Inside this issue:

  Reaching Greater New Haven

  Rhode Island’s First PCA Church

  Embers to a Flame Conferences

  Ministering in the Face of Terror

  CEDI Training for Effective Ministry

A PCA church established in New Haven in the early 90s has launched a movement to reach the broader community with the Gospel and help restore the reformed tradition which once thrived in this area.

MNA:  Reaching North America with the Gospel...
to Reach the World

Spring 2002


Reaching the Nations of Greater New Haven 
with a Passion for the Gospel

The great 18th-century pastor, scholar, and revivalist Jonathan Edwards once wrote to a friend, “The Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the Word of God and the reason and nature of things.” Edwards, a Congregationalist pastor, acknowledged the virtues of the Westminster Confession of Faith and expressed its principles in his renowned preaching during the Great Awakening in New England.

More than two centuries later, Preston Graham discovered the value of the Westminster Confession while he was a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. It was then he affiliated with the PCA and was ordained after he graduated. Preston went for further study at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut (where Jonathan Edwards had also been educated), and was asked to lead a Bible study of about nine people there. Composed of PCA members who had moved to New Haven, as well as graduate students, the group met to explore the distinctives of the reformed faith.

“I hadn’t thought of planting a church,” says Preston, “but I love Yale, I love the city, and God gave me a vision for starting a PCA church in New Haven.” The year was 1991.

Christ Presbyterian held its first worship service in 1993. Since then, God has blessed the church in a number of ways. Today, it has a regular attendance of about 200 (many have come as converts), who represent various ethnic groups and live anywhere from within a few minutes to an hour’s drive of the church.

From the beginning, Christ Presbyterian was determined to form a church that would not only reach multiple ethnic groups throughout the area, but also become the hub of a multiplying church movement for the region. God has already enabled the congregation to plant one daughter church in Providence, Rhode Island, which was started in 1997 by Mel Sensenig, who apprenticed with Preston for three years (see page 5).

In January, 2001, the church adopted a five-year plan based on the theme, “Reaching the Nations of Greater New Haven with a Passion for the Gospel.” It calls for three more church plants, an expansion of Hope for New Haven, and four additional campus ministries at institutions in greater New Haven, in association with Reformed University Ministries.

In His divine wisdom, God prepared Preston in advance for an urban and university environment like New Haven through specific experiences. For example, even before he enrolled at seminary, Preston served with a student ministry at the University of Georgia and was then involved with an inner-city housing project in Atlanta, GA.

Christ Presbyterian’s second church plant is scheduled for Edgewood, a low-income African-American neighborhood in New Haven. The church is now praying for a candidate to fill a church planting apprenticeship. Next on the agenda is a Latino-American congregation in another section of New Haven and, after that, a church plant in Fairfield County.

“Our vision,” explains Preston, “is to be one church with many small interconnected congregations. Since New England is parochial, we believe this is the most effective way to reach various communites in greater New Haven.”

The accomplishments and plans of Christ Presbyterian combined with Trinity Presbyterian in Providence demonstrate that a church multiplying movement can grow without having a large church as its base. 

Christ Presbyterian began Hope for New Haven as one means of bringing the mercy of Christ to the community. An ambitious effort, the organization offers a variety of faith-based services that will expand over time. When the church’s building addition is complete, a daycare center will open and family services geared to low-income families will begin. Tutoring in music and reading for inner-city youth has already begun.

A Christian counseling service is now being organized which is volunteer -led by two church members, one a psychiatrist and the other a social worker. In addition to employing a full-time Christian psychologist, the ministry will depend on volunteers.

Besides church planting apprenticeships, Christ Presbyterian provides an internship program open to two graduate and two undergraduate students at a time. Not necessarily geared for ministry candidates, the internships are individually designed to suit each student’s career objectives. “We’ve offered this program since the early years,” Preston points out, “and now there are people with a heart for the Gospel all over the world who have interned here.”

Preston describes Christ Presbyterian as a progressive church with an ancient faith. “We seek to be an authentic expression of the Gospel,” he says. “People who come here don’t want slick answers or attractive packaging — they want practical principles for day-to-day living. We have a passion for the Gospel and ambitious plans. And yet, we’re not pretentious — we recognize that we’re broken, sinful people who have new life through Christ.”

 



From the start, Christ Presbyterian has had close ties with Yale. The congregation worshipped at the Marquand Chapel of the Yale Divinity School for several years and has led a ministry on the Yale University campus since the early 90s. The Harkness Tower, pictured here, is the university's best known landmark.


