History of New Life in Christ Church
The history of New Life in Christ Church is a remarkable story of the loving leading of the Lord and the foresight and commitment of the faithful. It is marked by dependence on and surprises by God. While hope in the Lord’s plan for our church has stirred us to action, some dreams have not come about, and others were postponed. Still, throughout the past nearly 50 years the Lord has led us to fulfill what He wants for us.
In the early 1970s several couples met for Bible study and became bonded by their desire to serve God in the Fredericksburg area. In 1972 the Fulks moved their young family to Fredericksburg to continue farming. They found a church home in one of the few non-denominational ministries in the area. Christian Women’s Club recently started in the area and asked the M.R. and Judy to begin a couples Bible study.. Excitement for studying God’s Word deepened.
With a growing nucleus of committed believers came the question: What do we do after we come to faith in Jesus Christ? There was a desire to establish a church that would provide more in-depth study of God’s Word.
In 1975 this small but growing group from different denominational backgrounds called Doug Kittredge to serve as pastor. He was serving in Trenton, New Jersey and seeking a pastorate. Our first worship service with Pastor Doug leading was on July 13, 1975 with 33 people packed into the Kittredge living room at 301 Lorraine Avenue. The house was owned by Jerry and Mary Heddings, members of the initial group that called Doug and Mary Jane. The name “New Life in Christ” was chosen as the expression of hope and joy in Christ.
During the summer of 1975 New Life held several worship services on the lawn of Belvedere, the Fulks farm. Those who attended brought lawn chairs. When there was rain, the service was held in the farm’s large metal shop building. It was at a TV station on August 31, 1975 that New Life celebrated its first communion service with 52 present, and the message of the Gospel through New Life has been cast broadly ever since.
For three years God led the young congregation from one place to another like nomads, sometimes not knowing where we would meet the following Sunday. Locations included the local abandoned TV station building and a six-month visit to Hugh Mercer Elementary School, where we had our first missionary conference with Pam Allen, then living in the D.C. area. This relationship with her laid the groundwork for our long-term interest in international ministries. In 1977 it was on to the Ruritan Building with Sunday School classes in nearby homes. Within a few months we settled at Sulphur Springs Christian School, the first Christian school in the area.
It did not take long for us to realize that our growing congregation needed a permanent home. This became a congregational goal. The Lord gave us a creative direction. Rather than construct a new building, we purchased an old warehouse at 632 Kenmore Avenue in downtown Fredericksburg and made it fit our needs. Resourcefulness and ingenuity have been operative characteristics of New Life from the start. Our church members transformed the warehouse into a space for worship and our developing programs. In November 1978 we moved into our renovated facility.
It was during our years at the Kenmore Avenue site that New Life began to expand its ministerial programs, including Child Evangelism, Awana, and the puppet ministry. In addition, church members became instrumental in Christian programs outside the church: 90 Joy Radio, Logos Christian Bookstore, Fredericksburg Christian School, Young Life, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Prison Ministry, Fredericksburg Homeless Shelter, and Bethany Christian Services. These were early years of challenges and ministry building, reaching into the community with the Gospel. Pastoral interns learned under the guidance of Pastor Doug. New Life Community Church of Stafford was planted by the nurturing of Dennis Rupert, Pastor Doug and members of New Life. The Lord worked with us in and outside our building’s walls. There was strong participation in the Ralph Bell Crusade of Billy Graham Ministries. Strong relationships developed with community leaders, such as Mayor Lawrence Davies, Bowie Curry, Pastor Revell of Highway Assembly of God, Pastor Elwood Campbell of First Christian Church, and Pastor Harlan White of Grace Memorial Church. God was using New Life in many situations to be a catalyst for unity and ministry in the Christian community.
As the congregation grew, more staff came onboard, and more ministries were initiated. In 1984 Bob Becker began service as youth director. The first international mission trip to Mexico came under his leadership. Several domestic mission trips emerged, as well. In all, the mission's focus of New Life solidified during the 1980s. We cared for Kefa Sempangi, a refugee pastor from Africa, his wife, Penny, and their four children, providing them a home in Ferry Farm for over two years. We began what has been a continuous relationship with Paul and Marty Clark from Scripture Union missionaries. We supported “Meetings for Better Understanding” with the Manassas Mosque. Inspired by the Apostle Paul’s example, Cal and Pauline Rohman left for a year in Africa to serve through their agricultural skills. There were visits from Gary and Elaine Allen, missionaries at the UN, Karl and Debbie Dortzbach who served in East Africa, Debbie Rohman who helped plant churches in Japan, Frank and Nancy Hannon who had a unique ministry through Greater Europe Mission in Austria, and Phil and Ann Schwab who served in China. In the early years at Kenmore Avenue, the missions budget increased from $10,000 dollars to $50,000 a year, two elders left for seminary and are now pastors, and forty people were sent on mission trips.
Growth meant more people and fewer seats for Sunday service. As a result, we went to two services, thus reducing the opportunities for our whole congregation to meet at one time. By the mid-1980s, we began to assess our long-term plans for growth.
With the increase in church membership, its ministries and a view to expand our ministry to house Fredericksburg Christian School, in 1985 New Life purchased property in Spotsylvania County, our present location, through contact between Mrs. Pearl White and Pastor Doug. The property cost $72,000. We began a capital campaign to raise funds for the planning and construction of our current facility. With Vision Ahead, the stewardship campaign, brought a challenge to New Life, and we pledged over $400,000 over a three-year period. Although the building project in fact would end up costing nearly $900,000, the faithfulness and good stewardship of New Life’s people, who responded to the abundant provision of God, yielded a paid property within the decade. Our first service in our new building came in 1988. Love for God’s Word and love for people characterized the congregation as God richly blessed His people. As Jesus promised, Christ was building His church.
