By Burchie Ellinger
Christ Presbyterian Church of Oxford is in a new phase of life. The church recently gained a new lead pastor, Les Newsom, and is in the process of building a new home on 901 Sisk Avenue.
“My contribution to the new building is simply to keep the congregation informed and motivated to take the next steps forward. We have already done the work on the financial feasibility,” Newsom said. “We just need to stay focused and finish the task. The Gospel is unique in that it places a power center in the heart to give to these kinds of projects from joy and not from slavish compulsion. That’s what I am tasked to keep in front of the congregation.”
As pastor, Newsom took charge of spearheading the church building process.
“Les has worked hard to ensure each ministry gets what they need within the parameters we’ve been given, which is not an easy task,” said Scott Byrd, assistant pastor of youth ministries for Christ Presbyterian. “We are limited on space and finances, but he wants to ensure that each ministry is able to thrive in the new building. His genuine excitement for the ministry opportunities that the new building will bring has been contagious. He’s been a good source of energy and excitement toward the project.”
The church is currently located at the old skating rink on University Avenue, and has been for about 21 years. However, Oct. 21 marked the beginning of Christ Presbyterian’s new start after breaking ground at the new location.
Newsom said the congregation began discussing the building process about six years ago.
“There was a lot of emotion and interest and the people were very generous,” Newsom said. “There is 90 percent participation from the congregation. There is overwhelming support.”
CiCi Rutherford, the Reformed Youth Ministries intern for Christ Presbyterian Church, said Newsom is very excited about the church’s new home, which was contagious in the rest of the community.
“Les is very proactive with this process and has taken every step carefully and efficiently to make sure that we are up and running in the best possible building we can have,” Rutherford said.
Newsom came to Christ Presbyterian Church after serving as the Mid-South area coordinator for Reformed University Fellowship where he was responsible for recruiting new campus ministers, planning events, and working with Presbytery committees to oversee campus accounts and provide pastoral care for campus ministers and interns in the Mid-South area. His area consisted of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Tennessee.
He said he used some of his experiences there to implement changes at Christ Presbyterian Church. Some of those changes included helping with fundraising and keeping the church on track for the progress of the new building.
Christ Presbyterian Church has seen a growth in the congregation over the last few months. Newsom noticed that there weren’t enough seats during the 10:30 service. During August, Newsom decided to switch to two services on Sunday mornings. An early service that starts at 8:30 a.m. and a later service that starts at 10:45 a.m. Newsom thought this would be the best way to ensure every person that walked through the doors would have a seat. This service change really sparked the need for a new church with more seating. The new building will be able to seat about 750 people, which is about 250 more than what the church seats now.
The new Christ Presbyterian Church building has three themes which are illustrated in its motto: Home, Hope and Healing. The Home theme comes about with the addition of the many porches throughout the church. Newsom said he loved the idea of the church having a look of a place that felt like home. The Hope theme shows the commitment of the church to preach the word and gospel. Last, the Healing portion has to do with the location.
“Being right next to the high school was very strategic for us. We love our public high school and we want to invest in that. We also know that it is a place a lot of hurt. We want to be a light there and a place of healing for those kids,” Newsom said.