We Found a Home!

We Found a Home!

Thirteen years ago almost exactly, Pastor Jeremy Vaccaro and I walked into Hope Church in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the General Assembly of a denomination not our own. We were in the process of leading Chapel Hill out of the PC(USA) because we were concerned about the direction it was moving theologically and socially. But the question was, “If not here, where?”

One option was the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a relatively small denomination: 185 churches or so. But we really didn’t know much about it and wanted to attend their national gathering to learn more. I still remember vividly walking in from the parking lot and saying to myself, “Well, Toone…are you ready to start all over?”

By the end of that first evening, I knew we had come home. Here was a denomination that upheld scripture and really lived by its motto: “In the essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity!” The powerful worship, the prayerfulness, the trust, the kindness and graciousness that Jeremy and I experienced in those first few hours, was like nothing we had ever experienced. We returned to give our report to the elders and, one year later, on June 3, 2012, we were received into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

This week, your pastors and elders returned to that very same place, Hope EPC, for our annual General Assembly. It was both poignant and a little surreal to come back to the place where, for Chapel Hill, it all started. And in my case, where it will end. This was my last Assembly as Senior Pastor of Chapel Hill. And I was reminded once again of how grateful I am to be in the EPC. We were dealing with some very, very difficult issues: race, sexuality, and gender identity. We are grappling with how to address these pressing cultural issues, especially in an increasingly “de-churched” culture…and do so with “unity, liberty and charity.” It was hard going and emotional at times but, once again, I left feeling like Chapel Hill is in the right…and good …place.

And by the way, for a church that only came into the denomination a few years ago, you would have been proud of the impact we are making. Chapel Hill Elder Rosemary Lukens made her final report as the off-going chair of our National Leadership Team, Pastor Julie Hawkins made a report as the co-moderator of one of our national committees, Pastor Rachel White was approved for HER role on a national team, and Pastor Megan Hackman was on one of the presenting panels.

In short, Chapel Hill found the perfect home for us 13 years ago…and we have devoted ourselves to doing our part to lead and serve this great denomination. Now, an extra 400 congregations later, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is alive and well…and embracing the future that will not be easy or even hospitable but will be good because God is on His throne.

One of the things about my ministry here about which I am most proud is the part I played in helping us find our new denominational home. This week, once more, I was reminded why. Thought you might like to know!

Pastor Mark

P.S.—Last Sunday, you heard me share that, as of May, we were running $28,500 behind our budgeted income. Our fiscal year ends June 30. Would you please review your giving and, if necessary, bring it up to date? And perhaps you will consider making a generous year-end gift to close out well and launch us into a new, exciting year. And here is some AMAZING NEWS: I was approached by one family who offered a $20,000 above-and-beyond MATCHING GIFT for any EXTRA, YEAR-END giving. Wow! Cyndi and I want to claim part of that match with our extra year-end gift. Please, will you consider doing the same?