Paying it forward

Father David Epps's picture

In 1996, Christ the King Church began in my living room. Within a few weeks we had outgrown the space (it doesn’t take very many people to outgrow a living room).

In searching for a place for our budding congregation, we looked at schools (all places filled up), other churches (not available in our time preference), and rental property (totally, outrageously unaffordable).

In the end, we were offered space by Carmichael-Hemperly Funeral Home and began a six-year journey meeting in a funeral home chapel.

We had steady growth, constant visitors, over 70 baptisms, and even three (or was it four?) weddings in the funeral home chapel. Yes, we were the butt of jokes (“Which room is the groom laid out in?” “Do you use a coffin for a baptistry?”) but it was well worth it to be where we are today.

Because of their kindness and generosity, we were able to save our money and purchase nearly 12 acres of land and, eventually, build a sanctuary and, later, a fellowship hall with a nursery and children’s classrooms. How do you repay someone for something like that?

A few months ago, we were approached by Christ Presbyterian Church (a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America) an inquiry was made into the use of our facilities. Although CPC was eight years old and had gathered a number of people, they were paying a crushing amount of rent in a shopping center. It’s tough to get ahead when so much is spent paying the rent.

We had been approached earlier by another start-up church but our bishop felt that congregation was too similar to ours and settled the matter.

But CPC was different. While we share the essentials of the faith, we have a different way of expressing that faith. We are siblings in the faith but not identical twins.

But that wasn’t even the issue. The issue was, for us, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:49 KJV).

So, beginning this Sunday evening, Christ the King Charismatic Episcopal Church will be honored to serve as host to Christ Presbyterian Church. Our Rector’s Council met with their Session and immediately forged a bond. John Wesley said, “If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand.” So we are sharing space and are joining hearts and hands.

Will there be problems as we live in close quarters? Perhaps, but isn’t that a part of life and of growth? We tried to be good guests at the funeral home and we have no doubt that CPC will follow suit. We only hope to be good and gracious hosts.

Truthfully, we are excited. As a congregation, we have an opportunity to sow into another faith community that is seeking to do what we ourselves are doing — proclaiming the Gospel, ministering to the “least, the lost, and the lonely,” gathering to worship God, and teaching the faithful.

The pastor of CPC said that he and the Session didn’t know how to say thanks. There is a way.

Someday, probably in the near future, they will have their own building. Eventually, a new congregation will inquire about using their facilities. Then the cycle will begin all over again.

I believe they call that, “paying it forward.”

And Carmichael-Hemperly? After we left, another new congregation asked about using their facilities. An Anglican congregation currently meets there every Sunday morning. Perhaps someday they, too, will be able to “pay it forward.”

Who knew that a funeral home could be so involved in quietly contributing to the Kingdom of God? It’s easy to talk about unity and to lament our divisions. But Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35 KJV).

[David Epps is the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He also serve as the bishop to the Mid-South Diocese (ICCEC) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Church in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at A website is available at]

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