By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY – Wednesday night was Rebecca Barker's first time inside a squad car.
“It's pretty interesting,” said Barker, giving the passenger-side window another round of Windex and elbow grease.
Barker, 17, of Londonderry was one of about two dozen car washers doing time at Londonderry Police headquarters, washing cruisers in the name of God while representing their youth group, the Red Letters, an outreach of Journey Church.
Youth pastor Julie Wilson explained that Wednesday's cruiser clean-up was the first of what the group hopes will be an endless number of community service missions, a way of living their faith while doing good deeds.
“Red Letters is a reference to the words Jesus spoke, which are sometimes highlighted in red in the New Testament,” said Wilson. “Our church's mission is outreach focused, and so this is the first event to get our kids out in the community. It was coordinated by Jake King. He's one of our youth leaders, and he happens to be a Londonderry Police officer.”
King, whose job was to drive the cars in and out of the service garage – blue lights flashing just for fun – said when he heard that the group was looking for some service opportunities, he ran the idea of a car wash by his superiors.
“We usually just take the cruises to the car wash for the exterior, and honestly, they're not that dirty inside. So this was really like a kick-off event, just a way of doing something safe and fun, all at the same time,” King said. “It's really a great bunch of teenagers.”
The church, formally called Journey Church: A Church of the Nazarene, has been meeting temporarily in the basement of a daycare center in Hudson. But it is about to return to its Derry roots, said Senior Pastor Eddy Frost.
With the help of Derry historian Rick Holmes, Frost learned that the church originated as a small Bible study in Derry back in 1908.
“It was three women and a guy – we don't know their names, but by 1910 it had become Derry Church of the Nazarene, which remained in Derry until 1977,” said Frost.
When the church outgrew its original space it moved to Londonderry, and finally changed its name to Londonderry Church of the Nazarene in 1995.
|Journey Church youth group take a break from|
washing cruisers to mug for the camera.
“We've outgrown our space again, and so we've purchased a building on Tinkham Avenue in Derry, which is in the final stages of renovation. If all goes according to plan, we'll be back in Derry, coming full circle, by Christmas,” Frost said.
And just to be safe, the church communitydecided on a new name – one that reflects its history without relying on geography to define its future.
“Rather than change our name back to Derry Church of the Nazarene, we thought, let's pick a name we like, one that speaks to our church, and to who we've become,” Frost said. “We're kind of excited that in our 100th year we're back to the town where we started.”
Frost is “bivocational,” meaning that he has kept his day job in the software industry in addition to pastoring the church.
“Bivocational is a churchy word that simply describes a pastor with two vocations – one for money and one for God,” Frost said. He is part of a team of pastors – David Bailey, Craig Everett, John Loker, and Wilson, who has helped grow the weekly youth group from a handful of kids two years ago, to upwards of 35.
“It comes down to Julie's passion – she loves them and they know they're loved,” Frost said.
Theologically, the Church of the Nazarene is most related to Methodists, a denomination from which the church splintered a century ago.
“They believed that Christians shouldn't just put on their Sunday faces, but rather live every day doing God's work. If you want to fit us on a family tree denominationally speaking, we are first cousins to the United Methodists and, in terms of outreach, the Salvation Army,” Frost said.
As for outgrowing their space in Londonderry, Frost said eight years ago there were 35 members. Now there are 95 members. His is a young congregation – the average age is 30-something, with a large number of young kids.
“It's an interesting mixture of blue collar, white collar and professionals, men and women, families and single moms – I think we come pretty close to reflecting the community we serve,” Frost said.
Which comes back to the Wednesday night car wash at the police station, where Zachary Lanoue, 17, of Hudson, was fixing a broken sprayer on a bottle of window cleaner while Bryan Moreau, 16, of Litchfield, waited for the next dirty cruiser in need of some scrubbing.
“This is the best youth group around – I've been to a few. It's all about the people. It's a more diverse group, and we just have a lot of fun together,” Moreau said.