Being greatly blessed with a growing congregation, our new building provided the necessary space for our Sunday services. For the first time in a number of years, we were able to have one rather than two worship services. Further, our Sunday School attendance boomed, and we had room for all children’s grade levels as well as three adult classes. Fredericksburg Christian School’s elementary program moved to our facility. We were able to accommodate the banquet space needs of several local ministries.
The 1990s into the first decade of the 2000s began the period of self-examination to our congregation in the reassessment of our vision. While the Lord richly blessed our material needs, He challenged us to define our spiritual, governmental, doctrinal, and out-reach aspects. The growth of these years was a maturation and clarification of God’s purpose for New Life and a strong reminder that we are always in complete dependence on our God for every part of our corporate, family and individual lives. Indeed, the Lord is faithful. We struggled. God refined. We began to examine the historic roots of Christ’s church. Included in this was a study of the Westminster Confession of Faith which was adopted by 1996. As God sifted our hearts and congregation, we came under the care of the James River Presbytery in November of 1998. Our Savior led us to make a commitment to the standard teaching of historic Christian orthodoxy as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as we became part of the Presbyterian Church of America denomination.
In 2001 we were able to provide space for a Korean congregation plant, and they eventually particularized as New Life Korean Church in 2018. That decade also established New Life in Christ Church as an extension of New Geneva Theological Seminary (2002), as part of our mission “to build the Kingdom through training leaders.” That period also began our commitment to congregations in Israel, and an outreach to Muslims. In 2007, Pastor Leonard Bailey and his wife, Amy, came to Stafford and planted Hope of Christ Church in 2008. A church planting network was established with a vision to plant more churches in our region, the nation and the world. In 2013, God blessed our church planting network with another new church, Evident Grace Fellowship, in Spotsylvania. Through the Jerusalem Gateway Partnership, we continue to assist three congregations in Israel and one in Bethlehem to plant a congregation. We developed an outreach to Afghan refugees in the Fredericksburg area. Mission trips to Israel, Peru, and Cherokee, NC continue each year, as well as periodic trips to other parts of our country and the world. We continue to see those from New Life called to gospel ministry and to missions.
In 2005, as a result of our fellowship with New Geneva Seminary, the Lord graciously lead Sean and Julie Whitenack to our congregation. Sean was called to serve as Assistant Pastor. His enthusiastic support of the ministry enabled the young adult ministry to grow and mature, thus providing a new generation of leaders. Later, Pastor Sean became Associate Pastor.
In 2011 we finished our "Delighting in God" building campaign, culminating in the completion of a large addition of over 20,000 square feet at the back of our church building. That space provided for additional classrooms, a music room, and a youth room.
Essential to our ministry is the service of Jonathan and Veronica. As musicians and educators, they have trained two generations of “lead worshippers” through chimes, bells, and choirs and worship teams. They, with others in the Arts ministry, including Esther Servais (drama director) and Judy Hinson (Bible-themes musical composer) have shaped New Life as a worshipping and joyful congregation. Their collaborations resulted in several musicals. Judy composed Esther: For Such a Time as This and Daniel: Not Alone. Also, they teamed up to produce Moses and the Burning Within (written by David Kauffman and William Gokelman), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (by Tim Rice), Fiddler on the Roof (Music: Jerry Bock, Book: Joseph Stein, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick). In addition, there have been a number of other church plays, all featuring the talents of members of our congregation as actors, instrumentalists, stage crafters, sound and video technicians, and other supportive roles.
As New Life in Christ Church moves toward its 50th year, we are reassured of how rich and fulfilling the gifts and talents that the Lord has lavishly given us to exercise in our service to Him. The extent of our ministries is evidence of this. New ministries and affiliations emerged, and old ones expanded in the late 90s to the present. These include affiliation with Choices Women’s Center in Fredericksburg in partnership with several other local churches. Care Groups, weekly meetings of small groups engaged in Bible-centered studies, Christian growth and mutual support continue to be essential to the life of our church. Additionally, there are currently approximately forty ministries thriving at New Life, including Abundant Foster and Adoption, Central Virginia Justice Initiative (combating human trafficking), College Outreach, Christ Covenant School, Evangelism Explosion, Christian Boys Service Brigade, Pioneer Girls, Women’s Ministry, Drama and Arts (including choirs for all ages), Food Pantry, Vacation Bible School, Thanksgiving, Baseball, Young Adults, Nursery, as well as several others, each with its coordinator reporting to the Session. Our building is a home for these ministries. New Life is a family that supports all those who serve in our community and internationally.
In 2019, Pastor Doug Kittredge, together with his wife Mary Jane, decided it was time to step aside and ask God to provide the next leader for the church. Convinced of his call to continue service to New Life, the church elected Pastor Sean to be the next lead pastor. Pastor Doug, as “Founding Pastor” continues to serve. Pastor Sam Capitano received the call to serve as Assistant Pastor for Congregational Life. In 2019, Skip Tyler was ordained to the gospel ministry and now serves as Assistant Pastor of Congregational Care. He has been instrumental in building support structures for aging members.
As we reflect on the past half-century of our existence, we are firmly aware of our dependence on and commitment to Jesus Christ’s love for our church, community and the world. We continue to seek His guidance, grateful for where He has taken us and where He will lead us in the future. The Lord is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is our joy and delight. Our desire is to magnify and exalt His name.