Posts Tagged ‘ New Life Baptist Church ’

New Life Baptist Church, Part II – Visited on 2/10/2012

The office of Rev. Dean Reynolds at New Life Baptist Church is a small, cluttered workspace: stacks of books and papers, teaching materials and devotional texts, family photos.  He keeps the door closed—it is a cold morning, and the church is expensive to heat.

New Life Baptist occupies a building that was once the machine shop of a firm that made spiral staircases.  The great collapse of America’s real estate market in 2008 demolished the company and left its cavernous workspace vacant.  Very little of the building’s former occupants remain now.  Its interior was reshaped by the diligent hands of New Life’s congregation, partitioned into sanctuary, offices, classrooms.  Only in the sanctuary, in the glow of industrial halogen lamps, with the metal serpent of the room’s ventilation coiling along the ceiling, does its former identity peek through.

In that cluttered office Rev. Reynolds told me his life story.  He was raised in Rock Hill, SC, in the congregation of Eastside Baptist Church.  He said that his decision to become a minister came at an early age.  Reynolds was sixteen when, as he requested prayers for his then-fiancé’s alcoholic father, his pastor asked “When are you gonna give up and do what God’s called you to do?”  Dean’s response, which surprised him at least as much as the rest of the congregation, was to call out “I will preach God.”

At sixteen, Dean Reynolds did not become a man of the cloth immediately.  He finished high school and spent a year afterward working to pay off his car.  He then attended Charleston Southern University, and for three years immersed himself deeper and deeper in the youth revival movement of the late 1970s.

Reynolds became a singer and a preacher.  After three years at CSU he dropped out of college to form a gospel quartet.  The group spent a year touring the Carolinas, singing to faithful Baptists.  He married during that time, and after a brief post-quartet career selling insurance he became a youth minister.

All this was decades ago.  It was not till 2008, the year of the great economic collapse, that Reynolds came to New Life Baptist.  By that time he was a veteran minister with a degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, having risen from youth ministry to the head of his own congregations.  When he arrived, New Life was renting space each week at Lake Pointe Academy, a facility of New River Community Church in Lake Wylie, SC.

Not long after he joined New Life as its pastor, Reynolds led the church to its new site in Clover.  With help from a crew hired by the landlord, the congregation of New Life reshaped the defunct industrial space into a place of worship.  Three years later, the church has sunk firm roots into its new home.

New Life Baptist works with other groups in the Clover area to provide charitable aid through programs that include God’s Kitchen (mentioned here: http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-64) and the Palmetto Pregnancy Center (mentioned here: http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-68).  The church also supports Baptist missionary work overseas.  It has no relations or partnerships with the institutions of York County’s sizeable Catholic minority.

From his post at New Life, Rev. Reynolds teaches a very specific doctrine.  He believes that we can learn, with certainty, where are souls are bound for after death.  He believes this rests entirely upon one condition: whether or not one “accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior.”  From that, according to Reynolds’ description, all else follows.

He does not believe in sex outside of marriage, or in the use of contraceptives outside of monogamous married relationships.  Based on his reading of the Book of Revelation and his interpretation of current events he believes that the “Rapture,” the apocalyptic end of this age of the world, is near at hand.

Regarding the relationship between Church and State, he believes that the two should be separate.  He is against government attempting to “regulate or in any way impose the church from doing the work it’s called by God to do.”  He particularly fears that new legislation may force religious groups to provide contraceptive care.  According to him Christians need to be involved in the processes of government, but he feels that political activism lies outside his own calling.

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New Life Baptist Church Part I, Visited on 2/5/2012

New Life Baptist Church is somewhat difficult to reach.  The church does not have its own free-standing building.  It does not occupy a shop front or a school.  A banner on the side of Hwy 321, in the middle of Clover, SC, directs the seeker down the gravel parking lot of a local business headquarters.  Behind the main office, in the rooms of a repurposed warehouse building, lies New Life Baptist.

It turns out a repurposed warehouse is a fairly practical space for a small church.  With minimal retrofitting the structure’s business offices became church offices and classrooms, while the warehouse proper held the church’s sanctuary.

Two wide columns of cushioned seats filled most of the sanctuary’s floor space.  A stage rose before them with room enough for a full drum set, a palisade of microphone and instrument stands, a keyboard in one corner and a pulpit of transparent plastic.  A huge screen for an overhead projector hung above the drum set.  Two pastel banners, one painted with the word ‘peace,’ the other with ‘love,’ hung from one wall.  At stage left stood an American flag; at stage right stood a Christian flag of identical proportions.

The congregation of New Life Baptist was a more evenly distributed mix of age groups than Churchspotting normally sees.  Certainly there were many older worshippers in evidence, but at least three generations of families were present.  Dress seemed to be a matter of personal preference.  No one in the congregation arrived in anything more formal than a collared shirt and khaki pants, but many came to worship in t-shirts and jeans.  Older members of New Life Baptist favored more reserved clothing, but the teenagers came dressed for a day at school.  The full congregation, including young children who spent much of the service in a separate Children’s Church, came to around seventy worshippers.

New Life Baptist’s music was all produced by the congregation.  Members of the group manned the microphones and played the instruments on stage.  The screen above the drums displayed each hymn’s lyrics to the crowd.  The church’s sound engineering was very professional, but it had the side effect of drowning the congregation’s own singing beneath the amplified voices of those onstage and the thrum of instruments.

The day’s sermon was delivered by Rev. Dean Reynolds, pastor of New Life Baptist, a tall, mustachioed man of 54. When the passion took him Reynolds spoke with the blistering cadence of an auctioneer rattling off his Hosannas and scriptural references at breakneck speed.  At rest, he joked and kidded with longtime members of the congregation, some of whom seemed to have followed New Life Baptist from its original site at Lakepoint.

Throughout his sermon, Reynolds emphasized that his congregation could know, “for sure,” whether they were bound for Heaven or Hell after death.  He called on them to embrace Jesus as their savior, and to allow him to change them “from the inside out.”  He told his congregants that God had a plan for them, if they chose to listen.

Rev. Reynolds also mentioned supernatural experiences in his childhood.  He claimed that as a boy he woke to find a shadowy figure clawing at his feet from the foot of his bed, an episode he said was “as real as I am.”  He said that not long after that he received a visitation from Jesus himself, who whispered to him “I am here.”  He also claimed that not long after that visitation he received a vision of God the Father in brilliant white light, which he shared with his grandfather.  He described how after telling his story he and his grandfather knelt and prayed at the foot of their home’ stairs, and how that Sunday they knelt by the altar of their church and prayed in the midst of the service.

The finale of a worship service at New Life Baptist is the Song of Invitation.  On February 5 that was a performance by the church choir, made up of a dozen or so older members of the church.  Members of the congregation were ‘invited’ at that time to come forward and kneel before the plastic pulpit while the choir sang “By the blood of the lamb we will conquer.”  After the choir finished the congregation’s musicians took the stage, and played New Life Baptist out as its members started to trickle out through the warehouse doors.