A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 23, 2020

This coming Sunday, October 25, is Reformation Sunday. It is a day widely recognized by Protestant Christians throughout the world, commemorating the act of a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther who, on October 31, 1517, publicly expressed his frustrations with the Church by posting his points of concern (95 Theses) on the doors to the church in Wittenburg. If Luther were alive today, he would probably still have made his post but, rather than using hammer and nail to a door, he would have used a keyboard and posted them to a blog. Nevertheless, his action gained traction with the sentiments of the people, not only in his town, but throughout much of Western Europe. Rather than starting something, as many suppose, Luther merely put words to what many others were also already sensing. His gesture, and his points (known as Theses), ignited a wildfire, like a spark to the kindling of dry spirituality, spreading and fueled by the dead branches of a dead and mere formalistic religion. Consequently, each year, many churches, from a variety of traditions (though perhaps mostly Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed) make note of this day, not so much to set us apart from others as to re-connect with the Church of ages past and to be re-rooted and renewed in the gospel principles that were recovered in what many historians would call the greatest spiritual revival in modern history – a revival second in all of history only to Pentecost.

At Grace Covenant, we are beneficiaries and direct spiritual descendants of the Reformation. We are, in our essence, a Reformed Church. What I mean by that is that we continue to hold to the core values that were recovered in the Reformation; the key biblical principles rescued, reaffirmed, and restored as foundational pillars of the Christian Faith. Among those key principles are:

  • The Glory of God is our primary goal in life
  • The Scripture of the Old & New Testaments as our only ultimate authority for what we believe and for directing how we should live
  • The “Good News” of the Gospel is that we are able to receive salvation and be reconciled to enjoy a relationship with God, our Creator, by God’s Grace, through God’s gift of Faith, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

These points are not only among our treasured beliefs, they are embedded within the core values of our church, and evident in the daily life an teaching of our church.

With that said, I think what is important is not only that we remember these points, but also that we also realize how we relate to these principles, and to the tradition of which we are a part. I see three ways churches and Christians can – and do – relate to the Reformation:

  1. We can ignore the Reformation entirely.
  2. We can live in Light of the Reformation
  3. We can live in the shadow of the Reformation.

Of these, only one is beneficial.

If we ignore the Reformation entirely, we will gain no great benefit from it. In fact, it is quite likely that we will fall into many of the same errors that the Church experienced during the Dark Ages. The old mantra is true, “Those who forget history are in danger of repeating it.”

To live in the “shadow of the Reformation” is to remember it, but to relate to it in an unhealthy way. It is to celebrate it in such a way that more commemorates the past than benefits anyone in the present. It is like wearing it as a distinctive mark, but not to be shaped by it; or rather, the marks are embraced and worn to be distinguished from others – even other Christians – but not so much for the principles to shape the person or church in such a way that cultivates healthy, holy lives in the present.

But the healthy way to relate to the Reformation is to live in Light of the Reformation. One of the themes of the Reformation was “post tenebras lux” – which is Latin for “After Darkness, Light”! And the Reformation did provide a light for the world. Those principles still shine, especially so where people and churches are continually shaped by these principles. Where these principles are at work, the result is humility, joy, freedom, graciousness – i.e. “Light”.

I write all this because I wanted to seize this date on the calendar to paint a picture. I want to connect us to our tradition, and at the same time point us toward our future. I want us to see that by being faithful to the principles that have always been foundational to Grace Covenant, by being a “Humbly Reformed” church, a church and a people that are continually being shaped or “re-formed” by these gospel principles, we are able to be a Light – a light in an all-too-often dark world; and light for a culture in desperate need of a new Reformation in our own day. In some ways this is an aspiration. But in many ways, it is also already our present reality. And it is because this is both a present reality and an aspiration in our church that I regularly give thanks to God for you all.

OK. Quickly, as I finish up this note…. Don’t Forget: Church Work Day tomorrow morning (October 24). It’s a time when we can come together and take care of some things to prepare our building and grounds for the coming Winter. But more than that, it is a time when we can come together, and enjoy one another. No skills are needed. Just come with a good attitude … and maybe some gloves.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 20, 2020

While it is unusual for me to write one of these pastoral notes early in the week – in fact, I do not think I have done so before – I have been asked by several people for recommended books and/or articles to further consider the Doctrine of Unconditional Election, which was the predominate theme in the message from this past Sunday. So rather than waiting, or answering one by one, I thought I would offer a few suggestions for possible resources. But before I get to that, I want to invite everyone to join me in expressing condolences to the Mundy family.

