New church wants to put unity on display

DOVER — After realizing a calling to the ministry in December of 2003, Kenneth Wagner finally is taking on a project he’s been dreaming of, starting his own church.

“It’s one of the only things in my life I can pinpoint the moment I had a realization,” Mr. Wagner said. “I had always enjoyed being in church and felt a calling to the ministry, but in December of my senior year, my life’s work became apparent and I just knew it was something I had to do.”

It was a time in his life when there were some challenges in his personal life with both his friends and family.

“I saw hope in the church and knew I wanted to spread that hope and start being a part of the solution,” he said.

After seven years as the lead student pastor at Calvary Wesleyan in Harrington teaching kids between sixth and 12th grades, Mr. Wagner, a North Carolina native, made the decision to branch out and begin a church of his own in Dover in July 2013.

The church has yet to find a home but will open on Sept. 20 under the name United Church.

“We want to have our unity on display because it’s a good representation of our church and our goal is to bridge gaps and bring people together from the beginning,” Mr. Wagner said.

Although United hasn’t yet moved into a physical location, it has been active in Dover since March, hosting monthly meetings or “vision nights” to inform interested members of the public about their opening.

So far, the vision nights have been successful, each meeting attracting more than 100 people.

The next vision night is from 5 to 7 p.m. May 17 at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover and will include a canned-food drive. The church also has done other community service programs like a trash pickup earlier this month in downtown Dover.

Community projects are only one way United plans on becoming involved in the community; the church’s motto is “For Dover.”

“The motto is a reminder for ourselves that we are a church that is for the city, not just located inside it,” Mr. Wagner said. “We want people to know us more for the things we are for instead of the few things we are against.”

United Church also will offer an opportunity for those who have never been exposed to a church environment to get involved.

“The idea is to attract people who don’t have a church home or are spiritual but have never gone to church before,” Mr. Wagner said. “Almost 68 percent of people have no church home and United is going to be a place where we will focus on Jesus and not a denomination in particular. We want people to feel welcome from the minute they pull into the parking lot.”

Alongside Mr. Wagner’s vision for United Church has been his right-hand man, Mark Tennefoss, also a youth pastor from Calvary Wesleyan and fellow Southern Wesleyan University graduate.

Continuing to work with youth once United Church opens, Mr. Wagner plans on influencing them to grow into successful adults.

“We don’t want this to just be some kind of religious huddle, we want to impact the community by helping bring up some of the greatest teachers, electricians, businessmen; you name it. We have the opportunity to impact so many parts of society for the better,” Mr. Wagner said.

Mr. Wagner and Mr. Tennefoss already have seen their students from Harrington grow into successful adults and believe the same will happen with the continuation of a youth program in Dover.

But United Church isn’t only for young people. So far individuals ranging from children to nearly 80 years old have been involved in getting the church started up.

“People may think that just starting a church is strange but every church had to start somewhere and this is only the beginning for us,” Mr. Wagner said.

The idea for United Church wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the support and investment of Calvary Wesleyan.

Pastor Ken Figgs has supported Mr. Wagner’s plans since the beginning and made the announcement to the Harrington congregation on Jan. 11 that United would be opening later in the year.

“There hasn’t been any tension and he encouraged anyone who was interested should feel free to come to United, and so far we are expecting about 70 people to come with us,” Mr. Wagner said. “Ken Figgs is the real hero in all this and has been nothing but supportive.”

In order to for Calvary Wesleyan to become an investor in United, Mr. Wagner had to undergo a Church Planners Assessment to show his passion and capabilities of starting a church on his own which he passed.

Mr. Wagner and Mr. Tennefoss plan on having programs for members, but like many churches the biggest teaching of the week will be Sunday morning sermon.

“We will have 70 minutes every week to teach a lesson and it has to be something purposeful and captivating,” Mr. Wagner said. “I need to figure out how to make the Bible, this huge book, relevant so I point out where scripture meets real life circumstances that everyone can relate to.”

The hope of United Church is for its members to bring their love of Christ into every one of their passions and aspects of life.

“We want everyone to go back to their families, jobs or whatever else they are involved with and bring Christ into that,” Mr. Wagner said.

United will continue to have monthly vision nights until its opening on Sept. 20 and locations, times and more information about United Church can be found at or on Twitter @UnitedChurchDE.

The church Kenneth Wagner envisions has yet to find a physical home but will open on Sept. 20 under the name United Church. Until then the is pairing a photo of Legislative Hall with its logo.  (Submitted)

The church Kenneth Wagner envisions has yet to find a physical home but will open on Sept. 20 under the name United Church. Until then the is pairing a photo of Legislative Hall with its logo. (Submitted)

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