A fond farewell

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Dear friends at NCC,
After 15 years among you, we are headed out.

You haven’t seen us much on Sundays for the past several weeks, and I apologize if it felt like we “ghosted” you. It wasn’t my intention, but it’s kind of how things happened.

I deeply appreciate everything I learned when we moved to the PCA in 2001-2002 after a lifetime in Fundamentalism. I had a lot of warped thinking ground deep into my soul, and New Covenant was a place of Grace for us, especially during those early transitional years when we had to figure out what it meant to abandon the old ways.

I have rich and blessed memories of early home ministry groups, including the one at the Rountrees’ for any visitors and new members of the church. We spent many happy Sunday lunches there, talking with the retired folks (one was a retired Navy nurse!) and internalizing the excellent logistic strategy for food service, “Get in line behind someone older than you.” (Every potluck should adopt that rule.)

We met Calvary Home for Children through NCC, spending many happy Sunday lunches doing HMG at the cottage hosted by the Fastenaus. We learned a lot about what love looks like by watching John and Laura open their hearts to 7 kids after raising their own 4, and then happily seeing that set of 7 siblings adopted by 3 local families. It’s still one of my favorite stories. Thanks to CHC’s work with teens who attended NCS, we have learned so much about foster care and the incredible work CHC does for children and teens who need a forever home. We will always heartily support CHC’s ministry.

Our lives were deeply shaped by our work at New Covenant School. We were so young when we arrived, had so much to learn. I cannot fully describe how much teaching changed me. It made me who I am, and I am much better for knowing every single student who walked through my doors. I cannot separate my NCC experience from my NCS work, and I value those years so much.

For a few years late in our teaching career, we worked with the Youth Group, under Mark Wells’s leadership. I’ve always been impressed by the level of involvement of the parents in NCC Youth, especially fathers. Having dads integrally involved in leading, teaching, and mentoring youth makes such a difference in the lives of the teens who mature there.  It was during Mark’s time that the youth (unbidden by us adults) moved themselves to the very front pew for Sunday morning worship. Actually, I think that was Colt’s doing – he couldn’t pay attention otherwise. 😉 I’m so glad we decided to dive into youth work for a bit, and seeing those young’uns grow into fine adults makes my heart happy.

Since my first years at NCC, when the service was still pretty traditional, I’ve been part of the music ministry at New Covenant. It began with singing in the choir under David Wilcox (including my first-ever solo for a Christmas program, accompanied by an orchestra – never expected such a debut!), and I soon found myself behind the piano (or keyboards) supporting various styles of music as NCC sought to find its musical “voice.” Darrell Tricket warmed my heart with his pure, unadulterated joy at the power of Grace. And after he left, Brett and Kevin have continued to lead worship with patience and contentment despite the difficulty of serving week after week in an area where everyone seems to have an opinion. I don’t think any other church does what NCC does with music. I don’t think anyone but Brett can envision how to put a Led Zeppelin bassline under a 400-year-old hymn and join those so beautifully and creatively. Playing with the praise team has kept me engaged in worship in ways that sitting in the pew never could. I hope that has been a blessing to y’all as well.

So with all this good, why are we leaving? Fair question.

I think it’s simplest to say that we’ve changed, and we need to move our worship and ministry somewhere where we can live that out, and where our differences won’t undermine the leadership or ministry of NCC or the PCA. Honestly, it was a short walk from where we were in Fundamentalism to conservative Reformed Evangelicalism. And the similarities which made that transition easy then are chafing us now.

About once every decade, Coart and I go on a “walkabout” through Christianity. We visit a wide variety of churches so that we can see the breadth and depth of the body of Christ. It’s breathtaking. Sure, some churches make me uncomfortable; some theological emphases  are IMO just wrong; many pulpits suffer from weak preaching; most Christian music is pretty boring. But we are all united under the banner of the Cross, as expressed in the most historic of our creeds. That unity corrects a lot of the judgmentalism and disapproval that seeps into our opinions about our fellow believers.

So, as we leave, please be assured, friends, that we leave with a full heart and with gratitude for all that New Covenant Church folks invested in us during those early years. No hard feelings. Our door remains open to all who would be friends with us, and we hope to continue fellowshipping with you at hearths and tables here in Anderson.

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