Pastor Draws the Line in Editorial Cartoons; "Creative Abilities" Enable Him to Preach in Ways That His Flock "Can Relate To."

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 2, 2005 | Go to article overview

Pastor Draws the Line in Editorial Cartoons; "Creative Abilities" Enable Him to Preach in Ways That His Flock "Can Relate To."


Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NEW BALTIMORE, Va. - Dick Wright is a nationally syndicated, award-winning cartoonist who isn't afraid to poke fun at lawmakers and world leaders on the editorial pages of hundreds of newspapers across the country.

But in this rapidly growing community in Fauquier County, Mr. Wright, 60, is known as senior pastor at the interdenominational Community Christian Fellowship, who preaches the word of God in ways his parishioners say they can relate to.

Mr. Wright said his many years of drawing cartoons have helped his preaching. His work has appeared in nearly 400 newspapers.

"I use those creative abilities I've got in my messages," he said. "In a way all these years of drawing cartoons was a form of preparation for producing spiritual messages. ... One is political, and one is spiritual, but it's the same process."

Members of his congregation say Mr. Wright makes religion easy to understand.

"I can relate to him," said John Lerch, 45, of Gainesville, Va. "He's been in the business world all his life. ... He talks plainly. He doesn't talk too theologically. It's refreshing."

Mr. Wright, who lives in Warrenton, founded Community Christian Fellowship in 1999, when the church he was attending at the time split. He said one day while sitting at his drawing board, he received a message from God.

"God had more for me to do," he said.

Mr. Wright, who has drawn cartoons for newspapers since 1974, did not attend a seminary and did not undergo any formal pastoral training. But that really didn't matter. One by one, the worshippers came.

In the beginning, the church consisted of 19 members who met at a private residence. In the past year, attendance at the two Sunday-morning services has grown from about 125 to more than 400.

The church, at 6317 Vint Hill Road off Route 29, has three pastors and two staff members. Mr. Wright plans to hire another pastor soon. The 12,000-square-foot church building, which sits on five acres, is fairly new. The $830,000 building was constructed 18 months ago.

Mr. Wright believed there were no churches in the county that appealed to those worshippers who wanted less tradition and more vibrancy. He thought he could use his career experience to relate to people's real-life challenges and talk about Christianity in a "culturally relevant" way.

"Across the country, this isn't unique," said John Peterson, the church's 49-year-old executive pastor, who also has no formal pastoral training. "But in this area, it is unique."

He said most of the churches in the area have long been denominational.

One of the church's primary means of proselytizing is direct mailings that feature Mr. Wright's cartoons. The church has its own printing press, which makes the mailings cost-efficient, he said.

"We really believe in spreading the Gospel, and we do that through direct mail," he said. "We've already put our Gospel message in 300,000 homes. This year, we're going to try to reach a million homes."

Over the past three years, the county's population has grown by almost 11 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

Mr. …

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