2010 – 2019
During the years of 2010-2019 an interim history of events impacting the Washington Avenue congregation will be maintained. At the end of the decade the material will be edited, consolidated and produced in a format consistent with the reporting of prior decades. For the most part, historical events affecting the congregation that occurred in the community, country and world at large will be captured in the final edition. Doing so will allow them to be seen from a wider perspective and their impact judged in a broader sense.
By the end of 2009 the congregation had formulated and adopted a Long Range Plan extending through 2022. During the coming decade we will track the implementation and success of this Plan through these interim historical updates.
The new decade carries forward many of the activities that had been important in previous years. Evangelistic outreach continues to be a high profile effort and is seen on many fronts. Caring for and supporting each other continues to be a central focus, along with an ongoing awareness of the need to assist those who are less fortunate.
Washington Avenue is a diverse congregation and there are many interests to be addressed. While a complete listing of those things is not created at this point in the interim history, some examples are the very successful annual Ladies Day program, the yearly Vacation Bible School, the contributions of the Future Ministers Camp, our Summer Intern Program and the ever popular Summer Education Series. Obviously, many important things do not appear on this short list; their omission does in no way diminish their importance. Attention to other things will emerge as the decade unfolds and will be included at the appropriate time.
During the year a number of leadership roles changed. Three elders resigned; Richard Egerton because of longevity and health issues, Doug Egerton relative to employment relocation and Butch Edwards in connection with his retirement and relocation. Steve Dalp was appointed to the role of an elder. Two deacons, Ed Woodring and Robbie Sears, resigned. Mike Clevidence was appointed as a deacon. The congregation extends its appreciation to all of these individuals for their outstanding service to the Master and the church.
The congregation’s benevolence outreach program was redesigned to place a greater emphasis on member involvement. Direction was shifted from a reactive approach to the needs of individuals to a proactive effort on the part of members to seek out opportunities to help those who were experiencing hardships.
Intra-congregational communication was strengthened by the implementation of a telephone message system. Members were provided the opportunity to receive daily automated telephone alerts about congregational news items. In addition, an email based Daily Digest was established that allowed members to elect to receive news updates via that method. Significant effort was devoted to the renovation of the congregation’s web-page. While the project was not completed during the year, good progress was made toward creating a better product.
Congregational life followed a normal pattern. Our youth groups were actively involved in attending youth rallies, regular devotional sessions and participating with work projects. Senior Members were engaged in various social functions and service activities. The membership as a whole continued to be supportive of each other. Simply stated, the congregation went about doing the Master’s work.
The evangelistic efforts included mission outreach both domestically and internationally. No significant new works were added during the year. The Fall Bible Series focused on a Marriage Enrichment Program and our friends and neighbors were invited to attend.
A major focus in 2010 was beginning the implementation of the Long Range Plan. Funding for specific components of the plan was allocated in the 2010 budget and by year end some small steps had been made toward executing these activities. Of greater importance to the overall effort was the time spent in developing action plans to effectively launch the Plan.
A quick look at the numbers disclosed that average Sunday Morning Worship Service attendance declined slightly (from 399 in 2009 to 394 in 2010). The weekly contribution averaged $11,064.
Good progress was made in bringing our Long Range Plan on line. Small steps were taken to increase community visibility and to upgrade our outreach to local university students. The relationship with the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies solidified with two semesters of the Advanced Bible Class being completed. Our radio program, identified as Heart Messages, began to be heard throughout our area. Along with these things, our overall mission efforts were enhanced by two of our young men becoming involved in an international mission trip.
The congregation’s financial support of the Belarus Mission was discontinued in July. Although designated mission funding stopped, the awareness of the Belarus Church and non-financial support for the work continued. Otherwise, missionary efforts followed the pattern established over the past few years; no new works of a significant nature was initiated.
Disastrous weather was in the news during the year and the congregation responded by supporting relief efforts to help people adversely impacted by these storms. Moreover, the change in approach to local benevolence assistance gained traction as more members engaged in being alert to the needs of individuals around us.
Congregational life moved forward in predictable ways. Youth activities continued, senior members encouraged each other through fellowship and service, educational programs functioned and evangelistic efforts were seen in weekly sermons, mission work on a broad scale and individual Bible study sessions. In summary, all of the things required to make Washington Avenue a viable congregation serving the Master occurred.
