The coming of 2008 heralded the Lord’s continued blessings for Tabernacle. The building program for the Waynesboro expansion raised more than $120K above and beyond the church budget in the 6 months since the beginning of a capital campaign in October 2007. Site plans were developed by a civil engineer for needed government approvals with the expectation of beginning construction in late summer. In Staunton, the leadership team struggled with location and space issues and as a result, the Staunton worship service was moved from the Clock Tower Tavern to the gymnasium at Grace Christian Middle School in May. In June, John Bennetch came to Tabernacle as worship director which allowed Pastor Rick to begin what was expected to be a gradual transition toward taking the organizing pastor’s role for the Staunton congregation when it was ready to be designated as a mission church.
In the fall, the deteriorating national economic conditions dominated the headlines and a number of members lost their jobs. The leadership agreed that it would be good to wait a few months to begin construction of the Waynesboro expansion to see how church giving might be affected, but the church was blessed to receive over and above the annual budget expenses by the end of the year. The City of Waynesboro was continuing its review of the building plans and after several rounds of comments and revisions, final approval of the plans was received early in January 2009.
2009 provided new challenges as the Expansion/Extension program of the church continued. The building expansion project got underway in February while at the same time church leaders were also planning the extension of the Staunton site ministry into a mission church. The building progressed quickly and kept the deacons and building committee busy through the summer with design, parking, and muddy construction worksite issues while the weekly church sevices continued in full swing.
As the congregations continued to grow, leadership worked on ways to keep people connected across the three regular worship services culminating with the annual Shrimp Boil in August with over 275 in attendance. A Summer of Mission was also organized to encourage all members to actively participate in local ministry opportunities including Valley Mission, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Equipping the Saints, and Advancing Native Missions. A number of folks also worked on painting the gymnasium ceiling at Grace Christian Middle School.
In October, the Presbytery approved the Church Planting Committee’s recommendation for mission church status for the Staunton congregation with Tabernacle’s Session as the temporary Session and Rick Gilmartin as the Organizing Pastor. On October 11, 2009, the first worship service of Holy Cross Presbyterian Church culminated with the reception of 39 charter members. In the congregation were many of the charter members of Tabernacle and some of that group became charter members of Holy Cross as well. A celebration lunch was held in the park after the service under beautiful blue skies with glorious fall colors all around and all praising God for His blessings on us.
As the building expansion work neared completion in November, the church’s second food drive for the Verona Community Food Pantry was organized with bags distributed and collected over the Thanksgiving weekend. Over 2 tons was collected from surrounding neighborhoods as a tremendous outpouring of generosity to those in need as well as being a blessing to church children who were so excited to bring bulging bags of food back to the collection site.
After many hours of work by the contractors, building committee and many members helping as needed, the first worship service in the new sanctuary was held on November 29 with a full house in attendance. The building’s new furnishings were the result of generous donations from church members and friends. This was complemented by the tall windows that made a warm and inviting environment. Outside, everyone welcomed the new entrance, site lighting, and paved parking lots. Because the building’s floor area nearly tripled from the original, the deacons hired Lee Paixao’s cleaning services to keep the facility ordered and presentable each week.