Canvas Church in Lenoir City was founded 15 years ago to fill a need for a non-denominational Christian congregation dedicated to the community.
The Rev. Nick Rains founded the church in his living room before moving to the current building on North B Street about 10 years ago.
The congregation has since grown to an eclectic group of more than 200 worshippers drawn to the church because of a welcoming attitude and casual approach, Rains said.
“People find a home here,” he said. “We welcome them as they are. They don’t have to look a certain way.”
The name explains how the church views the process of manifesting God’s work on earth. Like a canvas can be used to display an artist’s work, so too “can our lives be a canvas to display the work of God,” Rains said.
The church sees its role as being a part of the community. Missions efforts include working with residents of the county jail, feeding the homeless every week and ministering to the Lenoir City High School football team.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month and the subsequent restrictions placed on abortion by Tennessee lawmakers, private groups are stepping up support for adoptions.
The federal government essentially moved the issue back to the states. The states will have to address the issue on a local level, Rains said, adding that churches are positioned to help.
Focus on life
“Protection of life should be a fundamental function of the church,” he said.
The expected drop in the number of abortions will likely result in an increase in children eligible for adoption, Rains said. The church wants to support mothers choosing life and families choosing adoption.
“We can celebrate life, but we have to move toward active compassion, especially in the form of adoption,” he said.
James King, missions director, said the idea of providing adoption support had been considered before the court ruling.
A member of the church wanted to adopt a child from Bulgaria. “We looked into the process to see if we could help,” he said.
Working with the organization Lifesong, the church is now in the process of turning the idea into reality.
“We’re excited,” King said. “It’s something we’ve had our eyes on for some time.”
After setting up the relationship with Lifesong, the church plans to provide matching funds up to about $3,000 for eligible families looking to adopt children. Donors have already committed to provided funding, King said.
Working with other organizations, including the state Department of Child Services and private adoption agencies, the church plans to remove some of the economic barriers to adoption. The plan is to also help mothers who choose life care for their children.
Finding ways to help
“The need is going to grow,” Rains said. “We want to help local organizations and local residents.”
The church will be working with a third-party vetting system to select and approve families for assistance. Requiring matching funds is designed to make sure the family is committed to the adoption and capable of handling economic challenges faced by adoptive families.
A committee will be set up to review grant applications, and the church will begin helping families by September. The program will have printed resources providing information on adoption.
Part of the plan involves setting up a network of other organizations that want to promote life. The goal is to have the network functioning before the end of the year.
Rains said there is much community churches can do to help improve the foster care and adoption system.
“The foster system is broken,” he said. “We have to come together to create a better system.”
He said there is a direct analogy to the success churches have had in addressing drug addiction, emphasizing the most effective strategies have been faith-based. Getting churches involved in the foster care system is going to generate the same success, he said.
“The churches can be like another leg of the table, helping to support the system,” Rains said.