Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy

Transitional Leader Rev. Dr. Craig Howard


Blended Church
Imagine a congregation holding worship in a multi-use space instead of a traditional sanctuary. The ceiling shows steel cross beams and large round lighting. The walls are concrete block with sound proofing to offset the tile floor. Instead of pews bolted to the ground, the movable chairs can change and conform to whatever activity the congregation needs. And yet, the windows are inspiring stain glass. Symbols of faith are throughout the space, including a beautiful oval shaped baptismal font on a rise in the center of the space. The preacher moves from pulpit to font; from a message of hope to a prayer of discipleship.
The sanctuary I’m describing is New Hope Presbyterian church in St. Charles. On the outside it looks like a typical church. On the inside, however, it looks like a post-modern space with traditional trappings. The space attracts young people and young adults while holding on to older more traditional worshipers. The space is what the Fresh Expressions movement calls mixed economy. Mixed economy is the “vision of new and existing expressions of church working together in mutual encouragement and support.” It is a vision where new ways and old traditions work side by side. One type of church doesn’t replace the other. But both work together to bring about something new.
Space is important, but even more important is the ministry happening in the space. And there is a lot of ministry going on at New Hope!
Between the two worship services, I sat in a class called A Parent’s Journey. This group of young adult parents are preparing to present their children for baptism on Easter. The class meets from January until Pentecost and is led by members, and not the pastor! Any and all questions are on the table. Pastor Chris James adds, “They will begin talking about the challenges of raising children in faith, including how they might support one another in intentionally living out the promises of baptism for them and their children.”
According to the book, The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones writes that only 35% of mainline young people who go through confirmation return to the church. That’s 3-4 out of 10. I believe New Hope has found a way to increase those odds!
Rev. Craig M. Howard


  • Posted March 14, 2017 2:33 pm
    Kathy Gibbs

    I am so glad to see you comments and complements about New Hope. A lot of visitors ask us when we are going to get a “real” sanctuary. It always leaves me just a bit miffed, but then I am an original at New Hope. I am glad you saw the usefulness of our space, and our ministry to the congregation, not just the fact that we don’t have carpet and pews!

    • Posted March 14, 2017 4:21 pm
      Susan Phillips

      Kathy, very well said! There is such positive energy at New Hope, and a worshipful, closeness to Christ atmosphere at every service. Thank you Rev. Dr.Craig for your visit and right-on observations.

    • Posted March 14, 2017 5:14 pm
      Craig Howard

      Thanks! In addition to being inspiring, New Hope is also extremely hospitable. I was shown great kindness during my visit.

  • Posted March 14, 2017 7:15 pm
    Margo Van Mill

    Thank you for your kind words and observations about New Hope.

  • Posted March 15, 2017 2:57 pm
    Ruth Irvine

    As I started reading your article, I thought, “Wow! Another church like New Hope!” And, then I discovered you were talking about us!! Thank you for highlighting what we are trying to accomplish at New Hope. There’s a renewed energy here, and we know the Spirit is with us. If you discover other congregations that are interested in “The Journey” (a.k.a. Catechumenate), feel free to have them contact me. It was our pleasure to have you with us last Sunday. Peace to you!

  • Posted March 16, 2017 7:40 am
    Clark Hurrell

    Rev. Howard
    Thank you for providing a different viewpoint regarding our worship space. I like others dream of someday having a real sanctuary, maybe we already have it!
    Please come back and visit!
    Clark Hurrell

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