Faith made the news locally in ways big and small in 2014.
The first gay couple weds in Greensboro.
Hollywood offers up a slew of faith-tinged movies — and local congregations use them as evangelism tools.
A local ministry, where the pastor wears jeans and a polo shirt most Sundays, makes the list of the fastest-growing congregations in the country.
These faith-related stories kept people in the Triad talking.
Same-sex marriage legalized
It was a powerful moment as preachers Ron Tuck and Julie Peeples stood in the entry of the Guilford County Register of Deeds Office on Oct. 10, soon after a federal judge overturned North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages.
Guilford’s was one of just three in the state to reopen after hours to begin processing the paperwork, and same-sex couples were lining up with their friends and family.
Tuck, a self-described street preacher, had walked in off the street pleading, “Please don’t do this! This is against God’s word.”
He was immediately approached by Peeples, and in just seconds, the Rev. Ches Kennedy.
“Please don’t do this,” Peeples said, looking into his eyes. “These are people who have been hurt already.”
Peeples then suggested they pray, which they both did aloud. Then Tuck left.
“I think it was a reminder that there’s still work to do, and we need to be as gracious as possible with people struggling with this,” Peeples said.
Getting to ‘God’s post office’
A group of parents started an online fundraising campaign this fall to help a popular Grimsley High teacher fighting a rare and late-stage cancer get back to Israel.
Helping Rina Sky Wolfgang get there would be more than a sightseeing venture.
Rina Sky Wolfgang, a Grimsley teacher who has stage 4 cancer, wants to visit Israel.
“Rina wants to touch the earth,” said Rabbi Eli Havivi of Beth David Synagogue, where Wolfgang, a Hebrew and world history teacher, is a member. “For us, it is holy ground — it’s where our ancestors walked. It has been the focus of Jewish prayer and Jewish yearning and Jewish living for the 3,500 years of Jewish history.”
And just last week, the group had raised $12,000 of the $15,000 goal.
“I am planning her trip!” said Jenny Kaiser, one of the organizers.
The group had hoped to raise the entire amount by Wednesday, but is stepping forward on faith. The parents set a goal of $15,000, the cost for Wolfgang and her husband to travel to the country.
The 62-year-old is willing to endure the more than 10-hour flight to get to the Wailing Wall, which is the holiest of Jewish sites — “God’s post office” in Jewish tradition.
“I am so blessed and lucky to live in this community,” Wolfgang said. “And so, so grateful.”
Want to help? Go to fundrazr.com/campaigns/5sGG4 or drop donations off at any Wells Fargo bank branch. Checks should be written to Rina Wolfgang, with :Rina’s Wish” in the memo line.
Two palms up
Movie studios released more than a dozen faith-based films this year — more than industry insiders could remember in a single year.
Local pastors used them as avenues for evangelism.
Video: Watch official trailers for religious that have become a point of discussion among local faithful.
The youth church from OneChurch in Greensboro saw “Son of God” together.
A dinner and a movie included “God’s Not Dead” for the members of the Burlington-Graham Christian Singles Meetup Group.
After the last credit rolled opening night for “Heaven is for Real,” the Rev. Bryan Pierce of Greensboro’s Mount Zion Baptist Church, in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, stood in front of the movie screen at Regal Cinemas.
Pierce’s church bought out two showings.
“We are not crazy,” Pierce said when it was over, looking out at the packed auditorium. “I believe the movie confirms and affirms what we read about. What we preach about. What we sing about.”
About 600 people watched the real-life story of a boy named Colton who claims to have visited heaven during a near-death experience and speaks about things that happened before his birth.
Then Pierce offered an altar call when the lights went back up.
“I don’t want to take for granted all of us know Jesus,” he said, raising his arms, causing a young girl immediately to rise out of her seat.
Daystar Church (www.daystargso.com) was named the 26th-fastest-growing church in America this year, and that was before the launch of an online congregation in August and expansion to Reidsville in February. It’s also the second-fastest-growing congregation in North Carolina, trailing Elevation Church in Charlotte.
This is the second time this nondenominational congregation has made the list, according to Outreach Magazine, which, in collaboration with Lifeway Research, collects data from 27,000 churches across America and compiles the data into its Top 100 issue recognizing the 100 fastest-growing churches and the 100 largest churches in America.
“Our goal is not to be on the list,” says the Rev. Allen Holmes, Daystar’s lead pastor. “Jesus said our mission was to make disciples, and that’s the only thing we are trying to do.”
Daystar Church's donation to Alpha International Ministries will help it spread Christianity throughout Asia.
Established in 1997 with just a few dozen members, the church draws more than 1,600 people through the doors each week. The congregation now holds multiple services in three locations on Sundays, including at 908 Westover Terrace, across from Grimsley High School, Northern Guilford High School and Kernodle Middle School.
Daystar also launched an online campus in August to give potential visitors a look inside its sanctuary. Anyone with a computer or smartphone can go to the church’s website and watch the service taking place.
The church’s core philosophy is less of a concentration on religion with its rigid rules and stodgy traditions — Holmes is usually in jeans and a polo shirt — and more of an emphasis on creating personal relationships with Jesus Christ. Some of those who have found a spiritual home here did not grow up attending church or might have walked away from organized religion for any number of reasons.
Members meet in smaller study groups and are encouraged to work in ministries that include tutoring school children — and this past week, delivering wrapped Christmas gifts to more than 100 adopted families.