We learned this morning that Heather Mundy’s mother had passed away. This was not unexpected; and, in fact, Heather has been in Birmingham, Alabama the past few days to be with her mother. But even when expected, such a loss is jarring, even for those who are confident of the hope we all share in Jesus. So please pray for Heather & Camper, and Hope, Mercy, and Ty this week, and in the coming days.

I’d also like to take a moment to offer my thanks to all those who worked to put on a Pinewood Derby competition for the children and families of Grace Covenant. During these past months there have been few communal opportunities, but on Sunday afternoon it was different! Dozens of Grace Covenant families gathered on the lawn – mostly masked, and socially distanced – while the cars crafted by the kids (possibly with some help from Dad or Mom) raced on the track. It was a lot of fun. Even more than fun, it was refreshing. So thanks to everyone who participated. Special thanks to Nathan Mortier, Justin Stevens, and David Hoffman for the work they did organizing, building the track, and running the event.

Now, as for the resources regarding the Doctrine of Election. The best resource I can recommend, that is substantive but not too academic, is R.C. Sproul’s contemporary classic book, Chosen By God. In addition to the book, Ligonier Ministries developed a 6-part video series, also titled Chosen By God, with Sproul teaching. The video series is available for FREE on both Amazon Prime Videos and through Ligonier.

Other books worth checking out:

Chosen for Life by Sam Storms

The Potter’s Freedom by James White

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

Articles worth considering can be found for free from:

Monergism

The Gospel Coalition

Ligonier Ministries

I hope those of you who are curious find something helpful from among these resources. There may be copies of some of the book titles in our Grace Covenant Library – and if there are not, there ought to be. ūüėČ

Finally, let me take this opportunity to invite everyone to join us at lunch time on Thursday, as we gather (via Zoom) to pray for the advancement of the gospel to the Nations, and to hear from and pray specifically for some of our Grace Covenant missionaries, who will be joining us.

J.I Packer, in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (recommended above), notes:

Prayer is a confessing of impotence and need, an acknowledging of helplessness and dependence, and an invoking of the mighty power of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves‚Ķ It is [God’s] way regularly to withhold His blessings until His people start to pray.

So, in line with Packer’s thinking: Prayer is our way of supporting those who are serving Jesus on the front lines. Prayer support is every bit as important as financial support to those who are in foreign fields. Prayer is not only our way of supporting global missions, prayer is one way we can ourselves engage in global mission, even if we ourselves are not venturing far from home.

To participate in the prayer gathering, at Noon, on Thursday October 22, click this link: GCPC Missions Prayer Gathering. If you have any questions, please contact Nathan Kiewiet.

That’s it for now. I expect to have another note out for the weekend, as usual. In the mean time, I pray you have a great week!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 9, 2020

I am regularly reminded of what a blessing it is to be part of this Grace Covenant family. Kind words and notes from many in the church; your prayers, your faithfulness, and your generosity. It is such a delight to see more and more folks joining us for worship each week in person – and online. We are by no means the only “good” church in town. But we are Christ’s Church – and our God has blessed us.

I have the privilege today to announce some exciting news to the Grace Covenant family! As of today, Grace Covenant is debt free! Yep. Read that again. We are now a debt free church! Our mortgage was paid off, in full, this morning!

Let me take a moment to share how this has come to be.

Several weeks ago, at the recommendation of our Finance Committee, the Elders voted to pay off the mortgage by transferring funds from our Building Fund. Unbeknown to anyone – Elders nor Finance Committee members – only a few days later, before we had opportunity to execute our decision, one of our church members (who wishes to remain anonymous), without any knowledge of the Elders’ plan, notified David Lunt, our Finance Chair, of his/her desire to pay off our mortgage! So God was working in the heart of one of our members at the same time he was guiding the Finance Committee and the Session (i.e. Council of Elders, for those who are new to this Presbyterian thing)! Neither aware of the other’s thinking! Amazing!

The gift from our anonymous church member will be given over the course of a couple years. Along with the first portion of the gift, funds were shifted from our Building Fund to entirely pay the mortgage off. Future installments of the gift will go to rebuild the Building Fund. Along with the funds from the gift, the same amount as we have been paying each month toward our mortgage will now also be directed to our Building Fund. Our expectation is that, at an appropriate time in the future (- hopefully a not-too-distant future), we will be able to add the much needed additional classroom space, and other planned renovations and expansions. (For those who are not aware, we already have blueprints for a few different options and phases.)

On behalf of our Elders, Deacons, and Staff, I want to thank all of you for your generosity to Grace Covenant. I especially express thanks to our generous anonymous benefactor. And I think I would be remiss if I did not also express thanks to another Grace Covenant couple who gave a significant gift earlier this year to pay down the mortgage that has now been retired. Please join us in giving thanks to God for his provision; and giving thanks to God for blessing these people to be such a blessing to our church!