Church planter Preston Graham (standing) and his wife, Lisa, with George Levesque and his wife, Katy. An academic dean at Yale, George is an elder at Christ Presbyterian and was a member of the church’s original launch team.


In 1997, the church purchased an 1850s Gothic Revival cottage in downtown New Haven and converted it into a study center with a library, meeting room, and offices. A new addition to this facility includes a worship center and space for mercy ministry services.


Music/worship director, Daniel Kellogg, is pursuing a Ph.D. at Yale. Also involved with the ministry is his wife, Hsing-ay, a concert pianist who was named Julliard’s most outstanding graduate in 2000.


In warm weather, church members occasionally gather for potluck picnics and recreation. This past winter, they traveled to New Hampshire for a weekend of skiing, hiking, and fellowship.


Youth ministry at Christ Presbyterian includes weekly meetings following Sunday worship services, as well as regular social activities and a day camp each summer. Once the church’s new facility is fully completed, Sunday school classes for children and youth will resume.


Christ Presbyterian’s faith-based organization, Hope for New Haven, is designed to provide affordable child care, student tutoring, and family counseling. Among the church’s members who have volunteered to establish these services are, left to right, Christopher Prokop, Lisa Hawkes, and Victor Patin.

 

 

 

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Rhode Island’s First PCA Church:
Keeping the Good News at the Center


Many Brown University students and professors have been members of Trinity Presbyterian since it started. In 2001, Reformed University Fellowship was begun, led by Eric Molecki. In the future, this ministry will also target students at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. 


Church planter Mel Sensenig (left) ministers to a diverse congregation that includes a variety of income levels and ethnic groups, from Anglos and African Americans to Liberians. Providence reportedly has the largest population of Liberian refugees of any US city.

 

When Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636, he so named it because he believed Divine guidance had brought him there. The first settlement in Rhode Island, Providence has grown to become the second largest urban area in New England.

In 1997, God led Mel Sensenig to Providence to plant Trinity Presbyterian, a daughter church of Christ Presbyterian in New Haven. Mel came to know this church and its pastor, Preston Graham, after entering Yale Divinity School. About the same time, he joined the PCA. For years before that, Mel avidly read the works of Jonathan Edwards, as well as the doctrines of Calvinism. “I was impressed with the way they articulated biblical faith with clarity and warmth,” he explains.

Even though Providence was believed to be divinely founded, and many church buildings dot the landscape, the city now has few Gospel-preaching churches. Trinity meets for worship at the historic Benefit Arsenal in the center of downtown, next door to the city’s First Baptist Church, which was founded by Williams.

The congregation has grown to about 125 and is composed of people from throughout Rhode Island and even parts of Massachusetts. Here God has brought together a variety of income levels and ethnic groups — from Anglos and African Americans to Liberians. And since the unchurched are often included, services are sensitive to those without a church background. Not only that, in view of a politically diverse climate, they make sure to keep the Gospel front and center.

Every year since Trinity began, the Holy Spirit has led many to profess faith in Christ — a number of them springing from its network of home fellowship groups, which are designed to reach neighborhoods.

Looking toward planting its first daughter church, Trinity has been training church planter apprentice Tony Phelps. The plan is for him to begin Rhode Island’s second PCA church the early part of 2003 in the southern region of the state. Among other plans scheduled for the near future is a permanent facility. A site has been secured and architectural plans are on the drawing board. “We’re excited about all God has done so far,” Mel says, “and we’re hoping for a lot more in the future.”

 

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The Vital Church


African-American Embers to a Flame Conference: “This was a wonderful and informative conference. The staff made me feel comfortable, and challenged me to reflect on my relationship with the Lord and to make improvements.”

“I was given hope and I am so encouraged to go home to pray and think through a strategy for moving ahead.”

Those comments come from only two of the pastors who took part last fall in the first Embers to a Flame Conference geared specifically for African Americans. Led by senior pastor Harry Reeder at Briarwood, it included presentations by Nathaniel (Hank) Hankerson and Carl Ellis, a PCA pastor and director of Project Joseph in Chattanooga, TN, a ministry designed to reach Muslims. Carl provided timely teaching about how to connect with people of the Islamic faith.

