Grace Covenant Men’s SIP Groups

Proverbs 27.17 says: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

As a way to connect men to one another, and to encourage men to sharpen one another, Grace Covenant Men’s Ministry is launching a new initiative we are calling SIP Groups. The acronym SIP stands for Scripture Invitation Prayer.

The idea for SIP Groups were born out of a an interdenominational event at the Brother Bryan Mission in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, in February 2020. Participation has grown from a few to more than 50 congregations, from a variety of denominations, in 11 states, as of the end of 2021.

SIP Groups are simple. Each group will consists of 5 or 7 men. Each participant in the group will commit take one day each week, for the period of 40 days. (Groups of 5 are Monday – Friday; Groups of 7 are Sunday – Saturday.) On your assigned day you are responsible to send a simple group text, with a verse or short Bible passage, and a brief prayer related to the passage. Here are a few examples:

1 Timothy 1.8-9

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,…”

Thank you Father for waking us this morning and thank you for your word and law for without we would just be lost. Help those that are lost like we have been and allow us to be a blessing in others lives bless us with a wonderful holiday season and thank you for sending your son Jesus Christ to die for our sins even though we did and do not deserve it bless and protect our families in Jesus mighty name we pray amen!!!

Psalms ch 40 v 16

 “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let those who love Your salvation say continually, The lord be magnified!”

 Dear Heavenly Father! We thank you for this day, for the blessings you will bestow upon us.  Thank you for your love that shines upon us in the darkest of times, we know you are with us. With your hand reaching down to us, helping us in our troubling times!! Please forgive us of our sins, let us have a  heart of gratitude putting you first in our lives!! For its in your great name we pray!

Psalm 84:10

 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

***

Lord, God Almighty, Grant that we may be given even a glimpse of your glory; let us behold your splendor, so we would be reminded that NOTHING compares with you. We thank you that you have sent your son, Jesus, in whom and by whom we see you. Thank you that in Him we will dwell in your presence forever. ~ Amen

Occasionally someone may add a comment about the verse before offering the prayer.

Good morning SIP Family!!!

 Colossians ch 3 v 16

 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God!!

 Let us lift each other up, encourage each other and pray for each other. To serve God and each other with love!!

 Our great and glorious Father!! Thank you for this day you have given us! Thank you for the love you have shown us. Dear Father . help us today to be more Christ like, to serve each other. Let your spirit be our guide, to glorify your Name in we do. It is in your great name we pray !! Amen!!

No matter what, the text message is short and simple. But, it is amazing how encouraging you will find it to be.

Those who are the recipients of these message often reply with a word of thanks, or with a comment how the verse or prayer has encouraged them on that day, or with a simple thumbs-up emoji. In this way, SIPs are connecting and mutually affirming.

Grace Covenant Men’s Ministry would like to launch our first round of SIPs to begin on February 1. To do this we would need for participants to sign up by Saturday January 29. Just click on the sign-up page link: Grace Covenant SIP Groups.

Sign up requires only two things:

  • We need your name
  • We need your cell phone number for the group texts.

Click the link and join us!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – January 5, 2022

Dear Grace Covenant Family,

With recent spikes in COVID cases and hospitalizations in our area, including several members of our Grace Covenant family; and with informed projections telling us that this present spike has yet to reach its peak, the Grace Covenant Session has chosen to initiate some temporary precautionary measures. These protocols will go into effect this Sunday, January 9, and run through the end of this month. They will be reviewed again by Session at our February 1 meeting. 


Chief among our temporary measures will be the postponement of the resumption of Sunday School for all ages, and the temporary suspension of nursery, Kid’s Quest (catechism), and Children’s Church on Sunday mornings.  Obviously we are concerned for the health of our children, many of whom may not have yet had opportunity to receive vaccination. But our concern is also for those who teach – and for those who coordinate these activities for our children.


Second, we will encourage intentional social distancing, as well as reiterate our present policy which strongly recommends wearing masks during our worship services. Along with that, as strongly as we affirm the importance and benefits of worshipping together, we do want to encourage anyone with underlying health issues that might compound the effects of COVID to consider worshipping with us online for a few weeks.  


