By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLARKSVILLE — When Cal Hampton returned to his hometown of Clarksville in 2018 to plant 2nd Mile Church, his goal was for 2nd Mile to sponsor a church plant or replant a church within three years.
2nd Mile Church was approached by Rick Stevens, director of missions for Cumberland Baptist Association two years ago to see if the church would be interested in helping Kenwood Baptist Church, an older church with a distinguished history but one that had fallen on hard times in recent years.
Hampton’s interest was immediately piqued. Hampton had served as interim pastor of Kenwood Baptist in 1994 and his wife, Diane, had an uncle who was chairman of the deacons at Kenwood during those years.
Kenwood Baptist’s attendance had dwindled to between 12 and 15 people and the church was having a tough time meeting its financial obligations and dealing with the upkeep of an older church facility. Kenwood Baptist celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
“Rick was the catalyst in bringing the two churches together. He planted the seed,” Hampton said.
The two churches originally voted to come together in 2019 but because Kenwood Baptist was incorporated, it was more complicated, he explained. In addition, COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and slowed the process as well. It took over a year to get the required paperwork completed, but Kenwood is now officially a part of 2nd Mile Church, Hampton said. “We kept the Kenwood name because that is the community where it is located,” he added.
“We are one church with two locations,” Hampton said.
For a long while, Hampton would leave 2nd Mile Church after preaching and head over to Kenwood Baptist to preach there. Hampton then invited Derek Simonis, a member of 2nd Mile Church, to preach on occasion. In January, Second Mile ordained Simonis as a minister and he is now serving as pastor of the Kenwood campus.
“Derek has done a great job,” Hampton affirmed. The replanted church has focused a great deal on community outreach, he noted. In addition, the church sponsored a tent revival on the property a few weeks ago. It is believed to be the first time a Baptist church has held a tent revival in the area since the 1950s, Hampton said.
The church’s attendance has climbed to more than 70 in just a few months with 13 baptisms. Hampton noted the church had gone for several years without reporting a baptism.
“Every time we have gone into a season of outreach, God has brought us the people we needed,” Simonis said.
Simonis, a former soldier who was stationed at nearby Fort Campbell, noted that he and his wife, Jana, returned to Clarksville three years ago with a desire to eventually plant a church. He recalled that his wife’s family was attending 2nd Mile and they began to visit. “One thing led to another. The Lord opened doors,” he affirmed.
Simonis has embraced the community where the church is located. He observed that the church is diverse. “We want to reflect the community around us,” he stressed.
Hampton agreed. “The church needs to look like its community demographically,” he said.
“Color is irrelevant,” Simonis added. “This is about the right spirit and doing things in the right way.”
Simonis said the core group from Kenwood who remained has embraced the changes. They were committed to reaching the community, he observed.
Hampton added that the changes made by the church have been successful in reaching younger families. In addition, the church has received visits from former members who are seeing new life at their former church. Because of Simonis’ background in the military, the church also is connecting with personnel from Fort Campbell as well.
While both men are strong supporters of planting new churches, replanting/revitalizing a church is an option that should not be overlooked, they agreed.
Hampton noted that Kenwood Baptist had facilities, property and no debt. “We need to revitalize and replant our churches. Replanting is as important as planting,” he affirmed. “We are excited about what God is doing,” Hampton said. “The church has been replanted and things are looking up. Kenwood is on the move again,” he affirmed.
Simonis hopes that what has happened with Kenwood and 2nd Mile can become a model for other churches in the association and across the state.
Both pastors affirmed that the merger of the two churches was totally from God. “The Lord put it all together,” Simonis said.
Hampton agreed wholeheartedly. “God took care of everything. We still have a ways to go, but we will get there by God’s grace.” B&R