The goal of retiring the Activity Center debt early was achieved. The last payment on the loan was made in December. Originally a debt service period of 20 years was established. We are grateful that God blessed us with the resources to shorten this period to about 7 years.
Attendance at the Sunday Morning Worship service averaged 386. The weekly contribution averaged $11,276.
The congregation was presented with a different set of opportunities and challenges in 2012 and working through them focused the congregation’s collective energy for the year.
In early January the congregation was blessed with a generous gift from the Anna Lois Whitmer estate. Prudent management led to the development of a use and maintenance policy, engaging an investment management firm and appointing a membership advisory committee. The gift came with general conditions that the funds be used for evangelism and the benefit of senior members. Consequently a commitment was made to honor these conditions within the context of the congregation’s Long Range Plan components addressing these two areas. It is expected that the gift will help sustain selected programming for many years.
The congregation reached an employment agreement with David Rogers in late 2012. His primary responsibilities will focus on planting new congregations, conducting personal Bible Studies, developing and implementing a college outreach program and providing some assistance with the congregation’s youth programs.
Significant changes occurred in the congregation’s office staff during 2012. Margaret Shirel retired after many years of outstanding service as a part time secretary (although she continues to serve as the congregations Web-Master). Because of health reasons, Terri Coleman resigned her full time secretary position and took over the position vacated by Margaret. Randa Bush was employed as a full time secretary, taking over Terri Coleman’s full time position.
On a different front, Mike Wall resigned from his role as a deacon.
A major facility maintenance item was resolved during the year by renovating the parking lot. Late in 2012 the existing parking surface was removed and replaced with a new base and asphalt. The work included changing grades and installing improved drainage.
Significant progress was made in implementing components of the Long Range Plan. As mentioned above, an additional minister was hired and the parking lot was renovated. Plan elements brought on line during 2010 and 2012 were continued. Along with these things, a concerted and successful effort was made to raise the community awareness of Washington Avenue congregation.
The congregation’s commitment to missionary outreach remained active. During the year two elders visited with Eddison Fowler in Brazil to observe the work he was doing with the Belo Horizonte congregation.
Attendance at the Sunday Morning Worship service averaged 379. The weekly contribution averaged $10,483.
David Rogers moved to Evansville and began his work as our Evangelisms Minister on February 13th. It was a busy year for him on many fronts, although his major focus centered on a site search for the planned church plant. He visited potential locations in New Orleans, LA, Raleigh, NC, Chicago, IL, and the Denver, CO regions (including Boulder, Greeley and Ft. Collins). Although each of these areas brought positive considerations to the effort, they presented a serious challenge to on site participation by Washington Avenue members. Seeking to address that concern, the location search was concentrated nearer to Evansville and by year end emphasis was being placed on a Cincinnati, OH location.
Late in the year, and moving in parallel with the church plant location search, efforts were started to recruit a minister for the new congregation. Optimism ran high with the expectation that a minister could be quickly identified, but that was not the reality. We would learn that the challenge would require great patience and an enormous amount of work. During the latter part of the year we began to review résumés but the interviewing process did not commence until early 2014.
While at year end congregational enthusiasm for the work ran high, we were beginning to recognize that our initial understanding of the challenge was incomplete and that there was much we had yet to learn.
The congregation remained acutely aware that it was a part of the community. Members participated in community activities such as the Clean-Up Evansville campaign, the Red Cross Cancer Research project and an ongoing awareness of our responsibility to help make lives in the community better. Members, through the congregation‘s individual assistance program, helped ease the stress and challenge of individuals (both within the congregation and from the community) who were facing economic hardships.
The congregation has been a part of our neighborhood for nearing 50 years and throughout that time has enjoyed an exemplary relationship with our neighbors. We have taken our “neighbor responsibilities” seriously. In 2013 that relationship was dramatically tested for the first time when some neighbors attested that the recent parking lot renovation was causing drainage issues for them. Though there were differing views on the matter between the parties, some which were very intense, we responded (at significant cost) by making modifications to the drainage that resolved the issue. We believe that any long term damage to our relationship with our neighbors was averted.