Finally, a few other recommendations and minor adjustments will be made by various ministries. Most immediate among those adjustments will be the postponement of our annual Congregational Dinner Meeting to Sunday February 6. Ministry leaders will notify those involved of any other adjustments that will impact their respective schedules and activities.  


Like many of you, I have grown weary of all these restrictions and adjustments. I long for a day – hopefully a day sometime soon – when we are back on the road to normalcy.  As a Session we are not predicting anything, nor do we want to inspire fear or undue concerns.  We are simply taking some temporary proactive measures intended to protect the people in our church, with as little disruption as possible. It may prove, in  few weeks, that these temporary measures were un-necessary. Nothing would make us happier. But few things would cause us more regret than for us to take no preventative actions, then later realize we should have.  We ask for your patience with us, and for your prayers. We are always in need of wisdom, but perhaps at this time more than almost ever before.  


Speaking on behalf of all of our Elders – those presently on Session, those on sabbatical, and those who are Emeritus – I will paraphrase the Apostle Paul: We give thanks for you all, for the grace God has given you is evident, and an encouragement to us all. 


Grace & Peace,


W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 29, 2021

This coming Sunday, October 31, will have a dual emphasis at Grace Covenant. It is both Reformation Sunday and the kickoff of our Global Missions Week.

Reformation Sunday & Global Missions

If you’ve been around Grace Covenant for any length of time, it is likely that you have heard mention of the Reformation, and likely heard it said that we are a “Reformed” church. Both of these statements reflect the roots our our tradition, our “Tribe”, which are connected to the great Reformation that shook Europe in the 16th Century. While there were a number of precursors, it is widely recognized that a set of 95 Theses, penned by young German monk named Martin Luther, and posted to the front doors of a church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, provided the spark that ignited what became known as the Reformation. The posting of these 95 Theses was a “shot heard ’round the world”.

As the Reformation gained steam, a handful of common themes emerged. Among these was the “priesthood of all believers”, which recovered the biblical understanding that Jesus alone is the mediator between God and Humanity, and that anyone who puts his/her trust in Christ is able to relate God and pray to God on his/her own, without need of any other human intermediary. Additionally a handful of biblical truths, widely known collectively as “The Pillars of the Reformation” or as the “5 Sola’s of the Reformation“, were recovered: 1) God’s Glory Alone is Our Primary Purpose in Life; 2) Scripture Alone is our Authority for Faith and Practice; and reconciliation with God, which is needed because of our sin, is accomplished 3) by Grace Alone; 4) through Faith Alone; 5) in Christ Alone.

I believe these 5 pillars are also appropriately expressed as three values that are central to the life and ministry of Grace Covenant:

  1. The Glory of God – We take God seriously; and we find our greatest joy and satisfaction in Him.
  2. The Authority of Scripture – Since “all scripture is God-breathed”, the Bible is God’s Word. It is God speaking to us, revealing to us everything we need to know about Him, about ourselves, and about how we ought to live.
  3. Gospel-Centrality – the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ, the long-promised “Redeemer” and “King”, and what God has done to redeem a people and reconcile them to himself through Jesus. The Gospel is “good news” NOT “good advice”. The three pillars (listed as 3-5 above) are all key components of that gospel message: Salvation comes by Grace, through Faith – faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

So we have good reason to recognize, and to be thankful about, the Reformation, and to recognize Reformation Sunday. For those interested, here are a couple short but helpful articles:

The Reformation is an important period in God’s redemptive work. The Reformation resulted in the recovery of the clarity, and the simplicity, of the gospel. But whether or not we experience the benefits of this recovery depends almost entirely upon how we “relate” to the Reformation.

