2020 In Review
In spite of the initial shutdowns, the fact that many (understandably) are worshipping from home, and the general stress of this year, people are being saved, baptized, and discipled.
- We baptized four this Fall.
- We have three men’s discipleship groups, we have resumed our midweek small groups, and Liz Kline is starting a new women’s discipleship group.
- Titi Miller is leading a weekly prayer group (Saturday’s at 9:30) and helped to connect us to a national prayer event this past Fall.
- Our worship services have been very sweet with times of spontaneous testimony, times of reconciliation, and joy in the Lord. We are averaging a little over 60% of our pre-pandemic numbers, but have several more who worship from home (thank you Alex Jennings for setting up our live-stream tools and team).
“Connecting” is much more difficult than it was a year ago, but God is still nurturing everyone who turns to Him!
We didn’t plan for any of the new ministries that have sprung up in recent months. Many have, however, prayed for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so we could find our place alongside of what God chooses to do.
- The first unexpected ministry came through Family Promise. We were hosting three homeless families in our facility when the first shelter-in-place order came. We weren’t willing to put our guests out on the street, so we stretched a little, some of you cooked a little more food, and we helped them get into homes. The program shut down for about six weeks while Steve Russell led a remodel of the upstairs youth department. We now have three families (10 people) sheltering in our building and have helped to keep 8 families off the street. Thank you to David Winfield for supervising this ministry and the many volunteers who have cooked and cleaned and helped our “neighbors” during their time of need.
- The stress of the shelter-in-place was compounded by the tornado. We became the launching point for the East Tennessee District Disaster Response Team. Rev. David Smith of Lenoir City First led teams for close to a month as we helped clear roads, remove fallen trees from yards, and comforted those who were devasted by the storm. Our District friends even put a new roof on the Gilbert’s house. Thank you to all of the CFN volunteers who came out to help.
- In the middle of the pandemic, Pastor Nohemi Alonzo decided to begin an Hispanic worship service! We have 2-3 families worshiping in the Fireside Room on Sundays, but others are joining online. Pray with the Alonzo’s as they seek the “person of peace” who will open a relational door to the families God would touch through our church.
- We consistently ask, “What more would God do through us?” Nakia Mathis, Lisa Stevenson, and Lesa York answered this question by offering a day camp last summer that gave 20 kids a healthy place to spend their weeks. This camp has rolled into a homeschool co-op for church kids with over a dozen in attendance. Many in our church feel lonely, disconnected from the body. Someone in each Sunday school class is calling on their “responsibility” list each month so we can better bear each other’s burdens and build each other up. Alex Jennings recently asked, “Can we start a worship service for those who work on Sundays?” Join in praying about how we can start a “church within a church” as we reach out to those who can’t share in a traditional ministry.
Like many churches, we can’t do what we would normally do. That doesn’t mean ministry has to stop. I’m excited about the new, creative ways that we’ve learned to help one another spiritually.
The shutdowns and spirit of fear that grips so much of our community has opened the door to some neat partnerships.
- Narcotics Anonymous is on the front line in helping people overcome drug addiction, but almost all of the facilities they used said, “You can’t meet here anymore.” The church board considered the need, asked, “Is there a way we can socially distance, sanitize, and follow the Governor’s best practices”, and concluded that, yes, we can help our neighbors. We now have N.A. groups meeting in the evenings Monday-Friday. The daily noon meeting hopes to resume soon. Thank you to Jonathan McKenzie for watching the front desk and opening the doors for our neighbors!
- Several churches were damaged by the tornado. Like others we asked, “How can we help?” The answer became, “Let’s move the nursery to the West wing and create a chapel in its old space. Pastor M.C. Tolbert and the Faith Community Wesleyan Church joined us in July. It’s been such a privilege to pray with brother M.C. and to share in joint worship services. We even had the privilege of hosting their District ordination service. Faith Community recently bought a new facility and will move out in March.
