September 14, 2014
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Pastor lives adage of ‘hope out of ashes’
Colleen Kelly Mellor
Pastor Michael Caporrelli and his wife, Christine.

Like your preaching “Creole” or a little “Salsa?” If so, try Sacred Exchange Fellowship, at 75 Division Rd., on the Warwick/East Greenwich line. This is a brand new church in the region with an engaging, charismatic minister who delivers smoking-hot sermons.

Until recently, I hadn’t seen the pastor of this new church in many years – 18 to be exact. The student I’d had in my Journalism class at Cranston East High School, Michael Caporrelli, had changed remarkably. During that period, he endured his own difficulties, most of which I was unaware. Such is the nature of teaching.

We both recall our last memorable encounter. He was leaving the school; he was upset, and we’d just had a teacher/student eruption, so common in those troubling adolescent years. Somehow in the standoff, I informed him he’d just won a major, statewide journalism contest I’d entered him in.

It apparently was a lone victory in a period of his life that was bleak.

Over the next several years, Mike’s life spiraled downward and he got into more trouble, eventually culminating in a theft of items from a police officer’s vehicle (he still wonders at that lunacy). He was incarcerated, too, for a short period of time, in the training school. That’s when the miracle took place.

With the help of mentors, he made a decision to turn his life over to God; he enrolled in the former Zion Bible Institute in Barrington and he graduated with the training he needed to begin his life’s work. At present, he is fulfilling requirements for his doctorate.

His life story and commitment are what make Pastor Mike and his church remarkable, for they both truly reflect the mantra “Hope out of ashes”… a new beginning. We reconnected via Facebook.

Pastor Mike is now a married man. He and his wife, Christine, have four children, and he runs his ministry out of what used to be the Masonic Temple on Division Road in East Greenwich.

Recently, his theme at the Sunday service was “Hope Out of Ashes.”

He led a stirring service. The former student I knew mesmerized his audience in the same way itinerant ministers do, in those Southern realms, when they drive home their message in traveling tent revival services. His delivery is a studied art, combining Scriptural knowledge (he references Biblical verse), anecdotal experience and all the techniques good speakers use, such as varying pitch, tone, volume and style.

Periodically, he laces his delivery with humor, which brings forth chuckles and outright laughter from his audience.

There’s no slack time or occasional drifting off in this man’s presence, as his congregants readily respond with periodic “Amen’s” or “Brother.”

And his congregants? They’re an upbeat audience, many of whom have seen their own tough times, which helps them to appreciate his message.

Sacred Exchange Fellowship (SEF) is a new church on the East Greenwich/Warwick (Cowesett) line that recently burst onto the religious scene, one of two new offshoots from the main church in North Providence. Their membership has grown from 20 to 150 in a mere two years, with a mantra of, “We accept all.”

The church bought their present site through the generosity of a major contributor and transformed the former Masonic Temple to its current beauty by way of the selfless volunteer efforts of many skilled workers.

Beautiful wooden workmanship rises high to the rafters, and new side windows let in the light. A lion and lamb (Biblical symbol) stained glass insert is front and center at the apex of the building, another gift of a talented member of the group. Church members gutted the old building and refurbished it, top to bottom.

Those who wish to try a different flavor of church and a congregation that’s an eclectic and welcoming mix, many of whom have a story to tell of redemption and turnaround themselves, should try the 10 a.m. Sunday service at Sacred Exchange Fellowship, 75 Division Street, on the Warwick/East Greenwich line.

You’ll find it bold and robust … just like its young, charismatic minister … so different in an age of “bland.” For more information, visit their website at www.sacredexchange.com.

Colleen Kelly Mellor, former Cranston teacher and realtor, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Warwick Beacon, Cranston Herald, Providence Journal, Wall Street Journal, and CNN and New York Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com. She now writes the blog at biddybytes.com, about life as a transplant in two worlds—Rhode Island and Asheville, N.C.


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