2000 – 2009
The predominant historical event in years 2000-2009 for America, eclipsing all others, was the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks against the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and crashing an airliner in a Pennsylvania field. Members of the Washington Avenue congregation, like Americans everywhere, were stunned, and impacted, in many differing ways by this event. That series of events triggered the “War On Terrorism” that would take a toll on the congregation’s members throughout the decade.
Political issues came and went. Natural disasters like the Southeast Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina captured the attention and generosity of Washington Avenue members. The country’s population grew beyond 300 million and America elected its first African American President. On the economic front the euphoric extravagance of the nineties crashed and burned as one financial crisis after another devastated the well being of the country (and the world).
But through it all, church family members at Washington Avenue continued to gather weekly to worship God, to live daily in a way that demonstrated the life and teaching of Jesus and went about everywhere doing good and making a positive difference in the community.
Missionary Outreach Activities
The congregation’s missionary outreach to Belarus continued throughout the decade. During the ten year period 20 different individuals made a total of 19 mission trips to Belarus. The church in Molodechno kept on developing and a new congregation was started in Minsk in 2002. A building was purchased for the Molodechno congregation in 2001. But, by mid-decade, the political climate in Belarus had turned decidedly hostile to religion. While this restrictive environment had returned in the previous decade, the 2000-09 period saw an even more aggressive movement to limit the activities of the church. Barry Green, the missionary supported by the Washington Avenue congregation, was under constant surveillance and his effectiveness as a minister and teacher was dramatically reduced. In 2005 it became necessary for him to leave the work and return home to Texas. Although the conditions were far from favorable, the work did not falter. Two Belarusian young men with the help of East Tennessee School of Preaching prepared themselves to be evangelist and continue to minister to the small congregations in Minsk and Molodechno. There has been an ongoing effort to teach children in both of these cities. And, the small group of Christians assembled and worshiped God on a regular basis.
In 2004 the Washington Avenue congregation began to explore a missionary opportunity in Tanzania, Africa. Cy Stafford, a missionary to Tanzania, told the members of the congregation about the Tanzania 2000 project. Subsequently, the congregation began a 7 year relationship focused on helping train and support native evangelists, along with supporting a Bible School and students. During the decade funds were provided to construct a native style building used for worship assemblies. And, money was sent to help fund the printing ministry. In conjunction with this missionary effort, Brandon Marshall, an East Tennessee School of Preaching student whose education had been partially funded by the Washington Avenue congregation, was supported in his work with the Chimala Medical Mission in Tanzania. In 2007 Jerome Stewart and Stephen Rogers visited the work in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tanzania relationship opened opportunities in Kenya, Africa. In 2008 the members at Washington Avenue contributed generously to relieve the hunger of Christians in Kenya that were under attack by hostile tribes.
Along with the works in Belarus and Tanzania, other international missionary efforts during the decade included supporting a continuing work in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and assisting the church in the Philippines in 2006 and 2008.
At home in the USA, the congregation supported the church in Hawesville, KY; Spencer County, IN; Huntingburg, IN and the deaf congregation in Danville, KY. A cooperative radio program (with the Henderson Green Street and Hawesville, KY churches) aired broadcasts on WVHI that reached out to those communities. And in 2005 the congregation began to explore planting a new church someplace within the region. This initiative, while not maturing at the time, would later be included in the congregation’s Long Range Plan.
Reaching Out To The Local Community
In 2006 the Washington Avenue congregation began presenting annual Bible Series Lectures targeting both community audiences and its members. The lectures were designed to augment traditional gospel meetings, as well as other special events. The format of these sessions ranged from single class presentations to multiple break-out sessions. Topics were theme based and during this period touched on What Did Jesus Say, Jesus’ Attitude Toward…, Promises of God and Christian Lights In A Dark World.
During the 10 year period Wendell Winkler (2001 and 2004), Winfred Claiborne (2002) and James Watkins (2004) conducted gospel meetings for the congregation. Ron and Don Williams presented a workshop in 2002 that focused on helping members deal with grief.
