• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Associate Pastor, Discipleship
  • Shannon Clark
    Administrative Assistant
  • James Parker
    Chief Musician
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
  • Robert Blevins
    Director, Community Development
  • Janice Crowson
    Director, Facilities/Finance
  • Daniel Brown
    Print & Digital Media Specialist
  • General Contact
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5 Questions with Southwood’s Founding Members

What was the prayer for Southwood before she was planted?

Ashley McGaha: The initial families attended Westminster Presbyterian Church in the early 1980s. The vision of planting a reformed church in southeast Huntsville was laid on the hearts of Kirby and Karen Parks, and that vision quickly spread to others. Pastor Paul Alexander and the leadership of Westminster agreed to “release” these young families to engage in the work, beginning with home Bible studies. During this time, the congregation was nourished by the teaching of Larry Billiter, Doug Sparks, and Jim Daughtry.

Karen Parks: Our attendance would wax and wane. There were times when we wondered if we would make it. We kept on because we believed and prayed that the new church, which at the beginning didn’t have a name, would be an evangelical reformed presence in south Huntsville, sharing the gospel and making disciples of those that came.

What plans went into the first worship service?

Ken/Stephanie Newberry: One of the things we did was install several extra telephones and conduct a telemarketing campaign before the first service. We had a listing of South Huntsville area phone numbers, and we all took shifts making calls. Sometimes one parent would man the phones in the evening while the other parent fed and put the kids down. Other times, the moms would come down during the day if they had a few free minutes and let the kids play on the floor nearby while they made calls.

How surprised were you when over 200 people showed up?

Ken/Stephanie Newberry: Rather than being “surprised” that so many people showed up, I think it was just the first of many times that we felt blessed and grateful for what the Lord had chosen to do. As we’ve said to folks over the years, it has always been easy to be humble about the growth and vibrancy of Southwood because none of us had ever done this before and we certainly never attributed it to our talents or experience in church planting. The Lord clearly intended to build His church in this area and we were blessed to be a part of it.

What is your favorite memory from the Bailey Cove storefront?

Karen Parks: One Sunday School class was at what is now Jill’s dance studio, which was later our sanctuary. It was a gymnastics center with one big room and concrete floors covered in mats. We had to move the mats on Sunday morning and then set up our folding chairs and put the mats back when finished. They turned the heat off on the weekends so we used space heaters and made a circle of chairs around the heater. I fondly remember one winter morning sitting under a blanket with Clara Zimmerli, who was the oldest member of the church then as still was at the time she died. It was so cold but that was a sweet time. I also remember in Don’s Gym having the paper taped up around the mirrors around the aerobics room. It was hard to get the paper to stick and more than once, the paper would begin to fall down during the sermon and continue coming loose around the room. It made noise and it was hard not to look at yourself in the mirror. Richard Jones and his teenage boys moved chairs on a bumpy parking lot every Sunday morning, set them up and then took them down and pushed them back across the parking lot to store them (others, like Jimmy Richardson, helped). They did this in every kind of weather and never complained.

Ken/Stephanie Newberry: Teaching small children in the back of the cleaners. It’s been said that overseeing a classroom full of small kids is like trying to keep 15 or 20 corks under water at the same time. But teaching in the back of a commercial cleaners takes things to a new level. We can still picture all the little girls being mesmerized by the various shiny and sparkly prom dresses and gowns. And then there were the boys who thought hiding behind a big bedspread or stacks of boxes was great fun. Also, unlike our current building where the children’s spaces are safely separated from the parking area and our playground is fenced, the space at the shopping center was spread out in several buildings with a parking lot and driveway in between. One day during one of the early VBS weeks, one of the young boys “escaped” and started running down the parking lot just about the time that a UPS truck was rounding the corner. Stephanie saw him and began the chase. The trouble was that she was dressed up as an angel at the time, which put her at a distinct disadvantage. She managed to corral the little fellow, but we’ve often laughed about what the police dispatch would have sounded like alerting area law enforcement that there was a small boy running south on Bailey Cove with an angel in hot pursuit.

Ashley McGaha: Barney’s network of relationships in the PCA enabled him to bring teachers such as R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, Bryan Chapell, Harry Reeder, and Randy Pope to preach from the pulpit in the cramped facilities on Bailey Cove.

How did you see God’s faithfulness even in your weakness?

Karen Parks: We were all in our 30s with young children and we had no idea what we were doing. God did it. He was faithful and surprised up over and over again. He truly wanted Southwood to be planted.

Jim Hess: It really was a special time, but I don’t think we thought we were special people. God worked way beyond our abilities.