As exciting as being able to pay off our mortgage is, I am reminded that God blesses his people – his Church – in order that we be a blessing. While we celebrate being free from debt, God has blessed us in this way to free us to be a blessing to those around us – that through us (and through other faithful churches in town) our neighbors, and those who come to visit the Historic Triangle, might come to know God. This principle is repeatedly expressed throughout the Scriptures, in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is embedded in the Covenant God made with his people through Abraham (Genesis 12.1-3) and it is outlined in Jesus’ response when asked “What is the most important commandment?” (Matthew 22.36-40) So we have been blessed to be a blessing. One of the ways we do this is by committing ourselves to be faithful to God, by delighting in his grace, by being students of and obedient to his Word, and by loving one another. (John 13.34-35) The other is by loving our neighbors as we love one another, and as we love ourselves. We love our neighbors by praying for them. We love our neighbors by sharing the hope we have in Christ with them. We love them by earning the right to share by serving them.

There are many ways we can – and should – serve our neighbors. I want to highlight two of them:

  1. Habitat for Humanity Faith Build – Grace Covenant has the opportunity, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, to serve a family in our community by participating in a Faith Build. Details of this Faith Build can be found by clicking the link above. If you have interest in participating, or if you have questions about participating, feel free to contact Jennifer Allen.
  2. 3e Restoration Fund Raiser – Grace Covenant proudly partners with 3e Restoration to minister to our neighbors most in need. (I also have the privilege to serve on the Board of Directors for 3e.) We are thankful for the work 3e does, and for what we at Grace Covenant have been able to do to help some of our neighbors – including some in our own church – because of the training we have received through 3e. As all faith-based non-profit ministries, 3e Restoration is dependent upon the generosity of of individual and corporate donors. Usually this time of year preparations are being finalized for a banquet. Due to the lingering threat of COVID-19, this year 3e is doing something a bit different – a three-part Virtual Celebration! While I will be sharing more details in weeks to come, I invite you to click the link, check out what 3e will be doing, and, if able, sign up to “attend” and/or support this tremendous ministry.

That’s all for now. There are a number of things going on at Grace Covenant. Check out Grace Notes to find out about those things. If you don’t receive Grace Notes, email Kathy in the church office to sign up. In the mean time, may the Lord bless you and keep you; May he shine his face upon you, and give you … Grace!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace Covenant – Habitat Faith Build

Grace Covenant is excited to partner, once again, with Habitat for Humanity. During the month of October, and likely into November, Habitat will be holding a Faith Build here in Williamsburg. Faith Builds are an opportunity for Habitat and faith-based communities to partner together to build a home for a local family. 

THE FAMILY

Families for whom Habitat partners build homes are selected through a thorough vetting process; and upon selection are required to put in at least 300 hours of “sweat equity” by participating in the building of their own and other families’ homes.

The family for whom we will be partnering to build is the Newby Family. The Newby’s have¬†been very active in the Williamsburg community.¬†While Mr. Newby is retired, wife¬†Jennifer has been a stalwart employee at one of the most recognizable buildings in the Colonial Williamsburg area. Jennifer‚Äôs ‚Äúput others first‚ÄĚ mentality is on display wherever she goes, and it permeates through the Newby Family.¬†

In their new home, the Newby Family wishes to continue their family traditions that have kept them a tight-knit group during the past and hope to make new long-lasting memories in their new home.

We are grateful to be able to partner with and sereve them!

There are a variety of ways we can serve the Newby’s:

1) Praying for the family. Make a note to yourself, and pray for this family as they transition into their new home.

2) Build a picnic table or a bench for the family to enjoy for years to come. You can do this on your own time in your own space. 

3) Help make a welcome home basket to be given at the ribbon cutting.

4) Donate to the build, click on the following link: Peninsula Habitat Faith Build.¬† Donors need to designate gifts to ‘Faith Build Williamsburg’ and indicate donations are being made on behalf of GCPC.¬† Grace Covenant Deacons plan to match gifts of GCPC donors from the Mercy Fund, so your gift is actually doubled! These gifts will go toward paying the cost of the build and toward “house warming” gifts to help the family get settled.

5) Participate in the build! No skills are necessary! (Though skilled workers are very much appreciated.) You can help build. Grace Covenant folks can choose from the following dates/times:

  • 2 slots on Wednesday, October 14
  • 3 slots Friday, October 16
  • 2 slots Wednesday, October 21
  • There will also likely be additional opportunities to serve in November. We will make those dates known as Habitat makes them known to us.

If you are interested in serving any of these slots, you can sign up as a church group or individual volunteer @ www.faithbuilds.habitatpgw.volunteerhub.com. 