Like families everywhere, the Washington Avenue family members were confronted with challenges on many fronts. Illnesses, both small and large, prevailed. Family members passed from this life. Stresses of all kinds upset family routines. Through it all, our members were there to support each other. A helping hand and encouraging word was there when needed. On the flip side of that coin we celebrated each other’s successes and special joys. To sum it up, we were there for each other in good times and bad. We can be, and are, thankful that our God continues to bless us in His special way.
During the year there were changes in our elders and deacons. Ken Rayborn joined the eldership. Brent Miller accepted the responsibility of a deacon and Lennie Coleman (because of other demands) stepped away from his role of a deacon.
Alan Bush, an Associate Minister, celebrated his 25th employment anniversary.
Two thousand thirteen saw a refocused effort to better meet the needs of the congregation’s young adult families. Communication sessions were held to get a better understanding of the challenges these families face and to formulate responses. As an outgrowth of the effort, various initiatives were implemented to deal with issues critical to this segment of the church family.
Bible School programing continued on the track in place for several years. Numerous adult and children’s classes filled out the regular education program. Additional needs were filled by providing training seminars, Advanced Bible Study opportunities, the Summer Educational Series and the annual fall Bible Series. The Youth Group assembled for regular devotional sessions and appropriate attention was given to younger student needs through the Kids and Parents group (KPT), Middle School program (MSG), girls activities (GEMS) and the High School activities. During the year special attention was directed to revitalizing the college age class program.
Our long standing mission relationships continued; effective work is occurring in Brazil, Tanzania, New Zealand and nearby in Hawesville, KY. Additionally, Danny Weddle, through his Bridge Builders program, is making a difference in many locations.
We added a new mission campaign effort when David Rogers partnered with a group led by Jim Long to take the story of Jesus to the Cayman Islands. Several of our members joined the effort.
The annual Youth Group campaign focused their efforts in Grant County, KY where they conducted a week long Vacation Bible School.
Sunday morning worship service attendance continued to trend downward with the average attendance falling to 363. Average Bible School attendance slipped to 268. Similar declines occurred with Sunday evening worship attendance and the Wednesday night Bible Study.
The annual core contribution was $559,634 (including miscellaneous amounts totaling $2,950). The weekly core giving averaged $10,762. Distributions from the Anna Lois Whitmer gift totaled $37,500 (being designated for evangelistic use and primarily the church plant effort). At year end operating funds on deposit totaled $356,431. On average the total weekly income stream was $12,233. Additionally, the congregation gave $17,201 to assist with disaster relief events.
Funds invested (the source of which is primarily estate bequeaths) totaled $1,251,859 at December 31, 2013.
During the year there were 17 baptisms, 13 individuals placing membership, and 14 requests for prayers.
Two Thousand Fourteen began and ended with intense focus on the church plant effort. Cincinnati was selected as the church plant location and the congregation was named the Queen City Church of Christ. After making the regional choice for the church plant, a concerted effort, covering all areas of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, was made to identify an appropriate site in which to locate a meeting facility for the new congregation. As a part of this process contact was made with other Cincinnati area congregations, informing them of our community intent and objectives. The initial neighborhood selected was in Mt. Washington. Difficulties with leasing an appropriate store front location eliminated that area from consideration. Following that minor set-back, we were able to lease store front space at 651 Old State Route 74, Cincinnati, Ohio 45245 and began immediately to make plans for renovating the space.
In July our Youth Group conducted their annual campaign. They chose Cincinnati as the campaign location; focusing on the store front space renovation, door knocking and conducting a neighborhood interest survey. During that intense campaign period the campaigners demolished existing walls, repaired and painted walls, prepared flooring for new carpet to be installed and generally got the space ready for the second wave of Washington Avenue volunteers to arrive. While the Youth Group was in Cincinnati the very first assembly of the Queen City Church of Christ was held in the store front property (a Wednesday night Bible Study). Along with the carpentry work, these busy campaigners were introducing themselves and the new congregation to people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Following on the heels of the campaign effort, numerous adult volunteers went to Cincinnati to continue the renovation work. Plumbing was repaired, electrical circuits upgraded, a baptistery was put in place, new carpeting was installed and appliances were purchased. It was evident to our neighbors that we were serious about this matter and that powerful energy was being devoted to plant the Queen City congregation.
