Dressed in jeans and a white open collar shirt, Ted Haggard preached Sunday about love, community and giving at the first St. James service held at a commercial site.
About 350 people showed up for the service in Suite Bee of the Pikes Peak Center downtown.
“This feels a bit like the Clampetts,” Haggard told his congregation, referring to the family in the old sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” that moved from the Ozark Mountains to a California mansion. “We just got out of the barn and now we’re downtown.”
Haggard incorporated St. James in May, and eight weeks ago presided over its first service, attended by about 160 people. The move to a commercial site was due to the growth of the congregation and also because Haggard’s home insurer won’tcover the church’s meetings.
He chose a downtown location because it’s in proximity to a wide demographic of Springs residents. “We are here because it’s in the heart of the city,” he said Sunday. “We are within a mile of some of the richest people in our state and some of the poorest.”
Sunday’s service drew a mix of teenagers, young families, the middle aged and the elderly. The congregation included many who attended New Life when Haggard was senior pastor, a position he quit in 2006 due to a gay sex scandal.
The St. James service had a casual, unrehearsed feel to it, and many congregants were dressed as if they were attending a social event, such as an afternoon neighborhood barbecue.
Haggard’s main theme at St. James has been that church leaders have become too judgmental. His sermons have focused on the importance of helping those who have fallen or struggled in life. “It’s God’s role to judge, the devil’s role to accuse and our role to encourage,” he said at the first St. James service.
Sunday’s sermon continued on that theme.
Haggard said during the service that St. James will be a bare-bones church. Referring to the visual theatrics he created during some New Life services, Haggard told the congregation that things will be different at the new church. “There is no smoke, no dancing lights, no show here,” he said.
Haggard told those gathered that donations would go toward helping one another. “Don’t give your offerings to a church corporation,” Haggard said. “Give it to people, not projects.”
During each St. James service, there is a time when a congregant is chosen to designate where a portion of the church’s offering from the past week will go. The congregant can designate a portion to go to a family member and someone outside the family.
On Sunday, a man’s name was drawn who designated that $264 of the church’s offering go to a close friend having health problems on the East Coast, and $807 go to St. James congregant and former New Life member Rudy Marmaro.
Marmaro is enduring major financial problems due to health issues.
“God is just phenomenal,” Marmaro said of the donation to him. “Every time you’re in the pit, God throws you a rope.”
Also in attendance Sunday was Art Fernandez, who began attending St. James two weeks ago.
Fernandez spent 24 months in prison for dealing drugs, he said, and was a drug user for decades before quitting three months ago. Haggard has been helping him stay clean, Fernandez, 45, said.
Fernandez feels comfortable at St. James.
“Here is my house and family,” he said.