Written by Giuseppe Guarino
This is the history of New Hope from its foundation in 1992 up until today, seen through my perspective.
New Hope Baptist Church started in 1992. Among the founders was the first pastor, Scott Tally. The building was in Via del Risorgimento in Motta S. Anastasia, Italy.
In 1993, the European Baptist Convention (now known as the International Baptist Convention) sent an English missionary, Rev. Alf T. Revell, to be the second pastor of New Hope.
In 1995, when pastor Revell left the island, Rev. John Ballard became the third pastor.
In 1996, pastor Ballard kindly offered the church building to be used rent-free by the Italian church led by pastor Vince Ingoglia. I believe this attitude of love among the members of New Hope and of New Hope as a body toward other Christian individuals or groups has been among the reasons why it has been so blessed during its history.
Pastor Ballard wrote to me: “NHB became 60% African American and 40% White. Many different denominations of churches were represented. I loved the mix. It was the best church I have ever been pastor of. By the end of 1996 we were running around 125 people on the average. Due to space limitations in the sanctuary we developed a youth as well as children’s church worship simultaneous with adult worship. We were blessed to have additional space upstairs.”
When pastor Ballard left, in 1997, his place was taken by pastor Craig Ponder, whom I had the pleasure to know in person. It was at this time that I began to attend New Hope. As it is shown in the pictures section of the site, pastor Ponder did a lot of changes for the better in the church building. The wall at the entrance was erected. The pulpit as we see it now was manufactured. He used all the room available downstairs for the church, he put the carpet and the chairs we use today. The church that followed owned a lot to pastor Ponder’s vision to leave a more comfortable church building to those who would come after him.
In 1999 pastor Ponder left, leaving pastor Jenkins. In 2001 pastor Jenkins left too, leaving one of his deacons as pastor, rev. Romeus, who left the island in 2002, leaving the church without a pastor.
Stephen T. Nichols, who was already in Sicily, attending Gospel Fellowship Outreach Worship Center, was invited to be the next pastor of New Hope. It proved to be a God-guided choice.
Sometime in that period, or earlier, but for sure after pastor Ponder, the Church changed its name to New Hope Christian Church. The motto of the church was, and still is, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty.”
The Vision of pastor Nichols was: “Reach One Teach One.” It proved to be a success. The church was packed every Sunday.
Pastor Nichols was very good friends with Pastor Gregory Hunt of Gospel Fellowship and the two churches would often fellowship together for Conferences or in special occasion like New Years’ Eve. Both churches were blessed so much that either of the two buildings was barely big enough during the joined services.
Late in 2003, Carlton Mebane and his family arrived in Sicily. They associated pastor Nichols in the ministry at New Hope. It was a time of incredible blessings. Both pastors were true and honest servants of God preaching and teaching the Word with freedom. The music department of the church was at its best too. Elder Sheldon on the keyboard, his wife singing and his son (5 years old at the time, if I am not mistaken) on the drums. Elder Sheldon was also a fine preacher. I remember his messages being unique in style, taught with freedom and power of the Holy Spirit.
Another very important man in that powerful team was Deacon Rico Letham. He was over Men’s Fellowship.
The time came for pastor Nichols to leave too, in 2004. Rev. Mebane became senior pastor of the Church, with his wife, ordained later in 2005, co-pastoring the church with him. Their vision was: “Bridging the gap between the separated families of God.”
The blessings continued.
Later that year the Sheldons left. The new leader in the Praise and Worship team was sister Long, whose gift was a blessing to everyone. Her husband Deacon Long was leader of the ushering department, setting standars that even to this day are observed by ushers at New Hope.
The Mebanes were supported in the teaching department by the Thomas. David Thomas became the new leader of Man’s Fellowship.
Various activities took place as the Mebanes worked a lot for the church spiritual as well as Biblical knowledge growth. We took Bible classes and a Seminary course. The Bible studies were very deep. The Sunday Service was never kept into any standard, with freedom, but in order, the Spirit led the church into worship-prayer only services.
The Americans on the military base grew less in number. Gospel Fellowship closed for good later in 2006. New Hope members were not a large number but very faithful and the church proved to be strong and healthy under the secure leadership of the Mebanes. This is what I remember best and what I can testify about the Mebanes: they used their experience and love to help each individual grow in every direction to give the best of their potential in the service for God.
In December 2006 the Mebanes left the island too. The new pastor was rev. Kendrik L. Bryant. Some months before had become associated Pastor. He had been saved during Nichols ministry. He began to work in the church as drum player. Then he sang in the Praise and Worship. After that, he became responsible of the Friday Victory Service supported by his wife. He grew mature enough – though young in age – to become Mebanes’associate pastor.
When Rev. Bryant became pastor, the transition was very strongly felt and the church went through a hard time. Though very young Pastor Bryant’s determination to serve God, supported by the only American Deacon left in the church, David Thomas, led the church into a new season. The church grew in number. The powerful and Spirit-filled preaching of the pastor led many to salvation and in a few months the church was blessed with many new souls and a time of revival and tranquility.
Pastor Bryant’s Vision was: “Love with Love from Above.” It became the title of the song that pastor Bryant wrote and soon became the church’s Anthem.
The transition had just ended, the first year of pastor had been celebrated. March 31, 2008 was the last day pastor Kendric Bryant was officially the pastor of New Hope. I left the church with him.
Why a tribute
New Hope wais my church. I attended from 1996, but only in 2004 I became a full member. Now that I left this wonderful church, I find it profitable to collect as much information as I can about this wonderful institution and publish it for all those who might want to benefit. Since New Hope is a transitional ministry and most of the members and all the pastors have been Americans, I have seen so many people come and go. Some have been my dear friends.
New Hope has a very special place in my heart. Not the building. Not the pews, nor the facilities. But the Spirit of God that has been pleased to move there in the past years in a very mighty way, using mighty men of God.
I remember back in 1997, 1998 when Rev. Ponder was pastor. Though I was busy with my church I tried to find the time to visit as often as I could. I was blessed. One time, on a Sunday afternoon I felt so proud as he asked me to close in prayer. He also taught me how to play “The Old Rugged Cross” on the guitar.
Then my son was born and for a couple of years I did not have a chance to attend.
In 2003 I went back to New Hope when pastor Nichols was pastor. It was probably the hardest time of my life. Pastor preached to me that Sunday morning. Since then I did not leave New Hope.
I think a lot of people can testify about the meaning of New Hope in their lives. I have been blessed by seeing so many people blessed during these past years. I am in contact with many past members of this wonderful church and I amazed at the wonders God still works in their lives… but for many it all began at New Hope, on a sunday morning.
|NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH|
Rev. Scott Talley
1992 to 1993 – first pastor and founder of New Hope
Rev. Alf T. Revell
from 1993 to 1995
Rev. John Ballard
from 1995 to 1997
Rev. Craig Ponder
from 1997 to 1999
|NEW HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH|
Rev. Kevin D. Jenkins
from 1999 to 2001
from 2001 to 2002
Rev. Stephen T. Nichols
from 2002 to 2004
Rev. Carlton Mebane and Rev. Tamera Mebane
from 2004 to December 2006
Rev. Kendric Bryant
from December 2006 to March 2008