Please contact, Mimi Mitchell, Faith Engagement Director at mimi@habitatpgw.org if you have any questions.

**NOTE: Volunteers for construction must be 16 years of age and over. Please contact Habitat if you would like to create an opportunity for younger volunteers. (There are also non-construction volunteer opportunities. Prayer on the site, bringing lunch, and writing blessings on the studs of the home all count as volunteering!)

6) OTHER – You might take pictures of the build and make a keepsake album for the family. Or you – perhaps with your small group, or with a group of friends, make and provide a meal for a work crew shift. If you are interested in helping in any of these ways, please contact Jennifer Allen.

BUILD LOCATION

119 Forest Heights Road Williamsburg, VA. (Near Williamsburg Outlets)


SAFETY GUIDELINES

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg’s first concern is the health and wellness of our volunteers, supporters, donors, homeowners and staff. To help us care for one another, Habitat has updated the safety guidelines and recommend all volunteers adhere to Habitat’s safety precautions. This includes NOT volunteering if you experienced symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 in the last 14 days (i.e. cough, fever, or any respiratory illness), been near someone who is sick or if you or anyone in your household have been in close contact with anyone who is confirmed to have COVID-19, traveled to any foreign country or traveled by cruise or have been in contact with someone who has traveled, in the last 14 days. In addition, masks must be worn on site!¬†

Habitat will only accept volunteers on any site if the volunteer has registered for the opportunity on the volunteer website. More information can be found at www.faithbuilds.habitatpgw.volunteerhub.com when you register. 

LIABILITY WAIVERS: 
Do not forget your volunteer liability waiver!! Liability waivers are necessary every 12 months. Waivers can now be signed online when you register!! Waivers for volunteers ages 16 and 17 must be printed, signed by a parent and brought to the construction site. Please note that waivers have been updated with new language regarding Covid-19. Visit www.habitatpgw.org/liability-waivers to download the waiver of liability. 

For more information on the Faith Build in Williamsburg, please visit www.habitatpgw.org/building-on-faith.html.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – September 25, 2020

While easily overlooked, this coming Sunday, September 27, is a significant day – at least on the Jewish calendar. Beginning at sunset on Sunday Yom Kippur begins. (Leviticus 23.16-22) It is a day, for me personally, that carries fond memories from my childhood. Growing up in a predominately Jewish community in suburban Philadelphia, we got the day off from school! (That’s all I knew; but that was enough reason for me to celebrate!)

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, considered the most holy day on the Jewish biblical calendar. Mindful of Paul’s warnings about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought simply because we might observe certain special days (Galatians 4.10), I do think that Yom Kippur is worth noting for two primary reasons: 1) It is a day Jesus celebrated; 2) It is a day Jesus has fulfilled. Of these two reasons, the second is far more important. Rather than a once-per-year observance, where sacrifices are to be offered as substitutes for our sin, Jesus offered himself as a once-for-all-time sacrifice on the Cross. We now observe, and benefit from, our Day of Atonement by believing – trusting and resting in – what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. And we celebrate it not once per year, but now once per week – on Sundays, otherwise known as the Lord’s Day, a day that weekly commemorates the resurrection, which is the verification that Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was acceptable and accepted by God, on our behalf. In contemporary Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is often celebrated by the people 1) Offering prayers to God; 2) Confessing their sins to God; 3) offering gifts to the poor. These practices provide a good framework for us, who live on this side of the Cross, and who are followers of Christ. On this day, and each week, may we 1) Commit to worshipping God together, offering prayers and praises to him; 2) Freely admit our failures, our weaknesses and our struggles 2b) BUT along with confession, let us remind ourselves of the Gospel – the “Good News” that Jesus has offered himself as our atoning sacrifice; that it was accepted, and that consequently we who believe are pardoned from our sin.

Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 3.23-26:

23¬†for¬†all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,¬†24¬†and are justified¬†by his grace as a gift,¬†through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,¬†25¬†whom God¬†put forward as¬†a propitiation¬†by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in¬†his divine forbearance he had passed over¬†former sins.¬†26¬†It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

And finally, 3) Rather than offer sacrifices to God, let us offer ourselves, to live sacrificially for the benefit of others, and give generously to those who are in need – both tangible need, through ministries of mercy, and spiritual need, through evangelism and global missions.

On a practical side, along with our staff and church officers, I continue to give thanks to God for all of you for your faithfulness, your kindness, and your generosity. We have been blessed in many ways, even if many of us are still separated due to the lingering threat of the Covid-19 virus. But each week we are seeing more people gathering for worship, even as other join remotely via LiveStream. We have enjoyed the first few weeks of our Fall Discovery Class, which is introducing our church’s DNA to several who are new, or relatively new to Grace Covenant. And we continue to be able to serve our neighbors, both spiritually and practically, through the resources you have resourced us with.