- Hamilton Heights Christian Academy reached out to us in June to say, “We’re losing our old facility. Do you have room for a Christian school?” This was a big stretch for us. It meant sharing classrooms and dealing with added wear and tear on the building. But over half of these students are from foreign lands. What an opportunity to do missions right here at home through friendship and chapel talks. So we again rolled up our sleeves and got to work getting the classrooms ready for students. Thank you to Pete Burnette for working on the gym and creating architectural plans that help ease the fire marshal concerns. Pray for HHCA. Their main investor has poured over $1,000,000 into the school over the last couple years as they wait for the borders to open so more foreign (paying) student-athletes can join us here in Chattanooga. They hope to double in size this coming year… and we’ll be right next to them, spiritually nurturing their students and staff.
- Our Good Neighbor Project (feeding the neighbors who live in local “tent communities”) stumbled for a few months. It recently took new direction as Jackie Prosser and Lisa Stevenson partnered with Chattanooga Rescue Mission to feed the homeless at their shelter… consider joining our ladies the Second Saturday of the month.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that God works through those who are available. You have chosen to be available, willing to give and share so others have the help they need to minister. God is so pleased with what you do!
Other Really Neat Stuff
God is working in our lives in other practical ways.
- Pastor Eric started a small remodel project in April. I just wanted to get rid of some stained ceiling tiles. The Derryberrys joined in and we ended up remodeling the entire entrance area. Then Tonya called to say, “One of the churches that was hit by the tornado is selling all of their sanctuary chairs.” We bought enough chairs to replace the sanctuary pews (thanks to everyone who helped to pick up the chairs and remove the old pews!) Steve Russell stepped up to create some neat accents in the sanctuary and he’s planning to do more to seal the sanctuary windows (and make things look even better). We’ve replaced ceiling tiles and lights in the West hallway, power washed the front of the church, and made lots of other upgrades. The building is looking great!
- In the middle of the pandemic, you chose to give. In many ways, this is the best giving year we’ve had in years! We’ve purchased a new soundboard and funded all the building improvements I’ve mentioned. You gave me a generous raise and seriously reduced the stress I carry as a provider for my family. Your faithfulness in giving has made it possible to touch countless lives.
Again, I want to stress the fact that God is working through you and your faithfulness to do some really neat things. And, yes, we’re taking steps to make sure we don’t consistently over-extend ourselves financially. 😊
Looking Ahead to 2021
I hope you’re consistently praying, “Father God, what would you do through me? Through us as a church?” Share your good ideas with me and I’ll connect you with others who’re being led in similar ways. I hope you will also pray about the following needs.
- Family Promise is moving back to a rotational model and David Winfield is taking a full-time job that will keep him from facilitating this program. We need a new coordinator who can recruit meal providers and overnight hosts (we host again in March).
- We really need to repair the sanctuary speakers, replace some monitor speakers, and buy some better video streaming tools. Will you consider giving a special offering for our technical needs… Alex has made do with what we have, but we could use $4,000 to strengthen our ministry in the building and online.
- Pray for more children and youth leaders. We’re restructuring to provide more relational/ connection events for our kids, but we really need more teachers and more people who’ll be a consistent friend to our young people.
- There’s always building maintenance issues at the church… wiring new lights, installing new toilets, we need to set up a new maintenance space in the basement, I’d love to get the shower rooms cleaned out and “finished” (you never know when we’ll be called on to serve as a temporary/disaster shelter).
- I’d love for more people to put effort into connecting relationally. We have a plan for calling on our members, but need those who’ll actually use their phones. We need to strengthen our website and ability to communicate with the larger congregation. I’d love it if people would bake cookies for our N.A. groups and get to know these neighbors. Our international students could use some “grandparents” to befriend them.
God is good and it’s a privilege to join Him in what He’s doing in our part of the world! I look forward to another fruitful year! -Pastor Eric