By Everett Brail, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — First Presbyterian Church, located at Eighth and Walnut, has proudly served the church community for more than a century. Unfortunately, they recently closed their doors due to a dwindling congregation. New life is being breathed into the structure, however as a new ministry has begun holding services, and seeks to reach out Newkirk’s younger generations.
Mark Southard pastored the church about eight years before their last service Nov. 20, which had about 50 in attendance that morning.
“We were averaging about 15 each service,” he said.
Southard is now the interim pastor at Ponca City First Presbyterian Church.
Clayton and Jessica Pappan are two of the leaders at the new church, Rise Up Ministries, which has now started holding services each Sunday. The Pappans have been members and ministers at Life.Church in Ponca City, and how their paths crossed may seem like a work of God Himself.
Southard and the church members at First Presbyterian did not want the building to go to waste, sitting on the corner gathering dust inside, and began reaching out to the church community, specifically Life.Church in Ponca City.
“When we came to the decision that the Presbyterian congregation need to close, it was very important to the group that we find a use for the facility,” Southard said. “Unlike a lot of churches that get to the end of their life, the building itself is in good shape, and our financial situation was adequate, just low on people.”
The Pappans also were seeking a new ministry of their own.
“I’ve been in ministry full time about six years now, and God drastically changed my life, and turned my world upside down, and lit a fire in my heart that I couldn’t do anything else but ministry,” Pappan said.
The church reached out to Life.Church, and while they declined the facility, the Pappans found their own opportunity for ministry.
“Life.Church was not interested, but God was telling me to reach out to Mark,” he said.
They soon found themselves in front of the church board for an interview process.
“We invited then to our (administration board) session and asked them to tell us how they felt the calling from God was and they sat down and there was not a dry eye in the place,” Southard said.
Rise Up Ministries opened their doors at the beginning of January for a fresh new start in the new year.
“I wanted to start in January because I felt this was going to be a new year, new start,” he said. “We had a New Year celebration, which was just worship and praying. You don’t have to be perfect.”
They are receiving help from co-ministers Ryan and Chelsea Chapman, also from Life.Church, and together, they have transformed the church, adding new musical instruments such as guitars and drums, and new screens that display the words of the praise songs. Purple lighting also brings a new ambiance, and church pews are being replaced by moveable chairs.
Fellowship Hall has also been re-arranged, with the removal of the tables and the addition of rows of chairs for youth students.
Even the basement below is being adapted to children’s ministry, which will be led by Jessica and Chelsea.
It is those kids they are reaching out to the most, with a fresh, youthful contemporary service designed to bring them to church.
“We’re reaching the lost, pouring into the community,” Clayton said. “The building is a tool to use, but the people are the church, and our hope is to not be just in the building, but in the community.”
Even though it’s been only a few weeks, they have already seen success, but with fellow Life.Church members, but also Newkirk.
“We had about 135 our first service, and a little over 500 online because we Facebook the services,” Clayton said.
As for the ministry’s name, it is simply a move to get out of the church and into the community.
“It is time to for the church to rise up and reach the world for Christ,” he said.