A few ways to pray for Grace Covenant:

  1. Pray for those who are new to Grace Covenant to feel welcomed and part. Understandably, but unfortunately, with some of the protocols in place for protection against the virus, hospitality at this time is not as warm or encompassing as we wish it were. But as we have opportunity we want to make folks feel at home. Fortunately several families have felt at home. We want everyone to feel welcomed.
  2. Pray for those who have interest in joining our church. While not everyone who participates in Discovery Class chooses to become a member of the church, many do. So we ask that you be praying for those in the class. We also ask that you pray for those who have taken the class in the past and who desire to formally unite with the church. Most of those who completed Discovery Class in the Spring were not able to be interviewed because of the sudden suspension of worship services and the subsequent shut-down of everything around us. We are re-initiating those membership interviews, and will meet with folks over the next few weeks, largely via Zoom, but perhaps some in-person (socially distanced, of course). But we also ask that you pray for some who may have taken the class in the past, but for whatever reasons have yet to join. If this is you, I want to extend an invitation to you to join us. We’d love to have you officially become part of the Grace Covenant family! While I will be contacting a number of folks over the next few weeks, if you have completed the Discovery Class, and you would like to become member of the church, shoot an email to me or to Kathy to set up a time to talk.
  3. Pray for those who are working to improve the LiveStream experience, as well as the words projected in the sanctuary each week. We have invested in a number of new resources – cameras, software, programming, etc. – and are training new teams of volunteers. Sometimes, as we have experienced recently, there are tech glitches, sometimes there are glitches due to on-the-job training, and sometimes there are glitches in communication between our worship team and tech team. Since we had previously invested relatively little into our tech, we are a work in process. Please pray especially for Tim Nargi and Jeff Field, as they tend to feel the brunt of those glitches. Pray not only for patience, but with thanksgiving for them, and for what they do to serve us. And pray for the volunteers, with thankfulness for them, that they would learn and pick things up quickly. Our goal is to offer worship which honors God and renews us as his people, and to do so in services in which the technical things go largely un-noticed. But we are a work in process.

That’s enough for now. I look forward to writing again in the weeks to come. We have some exciting things going on, but that are just not yet ready to be announced. I look forward to celebrating these things – and all of God’s blessings – with all of you.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace Covenant Pinewood Derby – October 18

Since the start of the pandemic it has been more difficult for our GCPC kids to see and interact with each other on a regular basis. To provide an opportunity for kids (and parents) to connect outside Sunday morning, we are pleased to announce the first ever GCPC Pinewood Derby!

The Grace Covenant Pinewood Derby is open to all kids ages 3 through 7th grade and will be held on Sunday October 18th @ 4:00pm in the Grace Covenant parking lot. The race will be outdoors where racers and spectators can view the track from appropriate distance. Depending on the number of participants, we plan to keep the event to between 1 and 1.5 hrs. 

In the next couple weeks, each participating child will be provided with a car building kit that includes:

  • 1 wooden block,
  • 4 wheels, and
  • 4 nail-type axles

It is then up to the kids (with parental assistance), to design, cut, sand, paint, and weight the car for race day. If you are not familiar with pinewood derby, here is a good video on building a car: 

On the day of the race, we will have a wooden track set up and will race cars head-to-head in two categories based on age. Designing and creating a car does not need to take a lot of time. We plan to have prizes for both the winners and participants. 

If your kids would like to participate, please email Nathan Mortier by September 27th so that we can set aside race car kits for each child, and so we can send you more information about race day.

We hope to see lots of you at the starting line!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Adventures in Romans: Beginning September 13

In Fall 2019 we began a new sermon series, Adventures in Romans: Making Sense of What Matters Most.  This series in designed to be an exploration of the Christian Faith, as outlined and expressed in the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans. From September into December of 2019 we studied Romans 1-4 together. After taking a break from Romans for our Advent series in December, we resumed our study of Romans in January, beginning in Romans 5. We had just begun with Romans 8 when we had to shut down due to COVID-19.

On Sunday September 13, we will resume our study of Romans, beginning with Romans 8. We will be working our way through this book each Sunday, until we again break for the Season of Advent, in December. We will plan to pick up the study of Romans again in January, working through it each week throughout most of the the Winter and Spring.

As previously stated when we began this series a year ago, it would be difficult to overestimate the power of the Book of Romans throughout history.

