Hope abounds for a fledgling congregation that sprang to life a year ago after an Administrative Commission (AC) from Shenandoah Presbytery seized control of the session and the operation of First Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro. That decision led to the formation of a mission church that now finds itself firmly entrenched as a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
Twelve months after breaking away from FPC-Waynesboro, the Hope Community Church (HCC) congregation finds itself flourishing with a familiar face as the shepherd of the flock.
Dr. Glen Holman, who served eight years as pastor of FPC-Waynesboro and resigned after preaching his final service there last Easter, was commissioned in September 2013 by the EPC’s Mid-Atlantic Presbytery as the organizing pastor/evangelist of HCC, located in Waynesboro, Va.
“We’re finally at a place where we are stabilized and moving forward in mission and ministry,” Holman said. “It certainly was a growing process and there was some trauma we went through, but we’re doing well and excited about what lies ahead in the EPC.”
That includes a celebration of the congregation’s one-year anniversary on April 7.
FPC-Waynesboro’s session voted in November 2012 to recommend seeking dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) only to have an Administrative Commission from the presbytery determine the majority of the 375-member congregation wanted to remain with the national denomination.
A straw poll revealed that more than half of those casting votes wanted to leave the PCUSA. After mail-in votes were accepted by the presbytery, the number voting to stay in the PCUSA was barely more than half of those who cast ballots. However, the number voting to remain in the PCUSA represented less than a quarter of the total active and inactive membership. A large number of those worshipping at FPC-Waynesboro then had not become members of the PCUSA congregation because of the denominational connection. The AC assumed original jurisdiction in March 2013, leaving those who wanted to depart with only one option: to simply walk away.
That’s what the group did, meeting for the first time as an EPC mission church on April 7 at nearby Waynesboro Church of the Brethren. That body remains united with an average worship attendance of about 80, now led once again by Holman.
“It’s not really a church plant but a transplant, so to speak, from the former congregation,” Holman explained. “We’ve gained others who came along beside us, not just from First Presbyterian Church but other people in the community.”
The HCC congregation continues to meet in the fellowship hall at the Church of the Brethren, with the hope of having its own facility one day.
“They have been very generous in allowing us use of their facility,” Holman said in reference to the Church of the Brethren leaders, adding, “but many of us hope we will have our own facility soon. The Body of Christ has stepped in to help us and has been a real blessing. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity and kindness. I stand in awe of what has been done through this Body of Christ.”
Calling the pastor
Holman’s call at Hope Community Church was somewhat unexpected. After leaving FPC-Waynesboro with a severance package covering six months, he was informed that the congregation changed the terms and would not honor the agreement with him past four months. The AC and FPC-Waynesboro officers also changed the terms of severance packages for other staff.
When his severance ran out, members of the mission church and others in the community provided support to Holman and his wife. The Vision Team of the EPC mission congregation reached out and extended a call to him to become the organizing pastor, albeit on a part-time basis at the moment.
“I was in the process of looking at possibilities. There was a door that opened, but it was not the one God wanted us to go through,” he said. “God was telling us we needed to stay here.”
Holman accepted the call and later was commissioned as the evangelist/organizing pastor of a church with members very familiar to him.
Full of Hope
The EPC mission congregation recently adopted Hope Community Church as its new name.
“Hope kept coming up frequently in our discussions about names,” Holman explained. “We’re a hopeful people.”
That’s seen in their motto to serve the Lord, following through on the vision to glorify and honor God:
Evangelize for Him.
The congregation also is intent on following through with a fulfillment of the Great Commission, described in Matthew 28:18-20. HCC strives to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
“We want to be disciples who make disciples,” Holman said. “We have a new excitement and zeal for reaching beyond ourselves. We’re open to how God leads us and want to make a difference in our community and beyond. I think everybody is excited about what is happening.”
But none of that would have happened if the events of a year ago had not taken place, despite the pain and anguish associated with the separation from the church that many had been affiliated with throughout their lives.
“There certainly has been a grieving process but also a sense of relief that we are not tied to a specific building and location,” Holman said. “It’s been a lot of mixed feelings. There has been some resentment toward those who left, but I think there is a mutual respect for each other now.”
A like-minded people
While difficult at times, the move away from the PCUSA to the EPC has been very refreshing, especially in knowing that those who left FPC-Waynesboro share the same theological views.
“We were concerned about the direction of the PCUSA. We continue to be, and we pray for those still part of it,” Holman said. “But everybody who left to form this church did so on the same theological page, especially regarding who Jesus Christ is and the authority of Scripture as God’s Word. While there has been some grief, there is an excitement to be part of a denomination with clarity in what it believes without a pluralism that’s so broad that everything goes. Personally, coming to the EPC is like being home.”
Holman said he still has love and admiration for the people who remain at FPC-Waynesboro, and he prays for them each day. But he’s thankful that God led him and the congregation of Hope Community Church to a denomination they view as being Biblically sound.
“We want to have the Body of Christ grow and be strong,” he said. “We have a real sense of anticipation about what God is doing in our midst and what He is going to do. We’re starting to get a sense of what our niche is, and it’s that commitment to the Great Commission. I never would have dreamed several years ago when our discernment process began in earnest we’d be where we are now, but God gave us Hope.”