12:25 PM August 1, 2021
I would have normally been on way home from worship service at the home of one of New Foundation’s Pastor’s. But not today, and more than likely never again. I have had few things sadden me more. The natural and immediate reaction to the events of the last few months leading to the last 2 weeks is to point fingers and cast blame. While there is plenty of that to go around that is not my purpose here. My purpose is to look back over the last 12 plus years and record events and actions, of the people I have interacted with as a result of my participation in the decisions and actions of the leadership of New Foundation. If that is taken as finger pointing, so be it. But if we are not honest about how we got here then we learn nothing and we are left with nothing.
I wrote about my introduction to New Foundation in very last couple of pages of my memoir. I had been bitterly disappointed in the results of ego driven performances of the leadership of my previous church Healing Waters Ministries and had finally walked away. It shut down shortly thereafter. Two of the people I had known there had persisted in asking me to visit the new church they had found when they walked away. I finally agreed to attend one service.
As I said in my memoir, one look at the face of Jabowa Whitehead and I felt I knew why God had closed Healing Waters. I felt it was because He had been holding open the door of New Foundation Christian Fellowship all along.
It must have been several months before I was invited to the Society of Sipping Saints. Being a recovering Alcoholic who worked weekends in a bar I had no issue with going to a bar with a few of the congregation and the pastors. I enjoyed the social atmosphere with the people I had just worshiped with. It became a regular occurrence. I had never had a social experience like that at any church. It truly gave meaning to the term church “family”. Since Jabow had asked me to take over the communication I found that time a good time to text all the people who hadn’t been in service that morning.
I had some disagreements with Jabowa, most of which were political. For instance, it was about that time when the issue of gay marriage came to the fore in the news and commentary sections of the various media. In a phone conversation with him I voiced my politically conservative opinion on the issue. He quickly informed me that it was extremely important to so that he could marry the man he loved, Pastor Juan.
Over the next few years our congregation grew quickly, and we soon found that we needed a larger facility. I, along with a few others, put in many hours making the necessary modifications to the new facility and soon we had moved from the small second floor rooms across the street to new larger free-standing building with a large parking lot which we needed with a growing congregation. We had room for Children’s Sunday School, and it too was growing.
But a change began to take place in the spiritual environment. I was still happy with all the people, new and old. Pastor Jabowa began adding people to the dais behind him and soon the front of our church began to resemble a holy roller church. I have to admit that I didn’t think some of those he chose should be up there. But I also felt it wasn’t my place to say anything. In addition to that change Pastor Jabowa abandoned his nicely but casually dressed appearance and started wearing a black robe. But we continued to grow.
Then one morning Pastor Juan wasn’t there. At the end of service, Jabowa requested all the leadership to stay behind for a private meeting. He informed us that he and Juan were separating, and that it was the result of 8 months of counseling. Pastor Juan was visiting family in Alaska.
I was personally in tears and stayed behind to tell him how heartbroken I was. I asked him at the time there was someone else in either of their lives. He said, no. I took him at his word. This all occurred in either late February or early March.
It may have been a couple of weeks, but no more when Jabowa told me he was seeing someone else. When I look back on it, I see it as the moment before the fall from grace. I reminded him of what he had said about Juan being the love of his life. He denied having ever said it.
Pride weekend and Sunday morning, when he should have been at the church preparing for the service, he wasn’t there. No one knew where he was, and no one had heard from him. He didn’t respond to text messages or phone calls. Pastor Cherry grabbed her laptop and pulled up a sermon.
The next week half of the congregation was absent. And the week after that half of those were not there. I had the opportunity to ask one of the men, someone I admired for his faith, if he was going to leave too. He responded with, “Yes, God has withdrawn his blessing from New Foundation.” The downhill tumble had begun in earnest. It could have been avoided if Jabowa had only offered some kind of apology and committed himself to a renewed commitment. But he never did.
The church was moved from that building to a conference room at hotel. That lasted for a little over a year. Then we found ourselves meeting to a bar. One of the last times I saw Pastor Cherry she said flatly that “we’ve got to get out of this bar”.
Just before Covid hit Jabowa and his next husband Pastor Freddie announced that we “would be meeting at their home. And that’s where we have been until a week ago when none of the pastors, including the one who was supposed to give the sermon showed up.
I have put all this down because I want to emphasis the importance of a pastor’s devotion to his duty and while no person is perfect, using the excuse that “I’m only human, is merely a way of self-justification for failing in one’s duty. Sadly, I have to say that I heard Pastor Jabowa use that very excuse on a number of occasions.
The word pastor is from the Greek word “poimen” which translates as “shepherd”. I came from an agriculturally oriented family background. My dad had a favorite saying for situations like this: “You don’t go to town when the ox is in the ditch”.
Unfortunately, just as the shepherd who puts his own desires ahead of his responsibility to care for the sheep in his charge, New Foundation has suffered entirely too much from personal priorities been placed ahead of the Shepherd’s duty. Sadly, for all Jabowa’s good intentions and amazing concept for a church configured like the early church before Constantine took over, that original concept of welcoming “all people” and giving them a family that maybe many of them never had, was lost in personality flaws of leadership.
- C. “Jabowa” Whitehead was a very loving person and everyone who ever knew him was forever changed. I was blessed to know him and worship with him and share his vision, but a vision alone is not enough. A vision requires effort, dedication, planning, execution of the plan, leadership and unfailing commitment to purpose. If New Foundation is to survive, it needs to be re-born with a commitment by all involved to dedicate themselves to the execution of all these facets of purpose and remember how we got to this place.