Barnes follows new calling

Hammond steps into CCPC pulpit

Jim Barnes has packed up his office, including the 15 authentic Communist military caps he collected over the years on his travels. And the little piece of the Berlin Wall. And a brick from a church destroyed by the Communist regime in Romania. The bookshelves are empty, awaiting a new pastor’s collection.

But the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church in Farragut is happy that he and his wife, Jane, a long-time advanced math teacher at Farragut High School, are both retiring. They are moving to Franklin where son, Dave, and wife, Annie, live with their three children and where son, Brad, lives. Daughter, Beth Winterburn, lives in Memphis.

Over the last 22 years, Barnes has created a mission-oriented church. Colorful flags from other countries ring three walls of the sanctuary, representative of the church’s mission outreach.

Passing the baton of senior pastor isn’t easy, he said, but he’s comfortable with his hand-off to the Rev. Seth Hammond, currently associate pastor.

“This is a big deal to me,” Barnes said about Christ Covenant. “This has been a spiritual laboratory to try things. My last sermon on May 21 will be called ‘A Vision Realized.’ The vision I had in 1994 has been realized. It’s largely been a church equipped to serve Jesus. As a church planter who started this thing, there’s a certain amount of concern about who succeeds you, because you’ve poured your life into it. Seth is a great leader, visionary and hard worker. He’ll do great things.”

Barnes recalled a 1994 phone call that brought his family from Mississippi to Knoxville. "It seems like yesterday," he said, adding with a laugh that it had something to do with a finger pointing to heaven.

“There’s a church in Port Gibson that has a gold-gilded finger pointing to heaven,” Barnes explained. “My father, who was a photographer, took a picture of that in 2002, so I knew about that church.”

One day the phone rang — another church search committee was on the line.

“I’d had my heart broken by a couple of search committees already,” Barnes said, “and I just wanted to hang up.”

The call was almost over when Vernon Guthrie, a member of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, roped him in with three powerful words: “'I’m from Mississippi.'” He also told Barnes he was from a certain church in Port Gibson — a church with a gold-gilded finger on top of the steeple. Then Guthrie added he was a graduate of Mississippi State University, Barnes’ alma mater.

“Needless to say, it got my attention,” Barnes said. “He was weirding me out. I thought, ‘How do I hang up on this guy?’

“Cedar Springs already had 12 acres of land. Eight had been donated by Doug and Brenda Horne and Cedar Springs had bought four. The critical nature of being on Kingston Pike was huge. There was a core group of about 30 people, and they were going to pay my salary for two-and-a-half years,” he said. “It was a dream job for a church planter. They made me stand on the land,” he chuckled. “I looked across the land at Kingston Pike and thought ‘How do I turn down all this?’”

The core group grew and after meeting at Farragut Middle School for 10 years, finally ground was broken on a church building.

“I’d been at a very mission-minded church in Mississippi,” he said. “When I came to Knoxville, I was going to plant a mission-minded church. It was going to happen. We support about 30 missionaries at a very substantial pace. We raise money for missions and add 10 percent more.”

“I’ve been to a lot of countries on vision and service trips,” he said. “About three weeks ago, we took a smaller team to Jordan. I’ve been to East Berlin and Peru to do conferences and a variety of things through the years. I’m not just traveling — our people are traveling. This next week one of our staff guys is taking a member to Uganda.”

Now the high-energy Barnes will pursue his main passion: coaching young pastors. He’ll do that on at least one overseas trip each year, but will focus on the Southeast.

“I hope to have three hubs — one will be in Knoxville, one in Huntsville [Ala.], and one in Nashville,” he said. “I’ve got to create these hubs. I’ll probably spend an hour on the phone with each guy once a month.”

Seth Hammond also has a great story about how he was led to Christ Covenant.

The 35-year-old is a graduate of Bearden High School and The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He has served as associate pastor at Christ Covenant since January 2013 and also serves as chaplain in the Air National Guard in Alcoa. He and his wife, Stephanie, met at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where he served at University Presbyterian Church for nearly seven years. They have been married for eight years and have four children — Abby, 5; Katie, 3; Caleb, 2 and Sarah, 4 months.

“At the six-year mark I was kind of anxious to get back here,” Hammond said. “I also applied to churches around the country. I grew up at Cedar Springs and I remember when I was in college we drove past Christ Covenant. I told my mom, ‘This is the only church that would get me back here to Knoxville.’ I had always loved Christ Covenant—its mission, its vision, particularly its emphasis on prayer and support of world missions.

"Fifteen years later I called and got Jim Barnes on the line," Hammond added. "I said, ‘Are you hiring?’ He said, ‘Actually, we are. We’re looking for an associate pastor.’ I said, ‘Would you consider me?’ It wasn’t advertised or anything, I just called. The Lord sovereignly orchestrated us being here and we’ve been here over four years. I had heard a lot of good things about Jim Barnes. He has mentored me for over four years now.”

The church, 12915 Kingston Pike, will have only one service at 10:50 on Sunday, May 14 to install Hammond. At 7 p.m., Friday, May 19, there will be a service of remembering in the sanctuary. A special service to honor Barnes will be held starting at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 21.