Unfortunately on the minister recruitment front things were not moving nearly as quickly as we desired. While the “brick and mortar” issues were being resolved on schedule, finding a minister was not. Networking was underway, résumés were being received, interviews were being conducted and prayers were being prayed…but connection with the right person was not occurring. Frustration and disappointment abounded. Nonetheless, we were determined to stay the course; it was critical that the right man be selected for this position. Compromising the essential qualities needed to succeed as the Queen City congregation minister was not an option. By year end we had reviewed more than 50 résumés and interviewed 13 applicants. The task was not yet done but we knew that God would send the right man on His schedule and we were prepared to wait for that to happen.
It is important to note that this was a “congregational effort” and no one was interested in giving up. Planting this first congregation was an integral part of the Washington Avenue Long Range Plan; failure would not be acceptable. We were in for the “long haul.”
There was more occurring at Washington Avenue in 2014 than working on the church plant. Church family life continued; the educational functions were in place and performing as expected, missionary efforts continued to be supported, community involvement remained important, Youth programming received the appropriate attention, personal Bible studies were conducted and critically important and the church family supported each other on a daily basis. As would be expected, a wide range of day to day activities and programming went forward. And above all else, every week we assembled to worship God.
Nonetheless, some new things emerged. For example:
• A Security Evaluation Committee reviewed security risks and recommended improvements and changes. At year end some of these recommendations were in the process of being implemented.
• We hosted visits from Eddison Fowler and Charles Hebreth, two of the missionaries we support.
• A financial seminar was presented.
• A Children’s Library and Story Time program was initiated.
• To meet a growing drive to be evangelistic, an on-going congregational evangelism training program was established.
• The first College Group Retreat occurred.
• Initial planning for a major renovation of the auditorium, foyer and commons area was started.
• During the year two of our families were involved in personal mission trips; one family went to Guatemala and the other to Tanzania.
Changes in leadership occurred, too. After serving the Washington Avenue congregation as an elder for 17 years, Danny Weddle resigned. He will redirect and focus his energies on fulltime missionary work associated with his Bridge Builders mentoring ministry.
Sunday morning average worship service attendance increased to 366. Average Bible School attendance was 276. Sunday evening worship attendance continued its downward trend as did the Wednesday Bible Study attendance.
The annual member core contribution was $615,846. The weekly core giving averaged $11,843. Distributions from the Anna Lois Whitmer gift totaled $75,000 (being designated for evangelistic use; primarily the church plant effort). At year end operating funds on deposit totaled $411,117. On average the total weekly income stream was $13,300. Additionally, the congregation gave $550 to assist with disaster relief events. Funds invested (the source of which is primarily estate bequeaths) totaled $1,252,571 at December 31, 2014.
During the year there were 12 baptisms, 6 individuals placing membership, 3 individuals restored and 19 requests for prayers.
A major focus in 2015 centered on the church plant underway in Cincinnati. During 2014 and early 2015 intensive efforts were directed at recruiting and hiring a minister to work with the Queen City congregation. After reviewing more than 50 resumes and interviewing 11 men, T.J. Gifford was employed in June. He, and his family, moved from Lebanon, VA to Cincinnati in July. The focus during July and August was settling into the new community and beginning to interact with the people in the community, especially around the church storefront location. The primary thrust was to set up Bible Studies and encourage people to visit with the congregation. On September 20, 2015 the first Sunday worship service of the Queen City Church of Christ was conducted. Thirty-two people attended that worship, including a substantial group of members from Washington Avenue. The October to December period was filled with continued efforts to establish Bible Studies, attracting visitors to worship, net-working with area businesses to acquaint them with the church plant (placing concerted attention on the places of business around the storefront) and seeking opportunities to assist in community support activities. By year end there were 3 members. At December 31st the congregation had been established; however, it was evident that a lot of hard work was ahead. Among the things that would need to be done was finding ways to become known…who we were, where we could be found and what we were about. Paramount in all of this was to be busy telling the story of Jesus. There is additional information about the church plant in the 2014 Interim History.
