Nov 01, 2011 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The DeWitt Community Church held a grand celebration to honor 200 years of worship Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Oncenter, where church members viewed a video produced by associate minister the Rev. Erica Van Brakle documenting the church’s rich history. The next morning, senior minister the Rev. Mark Sommers, who came to the church in 2008, spoke to a full capacity DeWitt Community Church about what lies ahead.
“This whole year we’ve spent a whole lot of time looking at the first two centuries of ministry, remembering our past, and celebrating the journey that has brought us to this time and this place,” Sommers said in his sermon. “But now we switch gears, and our focus is on Century Three.”
Sommers remarked on the leadership of “some amazingly gifted pastors in recent years who were filled with Godly vision.” Between 1937 and 2004 the church had only one change in full-time senior ministers.
The Rev. Alexander Carmichel transformed the church in 1937. According to the DCC’s records, he was “called to begin an inter-denominational church” in which “faith is more important than the creed … and church and community must work together.” The church grew at this time, as did the DeWitt area.
Carmichel retired after 44 years as senior minister in 1981, and the Rev. Edwin Taylor was installed on May 3, 1981. He stayed with the church until 2004.
“We are all beneficiaries of their blood and their sweat and their tears,” Sommers said. “But now it’s our turn. And what we do now will greatly impact the kind of celebration that takes place here in 2111.”
Sommers preached about ways to move the church forward.
“We can take what has been handed to us and we can invest it in the future, or we can play it safe, try to hang on to what we have, but it will slip through our finger tips,” he said.
He spoke of the church’s historically innovative tendency and its ability think outside the box and be “way ahead of the curve,” before stressing the church’s historically powerful role in the entire Syracuse area. He remarked briefly on the church’s capital improvement plan, now in development, before outlining the philosophy and goals of the ministry moving forward.
“We are a Christ-centered congregation … and we will be a church focused on community,” he said. “Community, after all, is our middle name, and we want to be a place where people are connected and cared for, and a community that has a huge, huge welcome mat out front. We [have always been a church that is] focused on worship, and we will honor the traditions of the past, and at the same time we’ll expand on what we offer and develop new services that are better able to connect with the current culture. We will be a multi-generational church, and we will work hard at breaking down silos that separate children and youth and adults and senior adults. We want to be a church where every age range finds a home and learns from each other. You know, on a typical Sunday we have 80 to 100 youth and children here in this building. We don’t see them. We gotta fix that.”
Sommers said the church will be one that teaches scripture, but “not in some narrow ridged kind of way, where questions and even disagreements are put off. No, we honor those. That’s the DNA of this church.”
The Rev. Mark Sommers and associate ministers David and Erika Van Brakle were installed during a service celebrating their leadership Sunday, Oct. 2. Kay Paulsen, a musician-turned-director of congregational care and compassion ministries, was also licensed as lay minister. The DeWitt Community Church is composed of nearly 2,000 members, and is a self-governing congregation of Christians from many social and faith backgrounds.