VIRGINIA PASTOR HELPS LEAD CHURCH, SCHOOL GROWTH
When she was a teenager, Natalie Francisco led five worship choirs and started the first worship team at her church. Now a co-pastor and music minister at Calvary Community Church and co-founder of Calvary Christian Academy in Hampton, Va., she still uses her gifts to help make her congregation and community better.
Dr. Francisco came to Bluffton University March 27-29 as part of the Minister in Residence program. She enjoyed her first experience with the university, saying Bluffton is one of the most peaceful and nurturing college campuses she has visited.
Calvary Community Church, part of the Virginia Conference of Mennonite Church USA, has nearly 1,200 members and a partnering academy, but it did not start that way.
"My husbandís father served as pastor of Calvary Mennonite Church in Newport News, and we were called into pastoral team leadership. As a result, we ended up pastoring that church two and a half years," Francisco explained. In 1985, the Calvary Mennonite congregation planted a church in neighboring Hampton.
"What started the growth were our conversations with my husbandís father, and the decision to merge our congregations," she said. The merger into one building and one body, Calvary Community Church, officially took place in 1988.
When her father-in-law became very ill, Natalie and her husband, Bishop L.W. Francisco III, were asked to assume full-time leadership at Calvary Community. "When we accepted the roles, we began to change some things," she recalled.
One of the biggest changes was adding on to the original building and then, in 1995, deciding to move to a bigger building, at the churchís current location on Tower Place in Hampton.
Also, in 1991, Calvary Christian Day Care was created at the church to provide Christian education and a nurturing environment for community children. The day care program expanded to include a full-fledged academy, offering academic programming coupled with Christian principles for preschool and elementary-age students.
"My husband and I noticed a big need for it," Francisco said. "Parents became so pleased with the fact that we were not a baby-sitting service, but we were providing holistic development in terms of spiritual development, academics and teaching phonics. Because of the high demand, the academy became really successful."
By meeting the needs and desires of the community, the church has blossomed into a large and exciting place to worship the Lord and to meet others who desire to do likewise. "As a result of reaching out to the community, I believe, and by virtue of the ministry in the church as well as the academy, we continue to attract families today," Francisco said.
Ariel Shuey, public relations office, 4/5/12