Above: Pastor James Henegar; Picture was taken in October 1971 following “Hold Forth Your Light” Campaign; Pastor Carson Reynolds.
As the 1970s began, the Ithaca Church of God again looked to a younger pastor, much as it had two decades earlier. This young pastor was James Henegar, who arrived from pastoring the Church of God in Hialeah, Florida. Before that, he had been an assistant pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio. Henegar was a graduate of Anderson College, where he majored in Bible and Christian Education. He also was a pitcher on the Anderson College baseball team and once got his former manager, Carl Erskine (a former major league pitcher) to come to Ithaca to speak to his congregation.
Pastor Henegar came to Ithaca with his wife Judy and his daughter Michelle, and they began their ministry in Ithaca on July 13, 1970. They also had another daughter who was born in Ithaca during their pastorate. He was energetic, had a passion for evangelism, and was outreach oriented. Henegar was very active in welcoming new people to the church and in trying new things. In the fall of 1971, he challenged the church with a Sunday School Attendance Campaign entitled, “Hold Forth Your Light.” The goal was to increase Sunday School attendance to an average of 173 people for four straight weeks, from September 12 to October 3. The program was exceedingly successful, and it brought a total attendance of 841 people (most Sundays saw 25 people above their goal). Because the church picked up the challenge, on October 3 Pastor Henegar, his wife, and daughter dressed in “Old Fashioned” style (bibbed overalls for the pastor). Henegar also fulfilled his promise that if the program succeeded he would preach a sermon from the roof of the church, which he did.
Henegar encouraged the church to try other things which resulted in drawing in children, younger couples, and their families. A bus ministry was started to reach children and people in the community. Judy Henegar was instrumental in opening the basement of the parsonage for classes for children’s church and was very creative with ideas on how to reach these children. Now, a familiar problem for the church was on the horizon: what should the church do now that it was again outgrowing its facilities? One of the issues of church growth for the Ithaca Church of God in the 1970s was that there was a sizeable group of younger adult families and also a core of “pioneers” who had been with the church for decades. Some of the older members had lived through several building projects and participating in another one seemed to be too challenging. It was also thought that younger members wanted a place where they and their children would attend in the future. The idea of “growing pains” would be an issue for almost a decade for the congregation.
In 1976, Pastor Henegar resigned after completing nearly six years with the Ithaca congregation. He had a much larger vision for the future of the Ithaca Church of God, but unfortunately, the church was not ready to accept it.
In the early winter of 1976, Reverend Carson Reynolds accepted the call to pastor the church. During the 1970s things were happening in Ithaca and in Gratiot County that had an impact on younger families in the church. These dealt with the economy and its effects on jobs in the area. Many seemed to be leaving due to this as well as attending other congregations.
Reynolds was an older pastor who came with his wife, Katherine, from the Mt. Haley Church of God. He had pastored churches in Kentucky and Ohio before coming to Michigan. Both he and his wife were graduates of Warner Pacific College in Oregon, and they were the parents of three grown children. Pastor Reynolds came to the church as an able, experienced pastor who was working with a church which was leveling off in attendance. Still, Reynolds could be counted on to both watch and observe his sheep, whether it was a time of a personal crisis, a hospital visit, wedding or funeral.
There were ministries during this period that were important to the church. One of these involved the youth work that was done by Sam and Connie Price, who volunteered their time and energy as youth ministers. They started a group that involved the youth in “His Kids” that performed in many churches in the area and the state. “His Kids” involved many age groups of youth in the church, and it had a tremendous influence on many people.
In a short time, the issue of expanding the facilities was the focus of many of the younger families in the church. A vote was taken, and the church entered into another building program in 1980-81 which added the wings to the sanctuary, more bathrooms, a larger fellowship hall with classrooms, and a larger kitchen. The church and its new, completed projects were dedicated in 1982. Reynolds was very committed to seeing the project completed and this consumed the focus of the church so that programming and outreach suffered. In 1983, Carson and Katherine Reynolds resigned to return to a prior pastorate in Xenia, Ohio. They had served the congregation for over six years.
Copyright 2018 James M Goodspeed