New church sets October opening
Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The pastor at a nondenominational church setting up at Bennett’s Creek travels the world “building leaders and church organizations.”
Riverbend Church’s Bobby Hill has been a full-time faculty member at Regent University since 2010.
“Prior to that, I had pastored and been in the ministry setting for 42 years,” he said.
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Hill and wife Carrie came to Hampton Roads in early 1990 to work on a master’s degree. “And we’re still here,” he said.
A small core group that would form Riverbend Church first started meeting at the Harbour View Hilton Garden Inn two years ago, Hill said. It launched Saturday night services that more recently have been held at Covenant United Methodist Church on Dock Landing Road.
“We have been working diligently to find (permanent) space we could use,” Hill said. “We finally identified one, and we’re looking forward to moving in this fall.”
The new location is an existing building in Bennett’s Creek Square on Shoulders Hill Road. The 6,600-square-foot area, Hill said, will be transformed into a sanctuary seating about 200 worshippers, as well as classrooms. The Planning Commission granted approval in February, with City Council approval in March.
“We have jumped through the hoops; now we are waiting for the construction permit to start construction inside,” Hill said.
Riverbend is aiming toward Oct. 19 for a “grand celebration” marking its new facility, he said. “We may be in there a few weeks before that,” he added.
The North Suffolk location is “right in the heart” of a lot of future residential growth, according to Hill. “The area that we really felt moved to be a part of is that (Route 17) corridor, even all the way over to Chuckatuck and back over into the Burbage Grant area,” he said.
Back in the early 1990s, Hill started New Life Christian Ministries. It started out with locations in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake, he said, but has now grown to “probably 12 to 15” sites.
More recently, Hill said, his main emphasis has been “developing leaders.” His degree is in organizational leadership studies, and at Regent he’s an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Biblical studies and Christian ministry department.
“I’m very passionate about building leaders and building church organizations,” he said. “During the past 12 to 15 years, I have spent a lot of time working overseas with different groups, usually in Third World or developing countries.”
The work involves a lot of sponsoring and hosting conferences and seminars, Hill said. “I work with groups of local pastors to try to give them the nuts and bolts of what it takes to be more effective in building a church,” he said.
Hill described Riverbend, part of Vanguard Ministries, which he heads up, as “a nondenominational church that’s evangelical in doctrine but charismatic in worship.”
“It’s not all that common,” he said. “We tend to have an interesting blend.”
While the church is “all about family,” Hill added, “I don’t just mean the nuclear family unit. We are very multicultural; you will find quite a mix of African-American, Caucasian-American and Asian-American.
“I think people are looking for a warm place that they can consider to be a spiritual family.”
Riverbend doesn’t have staff pastors at this point, Hill said, but it has been working to develop a “leadership core.” It also uses students from Regent University, either in their final year of training or recent graduates, as interns.
“So that helps provide some needed staffing,” he said.