Fanning the Flame: An outgrowth of Embers to a Flame conferences is Fanning the Flame, a mentoring program directed by Gary Cox, Briarwood’s pastor of church revitalization and church planting. A two-year program composed of individual modules, it is designed for those who have already attended an Embers conference. Modules are geared for the following combinations: pastors and their wives, pastors and elders, women leaders of the church, pastors and key leaders. For information, contact Carolyn Phillips by phone or email: 205-776-5399 or embers@briarwood.org



Among the speakers at the first African-American Embers to a Flame Conference, held last fall at Briarwood Presbyterian in Birmingham, AL, was Hank Hankerson (left), Briarwood’s urban missions pastor. The meeting was attended by church leaders from across the nation.


An Embers conference, designed for all church leaders, will be held September 17 - 20 at Village Seven Presbyterian in Colorado Springs, CO. Speakers will be pastors Harry Reeder,  Sandy Willson, Gary Cox, and MNA Church Vitality Coordinator Archie Parrish. The purpose is to encourage personal renewal and to demonstrate how church leaders can guide their congregations to biblical health and vitality. For info, visit <www.emberstoaflame.org>. Or contact Carolyn Phillips by phone or email: 205-776-5399,
embers@briarwood.org

Fifty Days of Prayer

The period between the National Day of Prayer (May 2) and the close of General Assembly (June 21) has been designated as a time of prayer for the PCA and its ministries. Click to access a related guide and please join us in prayer.

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Gospel in Uniform

Ministering in the face of terror: Following are edited excerpts from reports sent by two PCA chaplains a few weeks after the attacks on September 11, 200l. 


“Since September 11, we’ve been extremely busy at Marine Corps Base Quantico near DC. On the evening of the attacks, I was called to assist in notifying family members of military personnel who lost their lives at the Pentagon. At the memorial service, I ministered to families, aid workers, and military staff.

“Despite the confusion that results from such an event, there has been plenty of opportunity to share the Gospel, and to stress that God still reigns supreme in this world. A lot of Marines have come to my office to talk about the Lord, and it appears that many are now seeking more diligently to understand their position before God.

“Pray for the safety of the men and women serving in hostile environments. Pray that God will be glorified through the recent events. Pray that many will turn to the Lord and trust in Him alone for their salvation.”

Commander Michael Uhall 
Chaplain Corps, US Navy


“I spent a week in New York City, ministering to members of fire, police, and security units, as well as steel workers, ironworkers, truck drivers, mortuary workers, and anyone else involved in the recovery effort — and also our own cutters and port security units. I spent the mornings at Ground Zero, but my primary ministry was escorting family members of victims on a ferry ride to the World Trade Center site.

“For most, it was helpful. For some, it was overwhelming. For others, it removed all hope that their loved one would be found alive. This was some of the most important ministry I’ve ever done, and it crossed all lines of race, culture and ethnic background. No one seemed to care about that. They only wanted to see where their loved one perished and to have a caring person at their side.”

Captain Ronald L. Swafford, Sr.  
Chaplain Corps, US NAVY

 

Recognition of PCA Chaplains

The Sunday preceding Memorial Day (May 26), is an ideal time to recognize PCA chaplains. Consider inviting a chaplain to participate in a worship service or a Sunday school class. MNA Chaplain Ministries can assist in scheduling. Contact Rebekah Lawing: mnaguardian@pcanet.org or 678-825-1200. Chaplains are also available to speak at missions conferences and other PCA meetings.

 

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Showing God's Mercy



If you want to help the poor and you don’t know where to begin, The Christian Economic Development Institute (CEDI) can get you started. Through CEDI training, May 20-31, you can learn how to set up effective programs in your church or community.

• A choice of 3 to 11 days of training.

• Conducted at The Chalmers Center for Economic Development, Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA.

• Designed for church staff and lay people, relief and development workers, missionaries, and college students. No prior experience necessary.

• For more information or to apply, go to www.chalmers.org/research/cedi or call 706-419-1805. Space is limited. Please apply as early as possible.

CEDI is an institute of Covenant College, which is a PCA sister agency of MNA.

 

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New MNA Staff

MNA is pleased to announce that, beginning January 1, 2002, Teaching Elder Ted Powers assumed the positions of MNA Training and Assessment Coordinator and MNA Midwest Regional Coordinator. For the past five years, he has served as Midwest Regional Coordinator on a volunteer basis.

 


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Address comments to Fred Marsh, Managing Editor / Photographer. Assistant Editor:   Jennifer Musselman.  Design: Studio Supplee. Copy Editor/Writer: Joan Quillen. Material in Multiply may be reproduced with permission.