Enhancing Educational Experiences At Washington Avenue
Seeking to enhance the Wednesday Night Bible Study and to take advantage of teacher talents outside the congregation, in 2004 a study session known as the “Summer Education Series” was added to the Bible School mix. The thrust of this effort was to expose the congregation’s adult classes to teachers and topics outside the regular Bible School curriculum. These summer quarter class sessions were themed and included a variety of topic from both the Old and New Testaments. Instructors from area and regional congregations presented class lessons.
Keeping Up With The Congregation’s Young People
In 2002 the congregation began to employ Summer Interns on an annual basis. Though the 2002 Intern was not the first person to serve the role, he was the first of a group of young men that would serve the congregation during the decade. The objective of this initiative was twofold. First, the Interns would assist the congregation’s Youth Group with summer activities (including spiritual growth, social activities, and service projects). Second, it would provide an intense developmental experience for the Interns, exposing them to in depth study sessions with the congregation’s ministers while giving them hands on experience with the day to day rigors of being a minister. The congregation’s Youth Group benefited immensely from their interactions with these Interns. During the balance of the decade, Robbie MacKenzie; Scott Bond, Jr.; Donnie Debord; Chris French; Drew Triplett; Preston Pinson; Michael Galloway and Adam Currence were employed as interns. All of these former Washington Avenue interns are either (at the time of this writing) pulpit ministers, youth directors, working with a church related university or still in school finishing their degree.
Continuing a Youth Summer Campaign program started in the previous decade, the Washington Avenue Youth Group went on evangelistic and service campaigns to Holland, MI (two times); Lincoln, NE; Middleburg, FL; Ligonier, PA; Etowah, TN; Endwell, NY; Burnsville & Luka, MS; Bedford & Elnora, IN and Odin, IL. While on these campaigns the young people (and their adult chaperones) conducted Vacation Bible Schools, knocked doors to promote local congregational activities, cleaned up area storm damage, repaired member housing, encouraged residents of nursing homes and generally demonstrated Christianity as lived by active young people serving the Master.
A new activity was started in 2008 when the special needs of the congregation’s young ladies was recognized. To address these things, the G.E.M.S. (Girls Enlisting for the Master’s Service) program was implemented to focus attention on girls in grades 7 through college. A special component of the program allowed older girls to mentor younger girls “while fulfilling their role of serving God by serving others.” Activities included monthly devotionals and multiple service projects. Examples of these activities are Senior Ladies’ Tea Parties, visiting members, gift wrapping and baby sitting, and a host of community outreach functions.
Implementing A Preacher Camp
In the mid-2000’s a number of the congregation’s young men (who had an interest in becoming ministers) attended the Middle Tennessee Future Ministers Camp hosted by the Graymere congregation in Columbia, TN. Subsequently they recommended that the Washington Avenue congregation start a similar program that would serve young men in the Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Western Kentucky region. That proposal was approved and implemented in 2008 when a six year program was rolled out. The Future Ministers Training Camp curriculum focused on Challenging Young Men To Be Ministers (2008), Bible Study And Hermeneutics (2009), Evangelism (2010), Practical Ministry (2011), Leadership (2012) and Denominational Doctrines / Knowledge Of And Refutation Of Those Doctrines (2013).
Reaching Out By Responding To Natural Disasters
Natural disasters…locally, across the country and internationally…played a prominent role in congregational outreach during the decade. Tornado victims were helped in Owensboro and Providence, KY, along with Tell City, IN. People suffering from floods were assisted in Mississippi, Texas and New Mexico. Members responded to the Hurricane Charlie damage in Florida. And, the Washington Avenue flock reached out to the Tsunami victims spread throughout the Pacific Rim countries.
Locally two major storms devastated the area and gave the congregation opportunity to reach out to community citizens in an extraordinary way.
