Parkway Wesleyan Church – Staunton, VA
Our journey to Parkway Wesleyan Church has an interesting backstory which I will get to shortly. Toward the end of 2008, we felt that God was releasing us from the ministry at Preston Wesleyan. In January of 2009, I attended FLAME at Table Rock Retreat Center in Pickens, SC. Pam went with me so that she could take classes and I led the worship. Upon our arrival back in Martinsville, we received two calls, one from our District Superintendent – he had asked how FLAME went and if we were going to pursue ministry at Preston that year. I said that I felt that the Lord had released us from the ministry that we would soon begin our search for a new place of ministry. Later that day, I also received a call from Barry Lawson, the pastor at Parkway in Staunton. He was looking for a music and youth person to come on staff. He had heard that we were released from the ministry and were beginning our search for a new ministry. He asked about my experience and said, “You might be overqualified.” I responded, “Let’s keep talking.”
Here’s where the backstory comes in. It turns out that I was recommended by Shirley and David Duncan. David and Shirley had attended our district’s Minister and Spouses Gathering the year before, which just so happened to be held in Staunton. I led worship that year – during the course of the gathering, I remarked to Pam how much I could really be called to Staunton – because of the beauty of the countryside and the city. Shirley is the Development Director for Hephzibah Ministries in Macon, GA. They came to tell their story. David is an ordained Wesleyan pastor and a bit of an entertainer – if you’ve met him, you know what I mean. Each year Hephzibah holds a gathering in Gatlinburg, TN. Several of the members of Parkway attend each year. During that gathering, the Parkway members mentioned that they were looking for a worship pastor and David and Shirley recommended me. The members came back to Parkway and when the subject came up, they suggested me. I find that an interesting story and I only learned of it several years later, during one of our district conferences that David and Shirley attended.
So in June of 2009, our family said goodbye to Martinsville and moved to Staunton – which is the home of the Statler Brothers (a boyhood influence of mine) and where Woodrow Wilson was born. So, actually we moved to Waynesboro. The Waynesboro Wesleyan Church was between pastors, so we moved into the parsonage there until a house could be built for us on the church property. Anna headed off to college at Southern Wesleyan that fall, so James was our last child in the house, and because we didn’t want to have to move him part way through the years, one of our dear friends at the new church (who was a school
counselor) helped make the arrangements – even though that meant a commute twice a day to pick up James and bring him home. It helped that I was full-time at the church – and the church and school were only 5 miles from each other.
On the first Sunday of July we began our ministry at Parkway. It would be the first time since we were at Lakeview that I would not need to make a songsheet for worship. Parkway had a projector. It would be the first church where I would lead worship without hymnals in the seats – everything was projected. We quickly upgraded from Powerpoint to EasyWorship – for one EasyWorship has a song database, so that we didn’t have to constantly make new slides or import them from old presentations. At Parkway, I quickly stepped into leading with guitar and played the occasional bass, and when the keyboardist was away, keyboards. When we got here, it was the first church where we using a digital keyboard rather than piano. I loved the fact that it went straight into the sound system and it was always in tune. Toward the end of our time here though the old Roland A-90 had some issues, so we replaced it with the new Roland RD-800, which by the way is a great keyboard. I much prefer it to an acoustic piano. Parkway would also be the first church where I had a praise team from the beginning and no choir except for special presentations. When we came, Parkway was on the traditional side of blended and when we left, I would say we were on the more modern side of blended. We used music from many different sources – traditional hymns, gospel songs of our holiness heritage, traditional worship choruses, and many of the newer songs.
Since these posts are about worship and music, I won’t mention much about the other part of my calling which was student ministries. I ready don’t consider myself much of a youth pastor, but we had a good group of kids and had good times – there was SummerFest, WinterJam, the Rock and Worship Roadshow, hiking, photo scavenger hunts, lock-ins, and the annual snow trip to Massanutten.
Another part of Parkway that was big was its emphasis on missions, both around the world and across the street. We had a great Global Ministries Team and each year there were opportunities to go on missions trip. We had several trips to Guatemala and El Salvador
FLAME Gives Back Missions Team
and while I was there, I took another man onto a mission trip to the Navajo Nation for a “FLAME Gives Back” missions trip. I think we had some of the roughest conditions of any team because we had no running water, or regular electricity. We only had electricity when the generator was running. Also at Christmas of 2014, our family when on a Student Ministries missions trip to Hephzibah. It was a great trip.
Parkway would be the first church since Flint that we would have a drummer – at least for a year or two. We had a very interesting sound with acoustic guitar, keys, flute, drums and singers. Anna called it indie hipster worship. I really liked the acoustic sound and the congregation at Parkway can sing.
Playing at District Conference – what a great band to be part of. Picture courtesy of Shirley Duncan.
While at Parkway, I would also get the opportunity to be part of the district praise band for District Conference. The first year I played bass, the next couple I was on electric – which was a real stretch for me. Last year, I played acoustic. Anna also played several years. I really enjoyed that. Also on a district level I was able to lead one or two Minister and Spouses Gatherings – this time on our home turf. Also it was during this time that Pam was ordained and headed up the Children’s Ministry.
In addition to all the above – I really became a wiz at tech stuff, because I had to. I learned much more about networking than I ever planned. We had a big building and it was hard to get wi-fi coverage over the whole building and then someone (me) wanted to be able to print from anywhere in the building. I also did quite a bit on our web presence (Website, social media, etc.)
During my time there we also did quite a bit of aesthetic changes to the multi-purpose room where we worshiped. (Click the images to enlarge.)
The new acoustic sound panels
How it looked near the end of our time
The sanctuary when we arrived at Parkway
When we got there, I spent considerable time making the sound system sound better, but we had problems with an echo of three seconds. That was solved by acoustic sound panels – what a difference that made when we added those. A family also donated a beautiful stained-glass window of Jesus ascension. In addition, we had someone donate banners that we put on the platform, all to give it a more worshipful feeling, rather than a gym.
We also upgraded the sound system, started livestreaming the services and this was a first for me, recorded the services on computer and then burned CD’s of the service. So as you can see, Parkway was different than some of the other places we served.
However, February of last year, we felt God was releasing us from the ministry there, so Pam and I resigned and said some very tearful goodbyes. Next week I will write about the year in-between.
What I looked like when we moved to Staunton – in case anyone forgot.
Edit: I can’t believe that I didn’t put this in at first – but my time at Parkway was instrumental in me getting fit. It was August 31, 2009, I first put on running shoes for the sake of running and ran/walked 1 mile at the Lee High School track. I was 260+ pounds at the time. Three months later I would run (all the way) my first 5K. The following October I would run my first long race – the now defunct Staunton 10 Miler. There were several 5K’s in there, but then my first big achievement – the Park to Park Half Marathon. For the next 4 years I would run that. Following that is my huge achievement of running the Richmond Marathon. In the process I shed over 70 pounds and have stayed that way. Talk about influence. It was the gentle prodding of our lead pastor that encouraged me to get fit and do it by running and I am glad he did and glad I listened.