector Orta, center, and Nemeso Orta of Springfield raise their hands in worship at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Salvador Arocho of Holyoke, front right, praises God during a special Friday night  service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. The rest of the congregation sings and praises in the back.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Salvador Arocho of Holyoke, front right, praises God during a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. The rest of the congregation sings and praises in the back.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. clasps his hands together after rubbing oil onto his face during a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Anointing oneself with oil is symbolic for spiritual preparation for a special purpose.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. clasps his hands together after rubbing oil onto his face during a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Anointing oneself with oil is symbolic for spiritual preparation for a special purpose.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danny Fernandez of Northampton points upwards during the praise and worship portion of the Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Danny Fernandez of Northampton points upwards during the praise and worship portion of the Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Irma Lucena of Florence hugs a fellow church member at a special Friday night  service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Irma Lucena of Florence hugs a fellow church member at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nidbert Cruz of Springfield, left, is prayed over by Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nidbert Cruz of Springfield, left, is prayed over by Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nidbert Cruz, left, and Yolanda Rodriguez of Springfield are prayed over by the congregation at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Rodriguez is pregnant and was given a special blessing for her child.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Nidbert Cruz, left, and Yolanda Rodriguez of Springfield are prayed over by the congregation at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Rodriguez is pregnant and was given a special blessing for her child.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pastora Iris, right, Pastor Carlos, center, and their daughter Jenica Feliciano, 9, hold a shepherd's staff while they are prayed over during a church service on Jan. 20 at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani in Florence. The grasping of the staff is symbolic because a shepherd leads his flock with a staff, just as a pastor guides his congregation.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pastora Iris, right, Pastor Carlos, center, and their daughter Jenica Feliciano, 9, hold a shepherd's staff while they are prayed over during a church service on Jan. 20 at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani in Florence. The grasping of the staff is symbolic because a shepherd leads his flock with a staff, just as a pastor guides his congregation.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Leslie Quinones of Northampton, center, raises her hand in worship at a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20. Her daughter Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, right, leans in for a hug. Pastor's daughter Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, plays the tambourine at left.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Leslie Quinones of Northampton, center, raises her hand in worship at a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20. Her daughter Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, right, leans in for a hug. Pastor's daughter Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, plays the tambourine at left.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Leslie Quinones of Northampton uses the bible to follow along with the preaching during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical  Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Leslie Quinones of Northampton uses the bible to follow along with the preaching during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, left, shares a coloring book with Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, left, shares a coloring book with Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pastor Carlos Feliciano preaches to his congregation during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pastor Carlos Feliciano preaches to his congregation during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pastor Carlos Feliciano of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, front right, and Carlos Velez of Northampton, back right, pray over Lois Kuilan, 4, who is sick with metachromatic leukodystrophy at his home in Hampshire Heights on Jan. 24. The boy's parents Rosa Jimenez and Lois Kuilan sit and watch, at left.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Pastor Carlos Feliciano of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, front right, and Carlos Velez of Northampton, back right, pray over Lois Kuilan, 4, who is sick with metachromatic leukodystrophy at his home in Hampshire Heights on Jan. 24. The boy's parents Rosa Jimenez and Lois Kuilan sit and watch, at left.
    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Francisca Lebron, Hector Orta, center, and Nemeso Orta of Springfield raise their hands in worship at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Salvador Arocho of Holyoke, front right, praises God during a special Friday night  service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. The rest of the congregation sings and praises in the back.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. clasps his hands together after rubbing oil onto his face during a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Anointing oneself with oil is symbolic for spiritual preparation for a special purpose.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Danny Fernandez of Northampton points upwards during the praise and worship portion of the Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Irma Lucena of Florence hugs a fellow church member at a special Friday night  service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nidbert Cruz of Springfield, left, is prayed over by Pastor Jerry Del valle of Iglesia Levantando Al Caido Inc. at a special Friday night service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Nidbert Cruz, left, and Yolanda Rodriguez of Springfield are prayed over by the congregation at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 18. Rodriguez is pregnant and was given a special blessing for her child.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Pastora Iris, right, Pastor Carlos, center, and their daughter Jenica Feliciano, 9, hold a shepherd's staff while they are prayed over during a church service on Jan. 20 at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani in Florence. The grasping of the staff is symbolic because a shepherd leads his flock with a staff, just as a pastor guides his congregation.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Leslie Quinones of Northampton, center, raises her hand in worship at a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20. Her daughter Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, right, leans in for a hug. Pastor's daughter Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, plays the tambourine at left.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Leslie Quinones of Northampton uses the bible to follow along with the preaching during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical  Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Jenica Feliciano of West Springfield, 9, left, shares a coloring book with Yoalice Velez of Northampton, 5, during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Pastor Carlos Feliciano preaches to his congregation during a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, an evangelical Christian church in Florence on Jan. 20.<br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Pastor Carlos Feliciano of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, front right, and Carlos Velez of Northampton, back right, pray over Lois Kuilan, 4, who is sick with metachromatic leukodystrophy at his home in Hampshire Heights on Jan. 24. The boy's parents Rosa Jimenez and Lois Kuilan sit and watch, at left.<br/>SARAH CROSBY

Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani is a closely knit, religious community of primarily Spanish-speaking people who are enthusiastic and uninhibited in their worship. Hugging, crying, fervent praying on bended knee and zealous exclamations of “hallelujah” are common elements of the church services.

Carlos Feliciano, his wife, Iris, and his three children, David, Damian and Jenica, were members of a Spanish-speaking church in Springfield when they say they received a calling to start a congregation of their own in December 2007.

One month later, Feliciano had quit his full-time job to start the evangelical Christian church.

He began by offering services from the basement of one parishioner’s home at the Hampshire Heights apartment complex, but moved soon after to the complex’s community room, then to the Florence Community Center.

“You tell people you’re in the basement of some person’s house, and they’re pretty reluctant to go. Now that we have a building people tend to be more receptive to that kind of environment,” said Feliciano.

The church has about 15 regular participants, though at times there could be between 25 and 30 visitors. Feliciano says the church is primarily Spanish-speaking, but the door is open to anyone.

“We’re probably the only Spanish-speaking church in Northampton, at least that I know of,” said Feliciano.

Feliciano said he hopes to see church membership continue to grow, both in numbers and in participants’ spiritual lives.

“It doesn’t matter how many people we have, as long as they grow. If you have a strong walk with God, you are going to be a better person,” he said.

He said that as the church grows in membership, it will be able to engage in more local community action.

Recently, church representatives have visited and blessed the new Northampton police station, delivered groceries to lower-income families and visited the sick.

Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani holds services three times per week.

On Tuesday nights, the parishioners gather for a prayer service, and on Sundays evangelical worship services are held. Fridays are flexible, according to Feliciano.

“Usually, we hold Bible studies on three Fridays, and usually the last Friday is a worship service. Sometimes we get invited to other churches, and we go to be with them,” he said.

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