This past Sunday was a very exciting, and yet bittersweet day. Following our morning worship service, New Kirk held it’s first congregational meeting for the purpose of calling the church’s first elders and voting on calling Scott Bowerman as Pastor, and then voting on his terms of call. (That’s a whole lotta church speak, but basically it means that Scott will be NKP’s first Pastor and the first Session has been elected.) This was all in preparation for our afternoon trip to Fairview Presbyterian Church in North Augusta for the Presbytery meeting to present the petition to Charter next Sunday. Basically, next Sunday afternoon New Kirk will become an official church of the Presbyterian Church USA, and one of 69 churches in Trinity Presbytery.
This is an incredible thing for New Kirk, a church nearly 6 years in the making. Starting in 2002 Trinity Presbytery established a New Church Development Committee for the purpose of establishing two new churches in the Presbytery. In December 2003 they called Scott Bowerman as Organizing Pastor to begin this new thing in Northeast Columbia. Scott began preaching at the four sister churches (Shandon, Eastminster, Forest Lake and Spring Valley) in Spring 2004 and from that gathered a core group to help launch the church. We were to begin with approximately 100 “planters” from the four supporting churches, however the first meeting yielded 14 people. Those 14 began to recruit members for this new church idea, all the while worshiping together and trying to discern God’s call for a new church in this area. We launched our first public worship in December 2004 with over 150 people, and the following week had 39 in worship. Needless to say, this venture took a lot of faith and hard work, but it’s now paying off!
Mason and I joined the NKP Launch Team in April 2004 after hearing Scott preach at Shandon one Sunday morning and attending an info session that following Wednesday. We were part of the original 14 and have loved every minute of our journey with this church. Sadly, however, we will not be two of the 181 adults who will be the charter members of New Kirk Presbyterian. It’s such an exciting time, and we feel as though we have to watch from the sidelines while being completely immersed in the action – if that makes any sense at all? The reality has hit both of us that being called to the ministry means never being a member of a church again, and that’s a bit sad to think about. We have invested so much of ourselves in this church and are slightly saddened that we can’t be “full members” but are completely grateful for the journey and the ministry with the church! I’m personally struggling with this a lot, but feel so fortunate to be a part of the service through our student pastor-ship. It will be hard for us on Sunday afternoon when the Charter Members are asked to stand and be recognized while we remain seated. For the first time I don’t feel fully a part of this church and I’m really wrestling with those feelings.
New Kirk has been and continues to be such a blessing to both of us personally and professionally. We have seen ourselves grow as a couple, as individuals, as leaders, as students, and as potential pastors. We’ve had preaching practice, ministry leadership roles, worship leadership experience, worship design experience, incredible mentoring, we’ve been completely nurtured and loved, we’ve been supported prayerfully and now financially through tuition assistance, and we’ve been encouraged every step of the way. Scott has been an incredible mentor for growth – he has encouraged us to think outside the box, to go for what we feel is good for the ministry, to stick with our gut convictions on certain issues, and he’s challenged us in our relationship with each other and our ministry relationships. If we have messed up, we’ve been gently chastised but encouraged as we pick up the pieces and start again. We’ve literally been given the freedom to take what we learn on Saturday and apply on Sunday. God has richly blessed us with our ministry here, and we are honored to be a part of something that God has truly blessed and ordained.
As we gather for worship and the service of chartering on Sunday afternoon, I’m not really sure what my emotions will be. I know that I’ll be elated for the congregation and our mentor and pastor, but I’m sure there will be other feelings mixed in there, too. Right now I’m feeling shocked and sad. I can’t believe that the church is really getting ready to charter – where in the world has the time gone? It seems like just last month we were debating over the name for the church! I’m sad that I’m not going to get to be a member of this incredible sector of the Body of Christ. And I’m selfishly feeling a bit left out. As my Mama says, “this too shall pass.” I’m one big ball of emotions and feelings right now – some that frustrate me and my sinful heart and some that make me shout to God in praise. It’s a confusing situation, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else because this week I’ve felt closer to my God than I have in a long time. This week I’ve leaned on God to give me a sense of peace about feeling out of place – and again God has eased my anxieties in one way or another.
I can’t wait for Sunday…it will be a day of history. I’m ecstatic about being a part of it…as much as I can be. And I’m grateful to be a part of it even that much. God is doing incredible things with and through New Kirk, and I’m blessed enough and lucky enough to get to witness it all. Praise be to God for the blessing that is New Kirk Presbyterian. And by the grace, mercy, love and providence of our most awesome God, this Sunday will only be the start of New Kirk’s life, legacy and service. From one to 14 to … well, only God knows!