Photo courtesy of James Partlow IV/Partlow InteractionsBOWIE – Restoration Praise Center, a new Seventh-day Adventist church, opened its doors on Old Stage Road last Saturday with a goal of meeting the community’s needs, ministering to millennials and sharing the gospel news. “I believe that in order to reach this generation, you have to let them […]
BOWIE – Restoration Praise Center, a new Seventh-day Adventist church, opened its doors on Old Stage Road last Saturday with a goal of meeting the community’s needs, ministering to millennials and sharing the gospel news.
“I believe that in order to reach this generation, you have to let them lead,” Restoration Praise Center (RPC) Senior Pastor Paul Graham said. “I don’t believe the building of the church came out of a mentality of the leader. I followed the mindset of we would like to have something that reaches the community and the world.”
Graham believes in preaching a message that motivates millennials and lets them know that they can make it in life and know that they are not alone.
“Millennials don’t want to be isolated thinking that they are the only ones that have a sin issue or they have financial issues or whatever,” Graham said. “Millennials want to know that ‘God still loves me even if I’m homosexual, even if I have a debilitating disease, even if I’m not as smart as the next person, even though I’m not as financially fit as the next person.’”
Ugochi Ikpeoha, an attorney-advisor, moved to this area in January 2009 and started attending RPC. She “had no idea” that this new church home in Bowie was going to be on the horizon. Ikpeoha believes RPC can be a resource to the affluent community of Bowie and give the residents something they cannot buy.
“They say that the best things in life are free. So there’s still more to be had that can’t just be bought and that’s a walk with Christ,” Ikpeoha said. “So I think that the people that worship here by sharing a testimony, by mingling with the people I think that they can share that and it’s necessary.”
Ikpeoha said she loves RPC and the fact that it is a part of Prince George’s County. As an undergrad, she took a class called Sociology of African Americans and chose to study the wealthiest African American county in the U.S. for class.
“I began to get excited about living in the D.C. metro area and perhaps being in Prince George’s County,” Ikpeoha said. “So to be a part of a church that’s in Bowie, one of the flagship cities of Prince George’s County, it’s almost like coming full circle…I could have never imagined in 1996 that I’d be worshiping in the county that we studied in class. So this is very exciting.”
RPC started in 2006 as a small group Bible study meeting in the homes of members and was first known as the Lanham-Bowie Project. Since November 2008, the congregation rented space from Capital Christian Fellowship on Greenbelt Road. More than 700 people attended the first official church service that November and since then, as many as 600 people worship there every Saturday.
SaMonna Watts, an inspirational speaker and regular church attendee, said she thinks members from younger generations attend the church because it is “personable.”
“And I think people can come to church and really be themselves, be vulnerable because it’s not a judgment zone,” Watts said. “That’s the kind of vibe I think RPC gives off, especially Pastor Graham where you can come as you are with all your flaws and all your issues and you can feel a part of the church instead of feeling you have to be perfect to come to church and I think people are looking for that—a fresh new look on church.”
On the first Saturday worship service inside the new building on Old Stage Road, the 1100 seats provided in the sanctuary filled quickly, leaving standing room only before the start of worship service. The building contained church members, regular attendees, visitors, church officials and well-wishers from the community.
“The first Sabbath there (in Bowie), I was extremely excited to see the well-wishers and excited to see the members come together to really see this thing come to fruition,” Graham said. “What I saw that first day was God in action, God showing us that it was him that brought us from where we were to where we are now and where we will be.”
The contemporary building design and multipurpose capacity of RPC in Bowie was the collective idea of the church members in hopes of creating a church building that was “service-oriented” and not just focused on one-day a week but seven days a week of being open to the community.
“I think we have a holistic approach to community wellness,” Mytonia Newman, wife of RPC’s first elder Dr. Naeem Newman, said. “We have a team of nutritionists that offer cooking classes. We have a fit club for fitness and wellness. We have Grow Groups that facilitate spiritual growth so we’re looking to kind of help the community mind, body and spirit.”
CJ Cousins serves RPC as the discipleship and multimedia pastor. He said that the neighborhood on Old Stage Road is the primary area that RPC is called to reach but they’re also entrusted to reach the City of Bowie and people throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. Cousins said RPC?has many unique attributes to offer the community.
“One of the things that RPC offers that a lot of other churches don’t is a holistic gospel-centered, distinctive message,” Cousins said. “So that’s the primary thing that people are going to find different about RPC and truly, it’s what we believe as Seventh-day Adventist Christians.”