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Q & A with Justin Clemente (originally published for L 10:2, a church planting movement within the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic).

1) What prompted you to want to plant a church? How did you decide where to plant? When?

New Creation was birthed out of a desire to love our neighbors. Prior to planting, I was on staff part-time as a worship leader at a lovely little church about 30 minutes outside of Hagerstown. As I began to discern a call into the Anglican Church and ordination, my wife and I also grew convicted about the amount of time we spent ministering outside of our community, rather than within it. We realized that we hardly knew our neighbors, and had very few deep Christian relationships within our own community. We wanted that to change.

Also, would it be unspiritual to say that the housing crisis led us to a desire to plant here? Just before the time that my wife and I were considering all of the above, we bought a house. To put a date on it, we bought our current home in October, 2007. Yeah, enough said. The Hagerstown community was hit pretty hard during that time, and our house value quickly plummeted after we bought it. We were not about to walk away from our home, so we realized that this would be home for quite a while! We decided to bloom where we were planted, and the rest is history. We started meeting in our home in November 2012, and moved into a more public space in March, 2014.

2) Did you have a vision that grew in your heart (or some other means), or did you see a need for a new church?

We definitely saw a need for an orthodox Anglican witness in Washington County. We felt that there was a real “gap” in the body of Christ that we could fill. As we planned, it was exciting to think that God was calling us to be the ones to step up and show our community a new yet old way to do the Christian life.

3) How did you decide what your church name and mission would be? What drives your ministry?

I decided on the name New Creation from very early on. In one sense, we are very much a new creation – there’s nothing else exactly like us in the Hagerstown community, or even in Washington County!

On the other hand, the name reflects a deep theological commitment on our behalf – one that we very much want to get into the heart of our congregation and mission. The name is drawn from three levels of teaching about “new creation” in scripture. 1) It’s based on the cosmic “already-not-yet” vision of all things being made new, renewed and submitted to the lordship of Jesus (Rev. 21:5, Philippians 2:1-11). It helps us to keep the story straight, so to speak, and to remember that this is where we’re headed. 2) In another sense though, our name helps us to remember that this isn’t just a future hope. The Church is called to live out new creation in the here and now, being a reflection (however imperfect and faltering) of what God will one day do for all of creation (Romans 13:11-14, 1 Corinthians 15, especially v. 58). 3) Lastly, new creation is about personal transformation. We want to see people’s lives utterly transformed by the gospel of grace. As Paul so wonderfully puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!

4) What has been the most exciting part of planting?

The genuine friendships that my family has formed with our neighbors, friends, and co-laborers are definitely the most exciting part of planting. I love getting to know new people in our community.

5) What has been the hardest part of planting?

Patience and balance. The temptation is to want things to move quicker than they do. What I’ve learned so far is that if I got my wish, it would probably be unhealthy for us, both as a congregation and for me, personally.

I’m bi-vocational, so balance is a real challenge. I have to constantly remember that my first ministry in the body of Christ is my family.

6) What does the future hold for New Creation?

This year, we’re praying for at least 5 families of committed disciples to join us here at New Creation. We’re praying for 2 families of new believers to receive the gospel this year. Please pray for us!

Also, please pray for more planters in Western Maryland and the Four State region. This area is wide open to planters, and we need more of an orthodox Anglican witness out here.

Part of our wider vision is to help raise up a truly local network of Anglican churches. Pray that we see this vision begin to become reality!

Interested in hearing more about the journey? Justin’s full spiritual biography is available here.

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