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Local churches welcome new ministers

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When Chris Cain retired from the pulpit in southern Indiana, he and his wife, Nancy, went on the road, preaching in churches around the nation and abroad.

“It’s amazing how people live different in different areas and communities,” he said. “We traveled coast-to-coast, Canada, Mexico, around the world, and it gives you a fresh perspective.” 

The couple has officially been named pastors of First Assembly, one of three local churches welcoming new ministers this summer. The Cains had made several guest speaking appearances at the church and led the congregation for nearly two years during a transition period. 

A Washington state native, Chris Cain, whose father was a soldier in Korea, had considered a military career until being called to the ministry. He was a teacher and administrator at a Christian school before becoming a pastor, serving churches across Indiana.

“We want to continue to broaden our arms toward the community and reach out and invite people who can experience that unique touch without necessarily being limited to any one particular denominational perspective,” Cain said. 

“We’ve got to stay on the cutting edge without compromising our distinctives.”

For Dirk Caldwell, returning to the pulpit after serving as a Navy chaplain meant coming home. Caldwell, a graduate of North Montgomery High School and Wabash College, was appointed senior pastor at Christ’s United Methodist and Darlington United Methodist Church.

Caldwell began his ministry career in 2000 as a youth pastor in Avon. The senior pastor encouraged him to join the seminary and he preached at a United Methodist church in New Albany while becoming ordained.

In the Navy, Caldwell spent three years ministering to sailors aboard the USS New York, which was built with steel salvaged from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“I was able to listen to a lot of personal tragedy,” he said. “I’m amazed at how resilient people can be and that I think is what they taught me, all the young sailors on board coming from all walks of life and their experiences were not like mine.”

After a yearlong deployment to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Caldwell left active duty to return to Crawfordsville. He’s still in the Navy Reserve.

As churches everywhere grapple with dwindling congregations, Caldwell said he wants his sanctuaries to “be a part of a… revitalization” and begin “seeking out opportunities to connect with new people in new ways.”

Another local church is beginning its own transition period. After 17 years, Tony Thomas preached his final sermon as senior minister of Woodland Heights Christian Church last Sunday.

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