What’s New stays undefineable

Posted: February 28, 2014

The Winchester Star

The Rev. Andy Combs (left) introduces Kristina Simpson (right) who plays the keyboard and sings at a recent What’s New Worship service in Winchester. The church meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Winchester Travelodge, 160 Front Royal Pike.
The Rev. Andy Combs leads a praise song at a recent What’s New Worship service.

Winchester — The Rev. Andy Combs bills What’s New Worship as the church that doesn’t care.

In this case, he is referring to what he sees as the vision for his congregation. It provides a place where a person’s past, race, financial situation, social status, clothing, tattoos, and hair style don’t matter.

“You hear in old school churches that ‘just as I am’ mentality, but we are trying to make that a reality. All we care about is if you come to know Christ and move forward from that point,” said Combs, 37, of Stephens City, who typically preaches in a T-shirt and jeans.

The church meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Winchester Travelodge, 160 Front Royal Pike, and draws in a mix of travelers and regular attendees, he said.

Combs refuses to let his church be pigeonholed. Since worship style is usually a defining factor, he said he is determined not to be definable.

At Sunday’s service, Kristina Simpson led the congregation in contemporary worship songs with a pop feel. This weekend, Donnie Carter of Strasburg will present the music. He sings a gospel hip-hop style of worship.

Other styles have included southern rock, gospel, country, a bluesy jazz, grunge rock, bluegrass, Latino, and teen rock.

People never know what to expect, and that is exciting for them, he said.

“A lot of churches tend to look like the style of worship it has. We try to keep the music looking as different as possible so the congregation looks as different as possible,” Combs said.

Simpson, 35, of Winchester, is a new recording artist with her first album coming out in March. She recently started leading worship with What’s New and sings a mix of contemporary Christian songs people are familiar with and her original music occasionally thrown in, she said.

“I don’t think people mind stepping outside of their comfort zone if they know they are not stuck there,” she said. “They know they can come back the next week, and it will be different.”

Having witnessed the tendency of a small percentage of people doing the bulk of the work in other churches, the format at What’s New has the benefit of not getting a worship leader or team burned out because they have to be there every Sunday, Simpson said.

The handful of times Joe Kratz, 52, of Purcellville, has led worship, he said it was old-school Christian rap. He has a chorus he teaches the congregation so they can join in and the worship is still interactive. “Then throughout the song, I get them to sing along when we get to the chorus.”

Kratz said God delivered him from a life of drug and alcohol addiction and imprisonment. About 10 years ago, he started throwing together raps for children in his church in Leesburg and people of all ages were receptive to it.

Given his own past, Kratz said he knows how important it is to have congregations like What’s New. “I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to church if it weren’t for places like that.”

What’s New started Oct. 10, 2010, as a contemporary service at Shenandoah Valley Baptist Church, where Combs was the youth pastor. He also ran a basketball league there and talked to a man who said he couldn’t come to church because he didn’t have the right clothes. “I thought ‘oh my God, have we come this far in modern day church where people won’t come to church because they don’t have the right clothes.’”

The service did well and had about 60 people attending when the group split from the Baptist church in March 2013 to go out on its own, Combs said. Now the congregation averages 140 to 160 people each Sunday.

One of the biggest services the church has had drew 250 people and that was when a former prostitute named Star Nicely spoke, Combs said. “We look at everyone the same.”


What’s New Worship meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at the Winchester Travelodge, 160 Front Royal Pike.

For more information, go to whatsnewworship.com.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com