Short version of our history. EMMAUS ABBEY CHURCH was conceived in January of 2000 while praying in Victory Chapel at Fort Meade Maryland. Fr. Brett was in the process of being ordained a deacon in the Orthodox Church. After his ordination on 6 December 2001, Fr. Brett stated that when he retires from military and plants a church in Knoxville, TN it will be called Emmaus Abbey Church. Emmaus first began as a counseling ministry in 2008 reaching out into the Knoxville community. In January of 2012 Emmaus began as a 501C3 non-profit. Later we reclassified as a church in July 2013. Emmaus Abbey was received into the Charismatic Episcopal Church of North America in April of 2014. We found a home in the Diocese of Midsouth, Sharpsburg, GA.
January 15th, 2012, starting with two families, marked our first Sunday at our new home on Glastonbury Road, Knoxville, TN. After six years meeting in a proprietary Chapel we have purchased property in Knoxville to have a home this side of eternity!
On October 17th, 2012 Fr. Brett made a call to Bishop David Epps, Bishop of the Midsouth Diocese to begin a conversation about coming into the Charismatic Episcopal Church in North America. The Bishop asked for a year of discernment for me to get to know the CECNA, meet and attend worship services and then he would make a decision as to move forward or not. In April of 2013, the Georgia Commission on Ministry was appointed to meet with me and assist me through the reception process to become a CEC priest. On July 3rd, 2013 Emmaus Centre for Christian Counseling was reclassified as a 501C3 under the IRS as Emmaus Abbey Church, Inc. In April of 2014, Fr. Brett was received into the Midsouth Diocese at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (CECNA).
I was asked by Bishop Epps if I would establish a new parish in the Knoxville area. The new parish would meet in my home and be formed by several of my family members and two other faithful CEC members who recently moved to the Knoxville area. We began developing a missional leadership team and started meeting right away in my home. We were committed to preserve the Apostolic faith as received in the CEC Anglican Tradition.
The starting of a missional church was going to be a challenge, but this work was not new to Fr. Brett having worked as a missionary for over 25 years in the military chaplaincy.
Fr. Brett, being a retired Army chaplain came prepared with all the necessary items to start a church and worship service. Over the years he had purchased many religious paraments and furniture from churches closing down in Europe. He new he would eventually start a church, so he began collecting the necessary items. He had an altar, Processional Cross, Collection Plates, 150 hymnals, vestments, Chalice and Paten, Lavabo Bowl, Host Tray, guitar and local business donated an Electric Organ. Also, a CEC church in Spartanburg, SC donated some altar & processional candles, banners and St. Luke in Manchester, GA some altar rails. Once we secured all the items necessary, we had to store the items until we could expand from the small room in our house into a 500 square foot room in our garage into a residential chapel.
In January 2012, my family and I began having morning prayer and Holy Eucharist every Sunday starting at 10am. By April 2014 we gained two new members from previous CEC churches. In 2017, we began expanding the 500 square foot proprietary chapel out into another 900 square foot area of the garage. We dry walled the garage, put in lights, painted and built a small kitchenette for fellowship gatherings. This expansion added from 30 seats to our chapel giving us a 50-seat capacity. We are fortunate that Fr. Brett had the facilities necessary to assist into an early church launch. We understand that many church plants cannot start with these assets, but God made it possible through a few people and churches chipping in and making it happen.
Missional Thinking: Everyone is a missionary in the church. We knew that we were a missional church starting without one dime in our pockets. We read about St. Paul, Lydia, Barnabas principles and launched our church on faith and that God would lead us day by day. Paul planted the gospel, discipled, he did not plant churches. Why, because he had zero money for buildings, but he had the greenhouse effect on his followers to plant the gospel in every home in the first century. The greenhouse effect is plant the seed in good soil, water the seed, the believer, grow the seed, transplant the seed. Second, we must invite women to walk beside our men to plant the seeds of the gospel as well. In Paul’s day women were very instrumental in the process of growing the church. Note Acts 16: On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. – Acts 16:13-15
The Orthodox church gives Lydia as an equal to the Apostles. I also give our women in Emmaus Abbey a great deal of favor when it comes to getting things done in the church.