Theologian John Stott described Romans as:

‚Äúa timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ.‚ÄĚ

Martin Luther said of this letter, penned by the Apostle Paul:

‚ÄúRomans is the chief part of the New Testament; and truly the purist gospel.‚ÄĚ

While Luther was sometimes prone to hyperbole and overstatement, (no one book is ‚Äúmore important‚ÄĚ than the other books of the Bible,) Romans has had quite a unique impact in the history of the Church.  For example:

  • Aurelius Augustine, one of the most brilliant philosophical and theological minds of the early centuries, came to conviction of sin and salvation after reading some verses from Romans 13.
  • Martin Luther rediscovered and recovered the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith from his study of Romans 1.17 ‚Äď which provided the spark for the Protestant Reformation.
  • John Wesley said he felt his heart feel ‚Äústrangely warmed‚ÄĚ while listening to a reading of Luther‚Äôs Preface to the Book of Romans. Wesley, who had already been involved in ministry, claimed that this turning point for him, the point of his conversion, which led to Wesley becoming one of the great catalysts of First Great Awakening during the 18th Century in Great Britain and Colonial America.
  • It was through his study of the great themes of the book of Romans, while in prison for practicing and proclaiming his faith, that inspired John Bunyan to write Pilgrim‚Äôs Progress ‚Äď widely regarded to be one of the most significant works of literature in the English language.

These are but a few among the countless testimonies of the influence the Book of Romans has had on individuals, on the Church, and in the world.

Our goal is to help bring understanding of the Faith,  with the hope that we will fall in love with this book, as others have throughout history. Our prayer is that God will use our study of this book to root us deeply in the Grace of Jesus Christ; that it will shape our hearts and our souls.

John Wycliffe, the man who translated the Bible into English, said of Romans:

‚Äúthe more it is chewed the pleasanter it is‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

In other words, the Book of Romans may seem a little ‚Äúmeaty‚ÄĚ at first, but our hope is that the more you chew on it the more pleasant you will find it.

To better help you engage in this series, we want to provide some resources we hope will prove beneficial.

1) First is an excellent video from the Bible Project, that introduces the Letter to the Romans. This is the second of two videos, covering Romans 5 through Romans 16 (the end of the letter), and gives an overview of the chapters we will explore this Fall, and beyond. (For those who want to review the first part of Romans, click: Romans 1-4 Introduction.)

2) Second, for those who might have interest in reading it, here is a link to a .pdf of Martin Luther Romans Preface.  (This would be an excellent resource for small group discussions.)

3) Third, we will continue to make available to the congregation copies of the Romans ESV Scripture Journal for note-taking during the messages, or in your study, etc.  We will be asking for a voluntary $2 contribution to defray costs. (But this is voluntary. We don‚Äôt want anyone who would benefit from the journal to not have one because of the requested contribution.)

4) Finally, we also want to renew a challenge we issued when we began this series last Fall ‚Äď a challenge we think will prove beneficial for those who will take it up.¬† We want to encourage everyone to read through the Book of Romans one-per-month during the months we are studying this book (i.e. September, October, November).¬† That’s just four chapters per week.¬† We challenge you to discover if Wycliffe was right, if it is true of the Book of Romans ‚Äúthe more it is chewed the pleasanter it is.‚ÄĚ

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – August 29, 2020

Jamestown Island Bridge

For some reason I have the theme song from Gilligan’s Island stuck in my head. I suppose this is because, in part, I flipped by a channel recently during the opening of the show (which I have not seen in decades) and the tune stuck. I also suspect that it may be that they went on a three hour tour only to be stranded in isolation for years, while it sometime seems to me that we began what was initially just a two-week shelter-at-home order to “flatten the curve” and we are now approaching 6 months of various degrees of shut-down and isolation.¬† (Of course, it is quite possible I am the only one to see some such parallel here.)

But all is not bad. Far from it. We have much for which to be thankful. Among such things, for me, is the graciousness which you, the Grace Covenant family, have continued to respond during this time. As we head into Fall, our church continues to be blessed by the faithfulness, the generosity, and the patience exhibited throughout our congregation.  Along with that, we have been blessed by the adding of new people and new families who are considering Grace Covenant their home. I also want to express my thankfulness to all who participated in the recent Red Cross Blood Drive, hosted at Grace Covenant. My thanks to Susan Stallings, for coordinating, to all those who volunteered, and especially to those who gave blood.  This is a wonderful way to love our neighbors, especially as the Red Cross has been experiencing serious shortages due to COVID-19.  Red Cross reported exceeding their goal of 28 units, receiving 32 units last week at Grace Covenant.

We are also thankful that we have seen our number of in-person worship participants increase over these past few weeks, especially during the 11am services. While we still have room for more in both services, our Deacons have mentioned that if some are willing to attend the 8:30 service, that would help make seating and social distancing easier.  The Deacons have also expressed their appreciation for people continuing wearing the face coverings, but want to remind everyone to remember to NOT congregate in the Commons before or after services. We regret that we are not able to be as hospitable as we would like, but it is for the safety of our church members and our community.

