Updated: November 4, 2009 at 12:00 am
Former New Life pastor Ted Haggard greeted warmly the more than 110 people who arrived for his Thursday evening prayer gathering at his home in north Colorado Springs.
“It’s a Kumbaya moment,” Haggard said. “People here tonight believe in resurrection and me. They understand love.”
Several people spoke of grace, forgiveness and redemption to explain why they came.
“Christians are to forgive, and I have forgiven Ted,” said the Rev. Alan Hawkins, who drove from Albuquerque to be at the gathering.
Tom Pesavento, who attended New Life Church for 18 years before leaving in 2007, said he came because he believes in God’s grace.
“God himself forgets sin,” he said. “Man remembers.”
Haggard, who resigned as New Life’s senior pastor in November 2006 in the wake of a sex scandal, announced
Nov. 4 plans to hold home prayer meetings, which he’s also referred to as church gatherings. His announcement set off a flurry of speculation over his long-range goals, especially since he founded New Life Church 25 years ago in his basement and grew it into a 14,000-member worship center.
Haggard had planned to allow reporters to attend the gathering, but changed his mind Monday because of the crush of media interest. He also scrapped holding a formal press conference led by a friend that was to be held before the gathering to answer questions himself outside his house from several journalists.
While he emphasized he has no ambitions beyond the prayer meetings, he also said if turnout was strong he might consider holding worship at a larger Colorado Springs venue and evolving the gatherings into a formal 501(c)(3) church.
Haggard had expected only a handful of people to attend the gathering.
Haggard said Monday he is considering creating specialized ministry organizations — similar to New Life’s World Prayer Team and Association of Life-Giving Churches, both of which he started — to complement the meetings.
“Someone may say (at a Thursday meeting), ‘I want to do more for handicapped people,’ and I will think of a way to get that done,” Haggard said.
“People naturally have ideas to help other people,” he said. “All they need is some institution to give them the go ahead.”
As the one-hour meeting commenced, people stood and sat elbow to elbow in the living room, hallway, dining room and kitchen of Haggard’s home. The plan was for Haggard and wife Gayle to speak on love. Offerings for New Life Church and Triangle Cross Ranch, a Christian ministry for physically and mentally challenged adults in Galeton, would also be taken, Haggard said.
Besides Pesavento, several other former New Life churchgoers also attended the gathering, including Lisa Vanbebber, whose been hoping for Haggard’s return to the pulpit since his forced resignation three years ago.
“We are excited to be part of pastor’s resurrection,” she said. “God has a calling on his life.”
Call Barna at 636-0367. To read more on Haggard, go to my blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.