The Reclaimed Church
How three young pastors brought an old building to life
By Jackie Boeheim
Photos by Matt Williams Photography
Walking through the chapel doors one feels immediately awakened. Your heart touched by the intimate community, eyes drawn to multi-generational families in easy conversation, and your soul enriched by the good word from one of the earnest young pastors – welcome to Harvest Church, one that recently had an extreme transformation.
This building, standing since the fifties, was previously known as North Cary Baptist Church. In 2012 the pastor retired, leaving the congregation without a leader. For over a year the church went without a full-time pastor, while guest pastors preached on rotation. Adding to the turmoil, maintenance to the building was put on the back burner, and congregation numbers were dropping.
Meanwhile, in Raleigh, two pastors were seeking to plant a church. Matthew Poole, then 30, and Drew Raynor, 27, became aware of the situation in Cary, and their attention turned to the opportunity. They had been praying to occupy a space like North Cary Baptist Church for a while.
Rotating on Sundays, Poole and Raynor began the process of engaging with the church. After several meetings, the congregation voted 100% in favor of Poole and Raynor planting a new church.
“As two young, inexperienced pastors, we were humbled to have the support of this older congregation. It was telling of their quality and maturity when a few of their key leaders came to us and said, “It is time for you to serve,” Poole explains. “It was their consensus that we were the answer to their prayers for the future of this church.”
In the summer of 2014, Raynor and Poole were handed the keys to their new church. The two created a core team, comprised of 15 people from their past church and 10 from North Cary Baptist Church, a blend of generations. “God was very gracious during this time to unite our people into one family and to help us grasp and grow passionate about our vision of ministry as a collective unit,” Raynor states.
The team began rehabilitating the church. Through ministry partnerships and volunteers they were able to re-roof the building without paying the full $50k they were quoted. Walls were torn down to establish an open feel, much different than the fifties style that stood before.
Classrooms were updated to meet the needs of the younger generation meant to occupy this space. New flooring was installed, and fresh paint covered every wall. One of the more exciting transformations was the removal of the antique red-carpeted pews; while not as labor intensive as some renovations, this signified the “out with the old, in with the new” concept. To replace the pews, volunteers brought in modern chairs.
Their search through closets, rafters, and hidden nooks presented old blueprints for the original buildings and cassette tapes of every sermon through the last several decades. Antique sheet music and robes adorned the choir room, leaving the team feeling nostalgic for the past yet excited for the future.
“There was a large gap between the kind of church we wanted to be and the type of church North Cary Baptist had been for several decades,” Raynor explains. “That meant we had to be purposeful and intentional as we launched the new church.”
The two were eager to make the brand-new church meet the needs of multiple generations, and not merely be a revitalization of what had been done in the past.
Thus, Harvest Church was born. The youthful Poole and Raynor, still new to the scene, confidently and joyfully did it all – from greeting the congregation to leading the worship and preaching the sermon. As the weeks went by, people kept returning. “It was crazy,” Poole mentioned. “We would laugh, knowing that there must be a God if people kept coming back. There was nothing polished about what we were doing.”
A year later, Jonathan Holliday, 32, joined Harvest Church as its third pastor. The three pastors function with a plural leadership, which is different than most churches that have one senior leader, another nod to their generation.
Poole, grateful for the acceptance from the elders, says, “They could have closed their hearts and minds to us, and the fruit of what we see today would never have been. This is an encouragement for all of us to be open to the next generation. They are not to be feared, they are to be invested in. That’s what the people of North Cary did for us, and the fruit has been exponential.”
Services are on Sundays at 10:30am at 505 Reedy Creek Road, Cary.