I believe there are two primary ways people who appreciate the Reformation relate to to the Reformation: 1) By Living in Light of the Reformation, or 2) Living in the Shadow of the Reformation. Here’s what I mean:

  • Living in the Shadow of the Reformation is the mere remembering and celebration of the historic event. Practically speaking this happens when the day is marked as a holiday on the calendar, and primarily observed by “re-living”, commemorating or “re-enacting” the events of that period of 16th Century European history. It’s not that re-enactment is itself a bad thing. It is a means or re-telling a story. But when remembering and re-enacting is the primary objective, it fails to recognize that the same God who was at work then is still at work today. It also has a tendency to highlight the differences among Christians of various traditions rather than the unity that Jesus prayed for us (John 17.20-21) and secured for us. (Ephesians 4.4-6)
  • Living in Light of the Reformation is focused more on living our lives, today, in the 21st Century, in light of the principles recovered in the Reformation. It is not an eschewing of the past. It is certainly appropriate to remember the dates and events. But the reason for remembering is to live in the light of freedom of God’s grace, and to continue to cultivate lives rooted in that grace that was recovered in the Reformation. In a sense, the recognition of Reformation Day for those who are living in light of it is somewhat akin to a healthy American celebration of July 4.

But why are we observing a global missions emphasis on Reformation Sunday? For some this may seem somewhat incongruous. There are many who have assumed that the Reformation, and the Reformed tradition with all emphasis on doctrinal purity, is not missions minded; some even suggesting it is “anti-missional”. But nothing could be further from the truth! Some of the greatest missionary heroes in history were part of churches in the Reformed tradition! This included William Carey, widely considered the Father of Modern Missions; John Eliot, David Brainerd, etc. As one writer expressed:

“The most lasting impact of the Reformation is gospel-centered mission. So the Reformation – with its return to the gospel -unleashed a movement that continues today as Christians everywhere take the good news to the entire world.”

For those interested in exploring the vital connection between the Reformation and Global Missions, check out:

Why a Global Mission Week?

Global Missions conferences were once a common event in Evangelical churches. In recent years such events have become much less common. I’m not sure this is for the better.

Some months ago I stumbled across this graphic about awareness of the Great Commission and the average churchgoer in the USA:

As you can see, the statistics are somewhat stunning. I do not think that they are a reflection of our commitment to global missions at Grace Covenant. But I am certain that we do not want this to become a reflection of Grace Covenant. So to fortify our understanding and ongoing commitment to the commission Jesus gave us to “make disciples among peoples of all nations” (Matthew 28.16-20) we want to highlight our missional emphasis in a variety of ways. Included among those ways is this upcoming missions emphasis week.

{NOTE: If you are someone who is unsure about the Great Commission, this note is not in any way to scold or embarrass you. Rather, the reason for our missions emphasis is to help you deepen your clarity about what Jesus called and commissioned his followers to do in this world.]

Global Missions Week at Grace Covenant

Global Missions Week at Grace Covenant will involve a series of opportunities. Most prominent of these opportunities will take place in our worship services these next two Sundays – October 31 & November 7. Each week we will gather for worship, as usual, with the goal of engaging with God, but with an eye upon what God is doing in this world. Our missionary speakers will offer the message from God’s Word. Each will also introduce a distinct mission endeavor that Grace Covenant is partnering in:

October 31 – Rev. Craig Pohl will introduce the Japan Project. The Japanese are considered the second largest unreached people group in the world. Roughly 95 percent of the Japanese people have never met a Christian. Craig will be joining others serving on teams to reach Japan with the gospel. To see what God is doing in Japan, check out: MTW Japan

November 7 – Rev. Robert Davis will introduce us to the West Africa Project. The West Africa region consists of 18 different countries, predominated by Islam and animism but, where God is doing amazing things to bring people in from out of the darkness into His radiant light!

Sometimes people have this idea that missions Sundays are not like regular worship weeks, and maybe use those weeks as a time to travel, or do something else. I hope you will join us these next two weeks!

Education hour each week, from 10am – 10:45, will provide a deeper insight into these projects, and help you see how you can be of help.

Finally, on Wednesday November 3, we will be holding one of our quarterly Congregational Prayer Dinners. The focus of our prayer will be for the advancement of the gospel to the Nations. Please join us for this important event. Prayer is not just a primer for the work of the Kingdom; Prayer IS Kingdom work!

