After 15 years, a new worshiping community becomes an official PC(USA) congregation
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Since arriving in Houston from Ghana, Pastor Ebenezer Boateng has persevered through many ups and downs.
But finally, the new worshiping community he founded, the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer, officially became a chartered congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
During its March 2020 meeting, the Presbytery of New Covenant agreed to charter Redeemer. But because of COVID-19, Redeemer would have to wait for the right time to hold a chartering service.
Finally, that right time occurred on December 5, 2021, right before the omicron variant began sweeping across the country.
Presbytery of New Covenant’s general presbyter, the Rev. Lynn Hargrove, called the ordination service “a glorious celebration.”
“It made me want to dance,” Hargrove said.
Boateng’s dream to create a PC(USA) congregation began in his Houston apartment in 2008. Coming to the city from Ghana, he’d spent two years getting to know others in Houston’s Ghanaian Presbyterian community. Then he began to gather people in his apartment for prayer and worship.
At first, Boateng worked with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, where he was an ordained minister, to create this new worshiping community. But when things didn’t work out he visited the Presbytery of New Covenant.
“I told the presbytery my story,” he said. “They welcomed and supported me with fellowship.”
This included a place to nest at St. John’s Presbyterian Church.
During this time, another Ghanaian community merged with Redeemer, which led to a leadership struggle. By 2014, only a small remnant of people committed to growing a PC(USA) church remained.
Then, in the fall of 2019, the building the Ghanaians were worshiping in flooded. Unable to return to St. John’s — the building was in the process of being condemned — they had nowhere to go.
‘Suddenly, we were all over the world, spreading our wings.’
So, by March 2020, when the pandemic hit churches across the country, Redeemer had already started Zoom worship.
“Suddenly we were all over the world, spreading our wings,” Boateng said. “People from Africa joined us online.”
By fall 2021, Redeemer had moved to a new home at ChristChurch Presbyterian in the Houston suburb of Bellaire.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Kristy Vits, is in a Bible study with Boateng. After finding out that he was still trying to find space for Redeemer to worship, she told him the congregation could nest at no cost at ChristChurch.
“Why not? We have lots of land and a giant building on a huge campus,” she said.
When Boateng found out Redeemer could worship in the ChristChurch sanctuary — and that he could even have office space — he was overjoyed.
“It’s an answer to our prayers, like a dream come true,” he said. “It’s something we haven’t experienced together, until now.”
ChristChurch is selling a big piece of its land and using the proceeds to build a new multipurpose building to house all its ministries, including a daycare.
“If they like nesting with us, they can use our new building after we sell the land,” Vits said.
Before Redeemer officially nested with ChristChurch, Vits set up a meeting with Boateng and the Bellaire police chief.
“I didn’t want to insult the police, but they need to work on racial profiling,” she said. “I let them know what we were doing, that people who’d come from a different country, who don’t look the same as we do, are coming to our church — and that I didn’t want them making any trouble.”
Hargrove, the general presbyter, believes Jesus is rejoicing that Redeemer and ChristChurch have gotten together. When churches work on a nesting situation, she said, it’s critically important for it not to feel like a landlord situation — but more like a partnership.
“Redeemer doesn’t feel like they’re less than now,” she said.
‘It’s the most fun I’ve had in 22 years of being ordained.’
Vits acknowledges that ChristChurch is a small congregation that could have easily been closed. But after nine years of serving the church, she said it’s wonderful to get affirmation of the decision to hang in there.
Calling it an “unexpected and delightful surprise” to have another congregation with them, Vits said, “It’s the most fun I’ve had in 22 years of being ordained.”
And she believes ChristChurch and Redeemer have a wonderful opportunity to show that God will do what God does — no matter what the institutional church believes, and sometimes in spite of what it believes.
The Rev. Shawn Kang, the 1001 NWC associate for the Central and Western Region, described it as “a shot in the arm” to witness the joyful spirit of the service.
“The relationship between these two churches, the presbytery and the New Worshiping Communities movement is what the connectional church should be — and do,” he said.
Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer received support from the Presbyterian Mission Agency with Mission Programs Grants. Available through Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, the grants support the transforming work of new worshiping communities and Presbyterian mid councils.
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.
Categories: Mission Program Grants, Racial Justice, Worshiping Communities
Tags: 1001 new worshiping communities, christchurch presbyterian, covid-19, Mission Program Grants, pandemic, presbyterian church of ghana, presbyterian church of the redeemer, presbytery of new covenant, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Rev. Ebenezer Boateng, rev. kristy vits, rev. lynn hargrove, rev. shawn kang, st. john's presbyterian church houston, theology formation & evangelism
Tags: chartering service, church, church of the redeemer, daniel ahenkora, ebenezer boateng, new worshiping, new worshiping communities, new worshiping community, pc(usa congregation, photo by daniel, photo by daniel ahenkora, presbyterian, presbyterian church, presbyterian church of the redeemer, presbytery of new covenant, redeemer, redeemer officially, spreading our wings, world spreading our wings, worshiping community
Ministries: 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Mission Program Grants