ELIZABETHTOWN — The Rev. Chris Denny, pastor of Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church for five years, preached his last sermon in Bladen County on Sunday.
“Elizabethtown Presbyterian is a wonderful church,” said Denny. “It has an amazing history of worship leadership. The music ministry there with Sylvia Campbell and others is tremendous. I can’t tell you how many gifted vocalist and singers there are in that congregation. It’s just one of the things I’ll miss.”
“We hate to lose somebody that served five years faithfully and loved the congregation,” said Elizabethtown Presbyterian member Mac Campbell. “The reality is he felt called to another church, and we wish him well.”
In his five-year tenure in Elizabethtown, Denny ministered not only to his congregation, but to the county. In addition to membership in the Rotary Club and involvement in the Elizabethtown/White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Denny served as president of Bladen Crisis Assistance and as chair of the selection committee for Bladen County Habitat for Humanity. He worked with Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor and many other community leaders to improve the lives of residents and address challenges in the county.
“In our particular church, we have a lot of people involved in the community,” said Campbell. “Chris bought into that quickly and became involved in organizations doing a lot of good things in the community.”
One of the things Denny said he is most proud of is an effort made to bridge generational divides among the congregation.
“We worked really hard to build those bridges, and on Wednesday nights, we would see children running up to adults and hugging them or talking to them. The children knew the adults’ names and vice versa. We saw them growing in love for each other and for God.”
Out of the bridge-building ministry was birthed a a new ministry. When some middle-school students led worship one Sunday, they appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity so much that they asked to be able to do it every week.
“Every Sunday, they have opportunity to lead in worship and in (a prayer),” said Denny. “The confidence they get to do public speaking and to lead others has been wonderful to see. Sometimes it’s the person you think least likely who will get up there with boldness.”
At the farewell service Sunday were worshippers from the eight Presbyterian churches in the Bladen Parish.
“These eight churches, some white and some African American, come together every fifth Sunday for worship,” said Denny. “That’s been a powerful experience and was one of the reasons I came here — because they were committed to working together. I’ll miss that experience.”
After the service, the congregation presented Denny and his family with a financial gift and the “Dr. Chris Denny” lettering from the church sign. Monday was moving day, and Denny said he placed the lettering above the doorway from the garage so he would see it as he enters his home and be reminded of the Elizabethtown congregation.
“It’s been our joy to serve in Bladen County,” said Denny. “It’s a wonderful church, and we loved being in Elizabethtown. It’s been a hard thing to leave such wonderful people. Bladen County natives just don’t realize what a gift they have.”
On Oct. 23, Denny will begin his new charge as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.