This is a long note, so I will stop here. In ending I will only again urge you to participate as much as you are able in these important missionary opportunities. And if anyone has questions about global missions (or the Reformation) please know if would be my privilege and my pleasure to talk with you.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – September 4, 2021

Noted novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald mused: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall.” Well, while we still have a few weeks until Fall formally arrives, and a few more after that before the leaves reach peak colors, the recent relatively crisp morning air, the start of a new school year, and this being Labor Day Weekend all lend themselves to beginning to think thoughts of Fall. And here at Grace Covenant many things do “start all over again” in the Fall.

Fall Sunday School/Adult EDucation

Among those things that “start all over again” are our Discovery Class and Sunday School & Adult Education – all of which will launch next week, on Sunday September 12.

Discovery Class is designed to offer an introduction and overview of Grace Covenant. Discovery Class covers a range of subjects: our history, our beliefs, our connections, our values, etc. In short, Discovery Class is designed to share the DNA of our church. While Discovery Class is most commonly comprised of those who are relatively new to the church and who are exploring church membership, a commitment to join Grace Covenant is not a prerequisite to participation in the class. We welcome anyone who is even just a bit curious. Our hope is that the clarity that can be gained by participating in this class will be beneficial to you whether, at the end, you are ready to join or not. And just as this class is not limited to those who are committed to joining the church, neither is it limited to those who are new – or new-ish – to the church. At times we have had long-time members participate, just to get a refresher on some of the subjects, and as an opportunity to meet new friends. So, regardless of who you are, we invite you to participate in our upcoming Discovery Class – a 6 week course beginning Sunday September 12. It will be held in the church library (space permitting) during the Education Hour (10-10:45am) each week. And one final note, if you are interested in participating in Discovery Class, but you know you will be away or unavailable for some weeks this Fall, we are happy to have you the weeks you are available, and we have a way to help you cover whatever material you may have to miss. If you are interested in participating in Discovery Class, we ask that you sign up by e-mailing Kathy Buhl in the church office. Kathy will putting notebooks together for all the participants, and we want to make sure she has a notebook for you. If you have any questions you would like to have answered before signing up, feel free to email me (dennis@gracecovpca.org) or Jack Tuttle, the class coordinator. We would be happy to discuss your questions with you.

We are excited to be able to begin offering Sunday School and Adult Education again. It has been nearly 18 months since COVID and social distancing requirements have allowed us to do so. During our Education Hour, from 10-10:45am each Sunday, children will be able to participate in their age/grade designed classes, each led by caring, committed volunteer teachers and teacher assistants. For those new to Grace Covenant, the children’s classrooms are down the hall immediately opposite the worship area. This Fall, during Education Hour, we are pleased to be offering the course Relational Wisdom 360 – or RW360. RW360 was designed by Ken Sande, the same person who founded Peacemaker Ministries. While Peacemakers is designed to help resolve conflicts, which we all experience at one time or another, whether we are involved in the conflict or the mediator between others, Relational Wisdom is designed to be an “operating system for life”, helping to strengthen relationships even before there is any conflict, and renewing relationships in the midst or after conflict. Our entire Session (i.e. Council of Elders for those newer to Presbyterianism) went through this course together a couple years ago, and we all commend it wholeheartedly. The class, which will meet in the worship area from 10-10:45am each week, will involve instruction, brief video clips for illustration, and discussion. Even if it has been a long time since you have attended a Sunday School class, we would urge you to participate in this class. And please know, this is not a course just for the relationally challenged, or those who have difficulty making or keeping friends. This is stuff that will benefit anyone, no matter who you are or what your situation.

Now, here’s the question some of you have: What if I want to do BOTH? What if I want to participate in Discovery Class AND learn about Relational Wisdom? (We know that are asking that question, because some have already asked us that question!) If that is your question, just let us know. We have an answer for you. I won’t go into the answer here, but if you will let us know that you would like to do both, we will make arrangements for you to be able to benefit from both classes this Fall. Just contact the church office, and we’ll set you up.

Fall Sermon Series

As autumn comes, and things “start all over again”, so this Fall we will begin a new sermon series on Sunday mornings. the series is called “Stay the Course”. It is a survey of the Book of Hebrews. During this Fall we expect to study the first three chapters of this inspiring and important – though too often neglected – letter.

