Antrim family uses life’s challenges to lead people to faith

  • (From left) Nicholas, Diane, and Rick, who are best known for their brick-oven pizzeria in downtown Antrim, are opening a new church called At the Cross, which will hold its first service in the Town Hall on Easter Sunday and every Sunday thereafter. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, April 13, 2017 6:37AM

Rick Davis said it’s been a difficult road since his wife Diane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The damage affects the ability for parts of the nervous system to communicate, which can result in a range of physical and mental problems.

Diane has a severe case of multiple sclerosis that went downhill rapidly after the diagnosis in 1989. She now spends the majority of her days in a bed on the first floor of the family’s house in Antrim with limited mobility. Before Rick leaves for work on a recent Friday he asks Diane if she wants to be moved from her back to her side, she says she does, and with some effort he is able to reposition her.

“There was a lot of frustration early on,” said Rick of Diane’s diagnosis. “I asked God and prayed to God for Diane to go home and be with him early on, or get rid of it, you know, to heal her. And none of it happened.”

But Rick said he understands why now. Diane’s diagnosis has drawn their three children close to them, and friends and members of the community have rounded up support of the beloved owners Rick and Diane’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Antrim.

After years of attending local services, and then teaching and preaching the word of God out of the pizzeria as well as their own home, the Davis family is opening up a new non-denominational church called At the Cross. Beginning Easter Sunday, services will be held every week in Antrim’s Town Hall.

Rick said what started as a small gathering has since grown to a crowd he believes will include an estimated 25 to 50 people on Easter Sunday.

God’s plan

Over the years, the Davis family has tried unsuccessfully to sell the pizzeria. It was the place they started preaching from, but their congregation has grown and needs bigger space. Along with Diane’s diagnosis, Rick and Diane’s son Nicholas has recently started experiencing foot pain.

“So these are all negatives,” Nicholas said. “If you want to make a big list of all of these problems that are coming, they are piling up here.”

But the hardships have led them down a path they could never have imagined.

Nicholas said even his foot issue, which has limited his ability to stand for long periods of time, has been a blessing. He said with more spare time, he has recently earned a pastoral certificate from Liberty University with the intention of pursuing his bachelor’s degree in biblical and theological studies.

Even Diane’s outlook has improved.

“She didn’t get up and walk and throw the crutches away,” Nicholas said. “But what she did gain is this commitment and this love and joy for Christ, and it radiates from her and you’re drawn to it.”

“You just start to see God’s plan work out.”

Rick said the friends and community members have watched their family preserve and triumph over struggles and it has given other people faith.

“You put Job through hell and high water in the Bible and Job just suffered over and over again. And he says why me? Why me?” Rick said. “But in the end, God had a plan. No matter what your circumstance, you give glory to God.”

Diane said you have to keep on praying, and keep on believing.

“God is going to be faithful to you, and it’ll all work out,” Diane said.

Forging a relationship

Diane grew up Catholic, and Rick as both a Protestant and Presbyterian. Rick said he converted to Catholicism after he fell in love with Diane. When Diane was around 22 years old, she told Rick that she wanted to be baptized. Rick said he supported the decision, but didn’t really understand it at first. Later he was on the road traveling for work, staying in hotel rooms when, he said, God spoke to him.

He said he was in a room in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, when he opened a drawer with a Bible in it. Rick opened the page up to a piece of scripture a preacher had talked about that week. Rick said it was a passage about people asking how they can be saved, and Peter responds that they’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit if they repent and are baptized.

“That’s what I opened to and again it pierced me right to the heart,” Rick said. “I got on the phone and called Diane up and said, ‘When I get home this weekend, I’m going under too.’ It says, ‘I’ve been pierced to the heart, God has spoken to me.’”

Rick said that’s where it really started.

“It was the best decision our family ever made, probably the most important, life-changing decision we’ve made in 40 years,” Rick said.

Rick said the family attended various churches in the region for decades, but as Diane’s situation worsened, they started worshipping in the restaurant and at home. At first it was just family members, but without using any advertising tools, word spread and soon their weekly services started growing.

“With mom’s situation, you can’t really go to church,” Nicholas said. “Within the first couple of weeks it went from just a couple family members to it doubled and almost tripled in size.”

He said there are at least 12 people who attend their weekly Thursday evening bible studies. The Davis’ are well aware that membership at churches across the country is falling off. It’s a worrisome trend, they say, but they’re hoping they’ll be able to reinvigorate peoples faith.

“I say we’re a relationship, not a religion,” Rick said as a reason that distinguishes them from local churches. 

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.