Pastor Chris Hemmerich
Testimony of Faith
We moved to Connecticut when I was in high school, and shortly thereafter my father died after a brief bout with cancer. This sent my world reeling. My father and I had never been close, but now all hope of a better relationship was lost. I began to wonder whether there was a heaven or a hell, and where was father was. God used this tragedy to spark a spiritual investigation that would continue through my freshmen year of college.
Through that time, I often talked with a friend about the big questions of life: Why are we here? Is there a God? What is God like? Finally, my friend suggested I talk to his father, who “thought about this kind of stuff all the time.” When I did, this man offered to answer any question I had, so long as I committed to attend a bible study he taught for at least 6 weeks. I agreed, and the next thing I knew he was handing me a background check form! I found out was that his bible study was held at a medium security prison in Somers, Connecticut!! He picked me up each week, and gave me a Bible to read. Each week, I saw prisoners weep over their sins, and rejoice in their salvation. As I read the gospel for the first time, I saw the fruit of the Gospel in the transformed lives of the prisoners. They were behind bars, but they had more freedom than I did. God shook me, convicted me, and woke me up to Himself. That spring, I surrendered my life to Christ.
I began the work of trying to find a church that preached the Bible --- no easy affair in the Northeast! I eventually settled at Valley Community Baptist Church. I was blessed to be mentored there by several Pastors over the next few years, meeting and marrying my wife Corey, who had grown up attending there.
I continue to seek growth in my walk with Christ through regular Bible study and prayer, reading the sermons of Spurgeon, and listening to those of Tim Keller and John Piper. Every church I have served in I have sought both accountability and encouragement from older men, (often Elders or fellow Pastors,) and I enjoyed the combination of their support and counsel.
I have grown a lot since I first believed 21 years ago, but I have so much farther to go in the time the Lord gives me. Higher up and deeper in, as the characters in The Last Battle cry as they explore the new Narnia. There is so much depth and richness to Christ's love and care -- how much more of His grace and goodness do I long for and yearn to know!
Called to Ministry . . . do I have to pick up the phone?
I did not set out to be a Pastor. In fact, I think I was the last one to recognize that God was calling me to ministry!
I first became aware that God might be calling me to ministry when I was in college. I had been serving at a fledgling campus ministry at Central Connecticut State University. Our weekly meetings often consisted of a game, worship music, and a sermon from a Pastor in the community. Several cancellations forced me to preach often in that season, and I was serving in totally uncharted waters, drawing off my own times of study and prayer in my relatively new walk with Christ. After I would preach, people would go out of their way to tell me how helpful my message had been. I was floored. It felt exhilarating and scary all at once.
I had been planning to drop out of school to become a police officer, and I was actively interviewing for opportunities. But, in that season, I could not escape the burden I felt to discern whether I was, in fact, called to be a Pastor. When an opportunity for mentorship opened up in our local church, I took hold of it with both hands, committing to stay in school through graduation. I knew God wanted me to take the time to explore God’s call on my life.
The Puritans looked for a threefold confirmation of the call to be a Pastor, asking questions of prospective candidates for Gospel ministry:
When Corey and I got engaged, our Pastor (Pastor Jay) told us we had the opportunity to “be dangerous together”. That’s what we have been trying to do ever since we married in 2002, as we have served the Lord in churches around the country. We are excited about the possibility of joining you all, and continuing to serve the Lord together!!
One more thing: I am really into my German heritage. During a trip to the Big E, early in our marriage, Corey surprised me with one of those awesome and overpriced family crests . . . and the Hemmerich motto on that crest was Perseverance in a True Purpose!! Though that overpriced crest has long since disappeared, probably lost in one of our cross-country moves, by the grace of God that motto has stuck. Even our kids will chant that motto when the going gets tough on a mountain hike, and we have lived out that motto in so many other ways over the last 17 years . . . striving to faithfully follow God in a variety of situations, experiencing a blessed fruitfulness in life and ministry, and persevering against a background of trial that, on more than one occasion, tempted us to quit.
Praise God for His great faithfulness -- a faithfulness that will never let us go, never let us down, and never leave His Church alone, no matter what.