Re: New Song City Central - Tacoma, WA
Date: January 18, 2010 10:50PM
I first attended NewSong, while it was meeting at the Congreational Church, by Group Health. It was called, "The Congo." When I found out that NS was a ministry of Clover Creek, I was very taken back. Back in the 1970's, Clover Creek, was a Baptist church, associated with the "Regular Baptist churches"--GARBC. Very fundamentalist, separtist, etc. Warren Riches, was associate pastor, under Duane Wells (whose daughter, married Mike Riches). The story has been told, out of one of Mike Riches books, how his wife was visited by two angels. As Mike Riches started preaching deliverance from strongholds and other demonic activity, I understand that a number of people left Clover Creek--I believe that I was told, about half of the congregation left. NS, started, with Brian Brennt, teaching a informal Bible study at Pacific Lutheran University. I believe that the core of the leadership, came from PLU. Aaron Barker, (who would head up the music program), was one who became part of a "closed" cligue of people. I understand from Mike Riches, that he decided that Brian was called to youth ministry, and basically allowed him to become the official leader of NS. When I caught up with NS at the "Congo", the church was packed out, to a point, where two services were required. The music was so loud, it was like being at a rock concert. With all the youth (mostly high school to college), jumping up and down, the sanctuary vibrated and shook. It was during that time, I became aware of Chris Hippe, who was at the time, a car salesman, but, part of the quasi-official staff. Brian Brennt said at one time, he wanted Chris to be full-time at the ministry. Besides Aaron Barker and Chris Hippe, Bruce Buskirk, an attorney, was also on the leadership team. Brian's wife, Christie, was able to attend, and lead a woman's fellowship conference, held at the Congo. There were times, that she could not attend--I believe because of chronic headaches. It would be later revealed, through the unoffical grapevine, that Brian Brennt's hands were pratically worthless. He did not shake hands, as it caused him too much pain. He never addressed it publicly, as far as I know. I went to one of the men's retreats, at Miracle Ranch. Men were put into various sub-groups, with a appointed leader. In these groups, accountability was taught, along with the confession of all sins, revealed in the small groups, or in the meetings at large. Chris Hippe, Evan Thomas, were the primary teachers and leaders. NS moved from the Congo, to First Baptist church on 9th & Market. It was at this time, I was invited to visit the Crossing Church, pastored by Jon Graciano (His brother, Rod, was one of my Mom's pastors--and Rod and Jon, did not see eye-to-eye on theology and ministry). I had gone through the class, Living Free, where I had been assigned a mentor. This mentor, strongly encouraged me to go to the Crossing Church, as I was experiencing financial difficulties. Jon Graciano and his wife, Kathy, prayed for me. Out of that prayer, came a "direction from God" to move in with my mentor, who had his own house. The house was unfinished upstairs where the bedrooms were. All the windows were out. There was no heat upstairs. I froze at night, even with tons of blankets on top of me. For this "camping" experience, I had to pay over $300 a month. I was rather sick at the time, and my Doctor did not want me living there, wiith all that cold freezing air. I approached Jon Graciano, and expressed my concerns. He told me that my concerns were not relevant; as "God" had made it clear that this is where I was supposed to be. I stayed there for about three months, before moving out on my own. My moving out was seen as rebellion to church authority. My Mentor, was part of the quasi-leadership circle; having met Brian Barker and Brian Brennt, while NS was at PLU. I would later be asked to join the Crossing, and become a "member" and submit to the authority of Jon Graciano, and a subordinate of his, Scott Baker, who supervised, Crossing Ministries (clothes, haircuts, food) were supplied to people coming off the streets. It was made clear that before receiving services, that the "client" receive prayer from one of the authorized individuals (who had gone through Living Free, as well as the prayer training classes). If an individual refused prayer, they could be asked to leave without receiving any clothes, food, etc. It was during my time at the Crossing, that I was asked to consider going to the Dream Center in Los Angeles, as a volunteer team. I was to raise my own funds to go. I raised the funds, and thought that all was well, until Jon Graciano and his assistant, Garret Walsh, confronted me after church, and accused me of all kinds of sin, including rebellion. I was told I could not go to the Dream Center. Jon's wife Kathy, who also joined her husband and Garret, told me that the real reason why I was not going, was that I had not made any attempt to raise money to go. I was taken back, because I knew two people who contributed funds for me to go. I had proof, and when I provied blank copies of the checks written out to Crossing, in my name, Jon and Garret told me that I could not go, because "God" said I was in sin and rebellion. I was totally taken back. Even though I had proof that I had raised money to go, Kathy Graciano, made it clear that the church never received those funds. Even though the copies of the check, showed that the monies from the checks, had been deposited in the Crossing Church bank account, Kathy still denied that they had received them. I would later become disillusioned with the Crossing and leave. I was still attending NS, and was asked to move into a house, with other NS men. I was about to become homeless, so I agreed to move in. I was confronted with all kinds of rules. I shared a room, with one of the house leaders. The two house leaders, constantly struggled against sexual thoughts/lust. No matter how much they prayed, they could not appear to become free and gain victory. The house leader that I shared a bedroom with, told me that his brother is homosexual, and that sexual sin runs in the family. He and the other house leader prayed, every day; for themselves and the house. No matter how much they prayed and denounced spiritual authorities of darkness, they could not become free from their lusts. It was as though a spirit of perversion, hung over the house. All the men, including myself, could feel a sense of heaviness. So, the leaders started pointing fingers at the others of us in the house. The house was turned upside for any evidences of porn; "evil" music, video's, etc. It was later determined that one of the residents of the house, had music cd's in the basement, which were the cause of much of the spiritual oppression. The house member was asked to pack up his things and leave the house--only because he asked why he had to get rid of the music. After he was gone, the house went back to usual business, but the lust and perverse "spirits" were still in the house. The two male house leaders, could not appear to get victory for themselves. The house eventually disbanded. I left NS, around late 2007/early 2008. Before I left, one of the older men at NS, wrote a public letter, accusing NS of financial misconduct. About the same time, NS, the Crossing and Destiny, went their separate ways. Crossing Church, fell under the umbrellla of Destiny (formely Clover Creek). I heard that Crossing and Destiny, accused NS of several different financial issues, and so there was a split. Trying to get information from any of the quasi-leadership, as to what really happened, was almost impossible. I talked to Gabriel VW, who has posted several comments on this blog. I was confronted and told to "trust" the leadership. A few months ago, I dropped in on Crossing Church, as a visitor. Jon Graciano's face "froze" when he saw me. I felt so uncomfortable that I left immediately after the service. I have not had any contact with NS, or Destiny, since I left. My visit with the Crossing Church, confirmed for me, just the bitter taste that I have in my mouth. Some of the former NS people, attend, Life Center Church, where one of the original Clover Creek staff, was fired, and is now a ministry leader at Life Center. I hope this does not appear as sour grapes. I have tried to be as objective as possible; realizing that I am speaking from my own perspectives, opinions, etc.