The first event occurred during the night of November 6, 2005 when an F-3 velocity tornado swept across Henderson County, KY and into Vanderburgh, Warrick and Spencer Counties, IN. The 41 mile, 400 yard wide storm path left more than 200 people injured and 23 people dead…along with millions of dollars in property damage. Responding to the needs of the disaster victims, the Washington Avenue congregation immediately made its building available as a shelter. Then the congregation marshaled its resources to provide disaster relief supplies and followed that with helping to rebuild homes and lives. Members of the congregation, including the Youth Group, assisted with neighborhood clean-up operations. The Washington Avenue family partnered with the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief organization to provide emergency food supplies, water, clothing and cleaning products to address the immediate and critical needs of the storm victims. Later, again in concert with the Disaster Relief organization and additional partners (for example, local industries and retail stores), longer term assistance was provided through the distribution of furniture and appliances to help with rebuilding residences. Records disclose that 182 different families (consisting of more that 600 people) were touched by these combined efforts. But, the congregation was not alone in the effort. Area and regional congregations helped by sending funds and personnel to work in the relief effort.
Meeting the physical needs of the victims was critically important. But, equally vital was to let these families know that the Christians at Washington Avenue also cared about them on spiritual level. To that end, effort was made to contact each family. As a part of the follow up, families were invited to worship with the congregation, inquires were made about ways additional assistance could be provided and, where possible, attempts were made to tell the story of Jesus. While not every family was reached, nearly everyone was.
In addition to local community victims, the congregation also assisted the Madisonville Church of Christ with their effort to help meet the needs of storm victims in their area. Relief products were sent from Evansville to Madisonville.
The second disaster occurred on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 when a major storm coated the area with 5 to 10 inches of snow and more than 1 inch of ice. The snow was manageable; the ice was truly a disaster. Tens of thousands of area residents were without power and the situation lasted for days…even weeks in some areas. Again the Washington Avenue family, this time in partnership with the Red Cross, responded to the community and area need. The Washington Avenue building was pressed into use as a disaster shelter and church members and community citizens alike used the space for housing while their homes were without heat and electricity. The Activity Center and classrooms were used as sleeping spaces at night. The Activity Center was used for food service during the day. For nearly a week, night and day, people came for help; arriving in National Guard vehicles, police cars, city buses, on foot and in their personal cars…and the Christians at Washington Avenue were there to meet them. Meals were prepared (morning, noon and night), sleeping cots were provided, children entertained, hands held, encouragement given and prayers offered. At times there were nearly 100 people sleeping throughout the building. Members of the church family were everywhere offering help…as cooks, clean up crews, transporting people and just listening when discouraged and hurting folks needed to talk. People were invited to attend the mid-week Bible study and some did. When the sun came out and things began to return to normal, once again the members of Washington Avenue had demonstrated Christianity in action.
Not every disaster occurring during the decade was caused by nature. This short history of the Washington Avenue congregation would be glaringly empty if remarks about the 2000-2009 period overlooked September 11, 2001. Without including much detail here, readers will recognize this as the date that terrorists attacked the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and crashed an airliner in a Pennsylvania field. Members of Washington Avenue responded to this disaster by contributing funding for rescue operations (and, it is worthwhile to add, some area Christians went to New York to actually help with rescue operations).
Helping The Less Fortunate Through Traditional Ways
Not all benevolence activities during the decade fell into such grand scale efforts as noted above. But everyday, ordinary needs were none the less meaningful and important. The congregation continued to assist community citizens through its food pantry and clothing bank; providing weekly opportunity for needy families to get grocery items and clothing. In 2002 the Washington Avenue congregation began its semi-annual “clothing giveaway.” This initiative focused on a one day effort to provide clothing to needy families, making available a much larger inventory of clothing from which selections could be made. This practice was later expanded to provide school supplies to needy children at the beginning of each school year.
By Meeting Expanding Facilities Needs
One of the glaring weaknesses of the Washington Avenue facility was the lack of room for the congregation to meet for social activities. While there was a functional multipurpose room, it was by no means large enough to accommodate all members. The need to address this issue had been recognized for years…but not met. In 2000 many voices were being heard calling attention to the need to correct the problem, the outgrowth of which was to appoint a steering committee to research solutions to the challenge. Throughout 2000 and 2001 needs were identified, ideas were solicited from the membership, various solutions were evaluated and a space plan was designed. The cost and affordability of the project was determined and financing was arranged. In 2002 the project was approved and construction got underway. The nearly 10,000 square foot addition was completed in June, 2003 and the first function…and what else but a potluck…occurred on June 29th.