A couple reminders from last week:

  • Fall Discovery Class will be offered online, beginning Sunday afternoon, September 13. We invite everyone who is at least relatively new to Grace Covenant to consider participating. Our Discovery Class is designed to introduce the DNA of our church, and an overview of our faith, our values, our commitments, and our connections, to those who are either desiring to join the church, or who want a little more info before deciding if Grace Covenant is the church you want to call your home. The class will begin at 5pm each week, for 6 weeks.¬† Commitment to joining the church is not required, nor even expected.¬† This go-round, we would also like to invite those who have been at Grace Covenant to consider participating.¬† Discovery Class is a great place to be renewed in your faith, as you participate in discussions of the faith and mission of Grace Covenant. All who are interested are asked to sign up for the class, as we will need to provide you with a digital notebook, as well as provide the invite and password to the Zoom meetings.
  • On Sunday September 6, Grace Covenant will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is a holy activity, and an important expression of our Faith. 1 Corinthians 11.28 instructs us to first, ” examine himself or herself” before coming to the Table. In our Reformed tradition, we encourage people to prepare themselves in the week leading up to Communion.¬† Blogger Tim Challies offers a few practical suggestions for preparing ourselves, taken from Puritan Thomas Haweis.¬† It is a very short article titled How to Prepare Yourself for the Lord’s Supper. I commend everyone who plans to partake of the elements of the Table to take some time to read it, and to give some thought to the suggestions for self preparation.

Finally, beginning Sunday Septmber 13, we will resume the study of the Book of Romans that we suspended in the Spring with the beginning of our scattered worship.¬† We will pick up again in Romans 8, with a message from verses 1-17, and then begin working our way through the book each week. We will break from Romans during Advent (the Christmas season) and resume again in January.¬† I have been encourage by the many who have found benefit from our study of Romans, and for those who have been asking when we will begin again. As we have in the past, we will again challenge the congregation to read through this book at least once per month for each month we are studying it. That comes out to a mere 4 chapters per week.¬† We’ll provide some reminders, in the coming weeks, of some of the tools available to help you get the most out of this series.

May the Lord Bless you and sustain you, and grant you His peace.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note – August 22, 2020

Jamestown Island Bridge

Looking ahead to Fall 2020 seems somewhat like this photo I saw earlier this week looking through a crystal ball lens: The world seems upside down, the horizon is a little Crystal Ball 1.1unclear, yet there is still unmistakable beauty.  Regardless of how your world feels, and the uncertainty of plans made for the near future, there is still beauty all around because our God is still in control.  I have to remind myself of that from time to time (perhaps especially after watching the news).

But Fall will soon be upon us. Labor Day, the unofficial marker of Fall, is just a couple weeks away. The autumnal equinox, the official inauguration of Fall, comes just a couple weeks after that.

What will this mean for us at Grace Covenant? Well, truly, only the Lord knows. But we have made some plans that we hope will be both beneficial and encouraging to the Grace Covenant family.

Discovery Class

First, we will offer our Discovery Class beginning on Sunday September 13. The difference this year is that the class will meet online (Zoom) and it will be in the late afternoon rather than between services.

The reason for the class being online is that the church building will remain closed, other than for Sunday worship, for at least the near future. With questions about the virus’ continued potency and possible second wave, we determined that online was the wisest option. Afternoon was chosen, in part as an experiment, to see if that time is better for some than Sunday morning, and in greater part because we realized that to offer a class online between services would be difficult for those who are present at either of the church services. However, online and in the afternoon also offers some opportunities and potential benefits, such as more opportunity for dialogue.

This class is designed as an introduction and explanation of the DNA and the ministries of Grace Covenant. As such, it is usually attended by those who are new to Grace Covenant, and who either would like to become a member of the church or who would like a little more information before deciding if Grace Covenant is where you will make your church home.  If you are new to Grace Covenant, or if you have been with us for some time but have not yet joined the church, I would like to extend an invitation to you to participate in this upcoming class. Just email Kathy in the church office to sign up, or to ask any questions you may have.

We’d also like to extend an invitation to those who are already members of Grace Covenant to consider participating. Long time Grace Covenant member, Marian Weinberger, before she went home to be with the Lord not too long ago, participated in the class several times. She said she was just keeping tabs on the elders, making sure we were still doing and teaching the right things, but she also said she enjoyed and benefited from the discussions.¬† A refresher can be a good thing. Sometimes you pick things up you missed the first time around. Further, your contributions to the discussions can also be beneficial to others in the class. So, if you are already a member of Grace Covenant, and would like to participate in the Discovery Class, we ask that you also shoot an email to Kathy to sign up.¬† In the coming weeks you will receive an email invite to the Zoom meeting, and the password Zoom is now requiring for participation.

