Pastor's Note

Pastor's Note

Senior Pastor, Rev. Kenneth S. Waclo

"Offer Them Christ"

There is a painting by American artist Kenneth Wyatt, commissioned for the Bicentennial Celebration of American Methodism in 1984, which shows John Wesley sending forth Thomas Coke and other servants as they set sail for the new colonies in America from the Village of Pill on the River Avon in 1784. With all that lay in front of them, Wesley gives a simple commission, “Offer them Christ.”

This month we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of Chestnut Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church South. Our story continues the simple commission of John Wesley. First, we were established in an area that had no Methodist churches in 1897. The church was established with a vision of the simple commission, “Offer Them Christ.”

Through determination, planning, and above all a dedication to Christ, Chestnut Avenue grew and flourished. Throughout the 1900’s our area saw rapid growth through the industries located in downtown Newport News. Growth became the driving force for more space to minister to more people. In 1967 the decision was made to explore a new location in which to “Offer Them Christ.” In the interim, a new denomination was formed in 1968 with the United Methodist Church coming into being in Dallas that year. In 1969 Chestnut Church merged with Peninsula Central. In 1970 the new church moved into its new location, which is where we are today. Chestnut Memorial honors the legacy and the vision to “Offer Them Christ” in our new setting. But we must always remember where we came from, the faithful servants who got us where we are, and the simple commission to “Offer Them Christ.”

In 2022 many things have occurred that are already shaping the future of Chestnut Memorial. In June the church bid farewell to a beloved pastor, Robert “Chappy” M. Chapman. In July Chestnut welcomed me to your community. As we have grown together amidst all the challenges around us, this month I invite you, gentle reader, to consider Wesley’s Charge: “Offer Them Christ.”

His charge is one we can undertake because it causes us to refocus our efforts on our work as disciples, and on our place as a church in our community. Yes, I am aware of the uncertainties that challenge our city, our nation, our world, even our denomination. I am aware of the divisions that exist, and yet what I sense is the strong desire for unity and purpose. A purpose not driven by denominational politics and conflict, a purpose not driven by one group or style being the better or the defining element of who we are, but rather a simple unity found in being a servant of Jesus Christ.

When we approach our daily lives, our work in and out of the church with an attitude of “How can I offer them Christ, today?” -- suddenly what seemed complicated, strained, and conflicted is now clear. There is Christ and only Christ. And what does Christ tell me? To be a brother or sister, to love one another, to serve, to be a means of grace. “Them” and “Us” have no place. Rather with Christ it is “How can we help?” or “How can we serve?”

Anniversaries and celebrations are important. But we must not lose sight of how we got to where we are today. We are Chestnut Memorial Church and we are here because like John Wesley or Thomas Coke or Rev. M.S. Colonna WE are simply called to “Offer Them Christ.” May God bless us and provide for us over our next 125 years. May God grant us grace for the future. May God strengthen our hearts for service in His Holy Name.