If Paul planted churches with a little merchant woman we can too. The Diocese of the Midsouth was instrumental in our missional success. I felt God leading us to campaign in our Diocese for a 10-10-10 mission & funding model: Save $10,000, develop 10 missional leaders (complete CEC Certificate Program) and seek 10 families to support the church outreach program and complete the Certificate Program as a family. Also, we would follow the ICCEC 10-10-10 tithing program: 10% of what the Diocese of Midsouth receives from its congregational asking is paid toward the budget of the ICCEC Church (or to a local ministry as designated by the local congregation). Each congregation is asked to give to the budget of the Diocese of Midsouth 10% of what it receives from its members in pledge. Rectors Council in the Diocese of Midsouth, in turn, ask members of their congregations to tithe from their household budgets. We also teach that our families understand debt free living. Money management is crucial when raising a family today. The goal is to live off 80% of their earned wages. Deposit 10% into the family savings account, tithe 10% to local church and develop a budget to live off the other 80%. We have families who actually live off 71% of their earned income and attest what God has done in their lives financially.
Next, the pastor would be Bi-vocational and receive no salary until the parish was able to support a priest. Since Emmaus Abbey did not have any overhead expenses, every dime went into the general fund. This was done one year after we started our church on Pentecost Sunday. Within a month, the campaign raised $8,200.00 and we were on our way. Within three months after a morning worship service we had a private donor write a check to us for $2500.00, we met our first goal. Our next goal was to secure our 501C3. By July 3rd, 2014, we received a few more private donations and we were able to pay for our IRS 501C3. Another goal met.
In 2016, we finished the outer section of the residential chapel we worship in and have increased our parking area for 24 cars. We are debt free at this point and this is proof we can continue to achieve our missional goals and save our resources we are an independent parish. From 2015-2018 we saved enough money to purchase a 1.10-acre lot in the beautiful area of Halls, Tennessee. Our goal is to clean off the lot and use it as an investment until we can double our investment on the lot. God has opened many opportunities and we hope
He will send a gift of 4-5 acres or more so that we can use our investment to build a building. I pray daily that God will move among the Emmaus Abbey Church to increase God’s presence in the greater Knoxville area.
Missions: Among the strengths the parish felt Fr. Brett and his wife brought to the parish a strong missional, outreach orientation and experience with working with broken marriages and individual struggling with addictions. Also, using the ALPHA evangelistic materials to reach the lost and grow the church. Since 2010 to present, the counseling ministry has brought into the church some steady funding to support our missions work in the areas of family and addiction counseling and evangelism materials.
Today, Dr. Travis has engaged “Reformers Anonymous” to start an RU Chapter” here in Knoxville, TN to assist in fighting the opioid epidemic. RU is a biblically based, Christ-centered recovery program designed to rescue, recover, and restore those in addictive behaviors with the power of the victorious hidden life found only in Jesus Christ. Mr. Jason Munsey, a church member will be trained and certified to become the RU Director for this program. The ministry is in the process of being a certified RU Chapter in Knoxville, TN. Emmaus Abbey is a missional church. We lead by example, meaning if there is any church growth it comes through serving others, outreach, evangelism and producing disciples.
The war we have in the streets is the same war we have in our churches. People come to me deceived and say they are Christians even though they are participating in all sorts of addictions, divorce, family conflict, homosexuality, criminal activity, lack of church attendance all this is sin. We even see whole denominations departing from the Faith. The church has to advance into the streets in 21st century in order to make a difference in peoples lives. “Caring for People and Connecting Them to Christ.” The world has been wounded by the church, therefore, the church must seek forgiveness and reach out to those in pain.
On May 5th, 2018, The Most Reverend William D. Epps, Bishop of the Dioceses of the Midsouth gave a Letter of Institution to Fr. Brett Travis to become the Canon Missioner for the State of Tennessee. The Rev Canon Brett Travis will oversee the starting of mission churches, evangelism, discipleship and outreach.
Our church is committed to presenting a compelling witness to the orthodox Christian faith in the CEC Anglican tradition, to making a difference in our community and to reaching out to younger people.