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,
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
“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
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,
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
Island’s First PCA Church:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
was given hope and I am so encouraged to go home to pray
and think through a strategy for moving ahead.”
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.
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
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,
Days of Prayer
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
to access a related guide and please join us in prayer.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Chaplain Corps, US Navy
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.
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
Ronald L. Swafford, Sr.
Chaplain Corps, US NAVY
of PCA Chaplains
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
or 678-825-1200. Chaplains are also available to
speak at missions conferences and other PCA
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.
is an institute of Covenant College, which is a PCA
sister agency of 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
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Managing Editor / Photographer. Assistant Editor:
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