As the Fall unfolds we will also be announcing and facilitating some other classes and educational offerings. But we wanted to get started with Discovery Class, allow time for our small groups to get coordinated, and try to avoid the screen fatigue many of us have experienced these past several months.

Communion

A second important announcement is that Grace Covenant will renew regular observation of the Lord’s Supper, beginning on Sunday September 6. During the Fall, through the end of the year, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper the first Sunday of each month, with some slight changes as protocols to ensure safety.

During the duration of 2020, we will switch to pre-packaged communion elements – gluten-free wafers, and grape juice. Each package will be distributed to worshipers, as they come forward (safely spaced), by Elders, who will be gloved and masked as extra precautions. Worshipers will then return to seats, at which point we will partake of the elements.

Mindful that two-thirds of those who worship with us are doing so from home, Session has made the decision to stretch the bounds of our standards, prescribed for us in the PCA Book of Church Order, and invite those who are worshiping from home to also participate in the Lord’s Supper.¬† We did not come to this decision easily, nor was it made lightly. We take seriously the instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper (see, for instance, 1 Corinthians 11) and we are committed to the dignity and solemnity of partaking in this means of grace. However, we unanimously felt that we are living in an extraordinary time, and that unusual exceptions are warranted in our present situation. That said, we do feel we should offer some instructions for those who plan to participate from home.

While some churches have, somewhat flippantly, invited people to just grab a favorite cracker and a favorite beverage, we want to encourage a bit more – significantly more – reflection of the holiness connected to this expression of worship.¬† We urge everyone¬† participating online to set aside a bread and grape juice or wine.¬† In other words, don’t just pinch off a piece of the bread you will use for lunch, or use the same glass of grape juice you are having with your breakfast. Give some thought to what these elements represent.¬† If possible, perhaps find some matzah or matzah crackers, though any bread is fine. It’s not necessary to set aside a whole loaf of bread, but some may wish to do so. But whatever bread is used, have the pieces ready to partake at the same time as those who are partaking in the sanctuary. Same for the wine/juice. Have it ready for all participants, pre-poured into some vessel, ready to drink while those in the sanctuary are drinking. What amount of wine/juice? That’s up to you. But I would encourage pouring out any juice leftover in the cup (not necessarily the whole bottle), after partaking. This is more symbolic than essential, but I believe you will find benefit in distinguishing the elements used for communion from the food and drink you consume in day-to-day life.

Another point that we would remind everyone, only those who have been baptized AND admitted into membership in some Bible-believing, Christ-honoring church should participate at the Table. While we respect different views on this, and we do not want to police consciences, this is the standard of our Church. We discourage parents from serving the elements to children who have not been received into membership of the Church. We strongly urge anyone who is not a member in good standing of some faithful church, or who are presently under church discipline at the church of which they are members, to refrain from coming to the table. Again, while we have no desire to police the conscience, we do put a metaphorical “fence” around the table to encourage people to give serious consideration to both the promises and the cautions God has given us, and recorded for us in the Bible. (See 1 Corinthians 11.27)

We’ll give more information in the weeks to come. For now, we just wanted to make you aware of what is coming up.

Conclusion

I close again thanking you, the Grace Covenant family, for your faithfulness, graciousness, and your generosity. This is evident always, but perhaps especially over these past several months. While day-to-day life has been unusual, and even difficult for many, you have encouraged us, cared for one another, and blessed our church both tangibly and spiritually. I look forward to seeing many on Sunday morning, and many others one day soon.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

GCPC Children’s Lesson: God Preserves Jacob’s Family

In this uncertain time, when our plans seem to have to be repeatedly revised, or even cancelled, it is good to be reminded that God in control, and God ALWAYS keeps his promises! In the lesson this week we see God kept Jacob’s family alive and God continued his plan to make his people into a great nation, as he had promised to do.

While we are still not able to minister to the children of our church in all the ways we would like, we are thankful that we can provide these short simple videos. In these lessons, families can follow God’s amazing unfolding promises to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and David to their fulfillment in Jesus the Savior. Our prayer is that even families who already know the Bible well will be encouraged by God’s love and faithfulness to his children in these lessons.

Watch the video above, and use the pages linked below to get the most out of this lesson.

Parent Page ‚Äď explains the lesson focus and scripture memory, giving parents a good Bible background to go further with their kids.

Kid’s Activity ‚Äď ¬†lesson coloring sheet and other activities families can do together.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized