by Bill Forman
The exiled New Life Church founder stepped briefly back into the spotlight last November with a couple of informal prayer meetings, which were then put on indefinite hold when the Haggards went out on the road to publicize wife Gayle's New York Times best-seller Why I Stayed.
But for the past six weeks, the Haggards have been hosting backyard Sunday services under the auspices of their newly incorporated St. James Church. And while the Pikes Peak Center's 250-capacity Studio Bee is still a far cry from the 5,000-plus New Life facilities, it's been often noted that the North Colorado Springs mega-church got its start in the Haggard family basement 26 years ago. As Haggard told the Indy prior to the new church's launch, "We're not going to start and stop. We're in."
Haggard, who refers to his parishioners as "Saints," has also devised a kind of lottery in which a randomly selected congregant chooses how to distribute a portion of the week's tithings. (A bit complicated to explain, but you can read the details in our interview here.
"Last week's benevolence giving went to The Shove Chapel Soup Kitchen. I love seeing God's money actually doing GOD'S WORK!!!!!! Yes!," enthused Haggard in a July 10 post.
God only knows where it'll all go from here: "I want to foster an atmosphere where people see one another with compassion and feel what each other is going through," Haggard told the Indy last month, "instead of judging, evaluating or analyzing. I think that may be important, that function, but it's just not for me anymore. I'm finished with it."