The above things are the bare statistics…but they are not the story. The new space played many roles in church family life during the decade. New classrooms enhanced the educational department. Additional handicap restrooms benefited members and visitors alike. A Commons Area provided special space for membership interaction. The new semi-commercial kitchen made it possible to efficiently provide food services for a variety of occasions. And, the large meeting space allowed everyone to gather in one place. Importantly, but by no means most important, the space made it possible for recreational activities to occur at all age levels. Now, how did all of this benefit the Master’s cause? One of the ways was an enriched church family life. Another was found in better community outreach (for example, as detailed earlier in the discussion of disaster relief efforts). Other benefits were found in better teaching / educational environments. Perhaps simply stated, the new Activity Center helped make it possible for members to be better servants of the Master.
Other, less challenging, events occurred. Along the way, as the decade unfolded, an opportunity to sell part of the congregation’s excess property was explored. In the end an agreement could not be reached with the potential buyer and the deal fell through. And, in response to the request of younger families in the congregation, a training room for parents with small children to use during worship was constructed.
Living For The Master From Day To Day
Like the previous decade, the day to day life around Washington Avenue was busy between 2000-09. A web-page was started in 2002. Early in the decade the congregation began to devote the last Sunday evening worship service each month to a “worship in song.” The congregation returned to using pictorial directories in 2004. A Nursing Home Ministry was started in 2005. In the same year new technology was brought into play when the use of PowerPoint slides to display songs and announcements was implemented. This is but a short list of the things that were going on. But when interlaced among everything else happening during the decade, there was ample opportunity for all members to be involved with church family life.
And It Was Time To Develop A Long Range Plan
Beginning in 2008 and extending throughout 2009, the congregation invested a substantial amount of time and energy in the development of a Long Range Plan. All member families were given an opportunity to participate in the process. A meeting was held with the women of the congregation to get their special perspective on issues. Men were afforded time to share their views. The congregation’s young people were not overlooked and they were asked to talk with the elder’s about their views regarding youth issues. Bible School teachers were encouraged to share their perspectives. The deacons, as well as everyone in a leadership role, were asked for their counsel. Well, you get the idea; it was a congregation wide effort resulting in a wide ranging vision for the future.
After the information was gathered and ideas distilled, a long range plan was formulated. This vision was presented to the church family in late 2009 at a congregational meeting. Following that (and a few tweaks) the Washington Avenue Congregation’s Long Range Plan covering the period 2010 – 2022 was rolled out in January 2010. It was optimistic and far ranging. It addressed local, regional and international mission opportunities (including the planting of three new congregations). Provision was made for an additional minister. Facility needs to support the new programs were recognized. The list went on and set the stage for years of service to the Master. While implementation of the plan did not occur within this decade, its birth did. Recognizing the hard work ahead, ever conscious of its dependence upon God and prepared to pray often for success, the congregation moved boldly into the next decade.
The average Sunday morning worship service attendance during this decade was 386. The lowest annual average was 374 in 2000 and the highest annual average was 401 in 2008.
In 2000 the weekly income average was $7,693. In 2009 the average was $11,520. The weekly average for the ten year period was $10,076, an increase of $4,895 over the previous decade.Ministers, Educational Director and Elder Information:
1985-2020 Stephen Rogers
1990-2020 Alan Bush
1988-2020 Alan Bush
1988-present Alan Bush
1982-1984 & Dec. 1992-2010 Richard Egerton
1982-Sept. 1992 & Dec. 1992-2018 Ray Justice
1994-2006 Bob Shirel
1994-1995 & 2003-2010 Butch Edwards
1994-2004 Bill Westerfield
1997-2014 & 2018 – present Danny Weddle
2001-2009 Bob Goodloe
2001-2006 Dave Scherer
2007-2010 Doug Egerton
2007-2019 Stephen Rogers
2007-present Jerome Stewart