Mission activity in 2015 was not limited to the Cincinnati church plant. During the year David Rogers lead a mission trip to Nevis (a Caribbean Island). A total of 6 Washington Avenue members, both young and older, accompanied him on that trip. Other members of the congregation traveled to Guatemala on mission related activities. Danny Weddle, through his Bridge Builders mission effort, took 5 individuals to Guyana. Through our web-site we made 12 evangelistic contacts. The congregation also helped fund a number of college students who made international mission trips. Additionally, funding was provided to translate evangelistic material into Swahili, the native language of Tanzania. It is anticipated that this will enhance the evangelistic efforts underway in Tanzania. The long time congregational mission support of activities associated with Brazil, Tanzania, New Zealand and Hawesville continued. At home we continued to reach out to our community with the story of Jesus.
Though not strictly defined as mission activity, the congregation continued to be active in general evangelist outreach in 2015. The long-standing Bible Series presentation continued, a warm weather educational highlight known as the Summer Education Series (a series of presentations by guest speakers on Wednesday night) was included in the Bible Study curriculum and an Evangelism Skills Developmental workshop was conducted.
Washington Avenue members were very busy in 2015. Much of the activity was recurring, having by now become a part of the Washington Avenue fabric. Our college class participated in their annual “get away” weekend devotional, a number of the family members attended the Polishing the Pulpit educational presentation in Tennessee and a financial seminar was conducted. Senior Members were especially visible in service activities throughout the church family, addressing many critical needs. Along the way some new things surfaced; a bi-monthly Men’s Breakfast activity was started and our women initiated a regular devotional activity. More importantly, evidence of our members caring about and supporting each other was found on all fronts…running the gamut from health related care to all forms of encouragement. This is the short list; it by no means identifies all that the Washington Avenue family does when caring for each other.
Children, starting at birth and continuing through college, are important at Washington Avenue. Two Thousand Fifteen was no exception to this rule. This importance was demonstrated in Bible School programs, special training activities and social functions. A children’s library was created and a regular Story Time event touched the lives of young children and their families in a special way. In our older youth groups, it was seen in the summer teen campaign to assist the Vincennes congregation, the Washington Avenue Sonshine Youth Rally and preparing for a life of service to the Master at the Dexter Youth Rally and the Evangelism University youth activity. As has been the practice for several years, the church employed a Summer Intern to work with the various youth groups.
During the year two of the congregation’s deacons resigned; Larry Cornett who worked on our maintenance team (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning management) and David Orsburn who worked with our Senior Members. Both of these men had served the church family in an outstanding way for many years.
In 2015 the design work for a major auditorium renovation was started. The scope of the project anticipated new lighting, new carpeting, upgrading the pews with new padding (seats and backs), installing new wall finishes (removing the paneling and installing sound enhancing material), changing windows, replacing the audio system, adding advanced video capability and upgrading the pulpit area. Along with these changes, the foyer will be improved with better lighting, new carpeting and an electronic display for communicating information to the church family. The furniture in the Commons Area will be upgraded. The completion date is scheduled for mid-2016.
While Washington Avenue is “not all about numbers,” it is useful to be aware of such things as attendance trends and a limited financial picture. As 2015 closed, this was what the numbers looked like: Sunday morning worshp attendance averaged 349 while Bible School attendance averaged 262 and Sunday evening worship and Wednesday Bible Study averaged 215 and 219. The core contribution excluding investment interest/gains was $622,012 with a weekly average of $11,961.
In 2015 a generous estate gift, totaling $726,488, was received. The gift was unrestricted.
During the year 14 people were baptized, 5 individuals were restored, 21 people requested prayers and 5 individuals placed membership.
Two-thousand sixteen was a year that, in many ways, was like those that preceded it during the decade that began in 2010. A quick review of the prior-year interim reports will acquaint you with where Washington Avenue focuses its energies. Those practices continued to be seen in 2016 with the church family focusing on caring for and supporting each other across all demographic lines, enhancing our spiritual growth through the various educational programs and Biblical lessons presented by our ministers and executing the significant platform of programs (including an expanding mission emphasis) that make us “who we are.” Simply put, 2016 saw the Washington Avenue congregation focused on doing the things that resulted in the story of Jesus being told in our community, region and in selected locations around the globe, while at the same time encouraging each other in our journey to heaven.
There are, however, some things that warrant special comment:
• The congregation’s leadership was significantly expanded during 2016. Four additional elders (Dwight Burton, Alan Bush, Mark Shifflet and Tim Wiemer) were appointed. Nine additional deacons were also appointed (Jim Clem, David Greene, Scott King, Daniel LeMasters, Matt McDowell, David Schultheis, Rodney Sills, Keith Sutton and Barry White). Because of these appointments, the congregation’s leadership now consists of 9 elders, 19 deacons and 3 ministers (Stephen Rogers, Alan Bush and David Rogers). Make no mistake though, leadership at Washington Avenue comes from many additional sources ranging from Bible School teachers and department leaders, office staff, visitation and greeter teams…well, you get the idea. The Washington Avenue family is a team focused on telling the story of Jesus and helping each other reach heaven.
• The Queen City Church of Christ (Washington Avenue’s church plant in the Cincinnati area) continued to make progress…though with small steps forward and one significant backward movement.
In June T. J. Gifford, the minister employed in 2015, announced that he was resigning and returning to a ministry in an established congregation. After a year of work in the church plant environment, he concluded that he and his family could better serve the Master if he was devoting his energies to full-time preaching. The Queen City work was blessed by his effort and is grateful for his help.
An immediate effort was commenced to recruit a replacement minister and an employment agreement was reached. Because he was not a citizen of the US (his home country is Trinidad) the employment arrangement was conditional and required that Washington Avenue become an approved immigrant employer. At year end the application for such status was yet to be approved. In the interim, men from the Washington Avenue congregation commuted to Cincinnati each week to preach on Sunday.
In the face of multiple challenges, Sunday morning worship attendance grew and at year end typically 22-25 individuals were present. Among those individuals were Christians from other congregations who were giving strong consideration to placing membership with the Queen City congregation. The year closed with the infant congregation struggling to gain a foothold; nonetheless, there remained optimism that success was still within grasp and that two-thousand seventeen might be the turning point.
• The nearly 30-year mission relationship with Eddison Fowler was substantially expanded. During 2016 an agreement was reached whereby Washington Avenue assumed his sponsoring congregation role. In addition to providing direct financial support, the new partnership will allow assistance with many of the challenges he faces while dealing with the life issues that arise from living in two countries. For example, skilled members of the Washington Avenue congregation will provide guidance and/or assistance in retirement planning, insurance issues, investment management, stateside visit issues and cash flow management between him and his contributing congregations. Equally important to the “money related issues” is the establishment of a continuous communication channel that allows the exchange of ideas and an ongoing discussion of his work, while at the same time providing a platform for encouragement. Our relationship with the mission work in Belo Horizonte, Brazil has been rewarding over the past three decades; it seems destined to be more so in the future.
• Two-thousand sixteen saw the completion of a major facility renovation. The auditorium and foyer area underwent an extensive upgrade. The work included new pew padding, carpet replacement, new windows, lighting replacement, ceiling upgrades, HVAC modifications, pulpit area and baptistry enhancement, wall treatment, acoustical improvements, sound and video system replacement and new foyer/commons area furniture. The results dramatically changed the physical environment. Hopefully, these improvements will serve the congregation well into the future.
Looking back over the year, we find the common thread at Washington Avenue that continued to tie us together was our awareness that we are a family. That meant we paid attention to the needs of our children of all ages, the struggles of our individual families, and the challenges of our older members. It included crying together when we were hurting and celebrating successes when they occurred. Along the way, we found time to look beyond our doors to the needs of our community. Our worldview included telling the story of Jesus wherever the opportunity took us. All in all, 2016 was a good year; our ongoing prayer is that God will have seen us as doing our best to serve Him.
Statistics are sometimes helpful in making year to year trend comparisons relative to attendance and financial matters. At year end the 2016 numbers looked like: Sunday morning worship attendance averaged 358 while Bible School attendance averaged 256. Sunday evening worship attendance averaged 202 and Wednesday Bible Study attendance averaged 212. The core contribution, excluding investment interest and capital gains, was $608,043. The weekly average of member contributions was $11,693.
Prior year gifts from member estates continue to play an important role in supporting Washington Avenue’s work for the Master. Dividend and interest income, along with principal distributions, from these gifts expand the congregation’s ability to tell the story of Jesus.
During the year 12 people were baptized, 1 individual was restored, 23 people requested prayers and 7 individuals placed membership.