Hebrews is different from other books in the New Testament; it is not like the other letters we call “the epistles”. Unlike all other epistles, the author of Hebrews never identifies himself (though many theories abound), nor are we told to whom the letter is written (though almost universally it is understood to be written to Jewish Believers living, most likely in Rome). But it is not just the absence of those common elements of a letter that makes Hebrews stand unique, it is even more so the way the letter flows. As at least one commentator notes, Hebrews is “a sermonic letter”. In other words, it reads more like a sermon than like a letter. But, through it all, there are some common threads, most notably the frequent encouragements for the readers to endure, to “run the race” of life; and to keep our eyes on Jesus “the author and perfecter of our faith”. A repeated theme throughout the letter is “Jesus is Better”. “Better than what?” one might ask. Better than everything, seems to be the answer. And my hope for us in this series is that we will indeed see and be reminded of how true that is. Jesus is Better – by far.

As we did for our recently completed series through the Book of Romans, we want to provide everyone with some resources that should prove helpful and beneficial for our study of Hebrews.

As we did during out study of Romans, we will make Hebrews Scripture Journals available for all who want them. These scripture journals are helpful for keeping notes, whether during the messages or from your own study throughout the week. The Hebrews Scripture Journals will be available, beginning this weekend, in the Commons. We ask a recommended donation of $3 per copy. The donations are requested only. We do not want anyone who wants a journal, but is short on funds, to go without one. The request is simply to defray our expenses for this resource. (Scripture Journals retail for $7; we get them for just under $4/copy.)

There are two videos I want to commend:

Finally, as we did throughout our series in Romans, we want to issue a challenge to everyone: Read through the Book of Hebrews at least once per month during the months we are studying this letter together. In other words, at least once each during September, October, and November. Take a break, if you wish, during December, when we take a break from Hebrews and shift to our Advent series. Pick up the challenge again in January. It is amazing how the Word speaks to us when we read it again and again, especially as we are gaining new insights though our times of study together.

That’s all for now. I hope and pray everyone has a refreshing Sunday, and an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – August 7, 2021

Jesus tells his followers “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6.34) Still, I find I have spent a fair amount of time this Summer looking ahead, not so much to “tomorrow” as to Autumn, to September and the days that follow; and not so much with anxiety as with excitement. Each week I am reminded of the blessing it is to be part of our Grace Covenant community; and seeming every week, for some time now, God has been bringing new people and new families to be part of our community. I find that exciting. And for this (and many other things) I give thanks to God.

For those of you who are at least relatively new to Grace Covenant, I want o invite you to participate in our upcoming Discovery Class. Discovery Class is a 6 week introduction to Grace Covenant offered during the Education Hour (10am -10:55am Sunday morning) every Fall and every Winter/Spring to help those who are new to Grace Covenant to explore our history, our beliefs, our connections, and our commitments. It is a pre-requisite to membership at Grace Covenant, though there is no expectation of commitment to join the church to participate. The class is designed primarily to allow you to get to know us as a church, and to allow us to get to know you. For those interested in participating, we ask that send an e-mail to Kathy Buhl in the church office to sign up. For those who may be curious, but have questions you would like to discuss before signing up, please know I would be happy to talk with you about whatever questions you may have. Feel free to email me, or call me in the church office (757-220-0147). Or email Jack Tuttle, who coordinates the Discovery Class for us. Jack would also be more than happy to talk with you about any questions you may have.

Another thing that I am excited about is an initiative to love and serve our neighbors that we have scheduled for next Saturday, August 14. Speer-headed by Mark Mortier, coordinator of our Men’s Ministries, we are inviting everyone who is part of the Grace Covenant community to pray for area schools – students, faculty, staff, administration, etc. We want to pray for God to be at work in the schools – public schools, Christian schools, private schools, homeschool coops, etc. – and to bless the students and staff. While praying for schools can be done from anywhere, there are some who plan to gather together on various school grounds to pray. Why are we doing this? In part we see it as one way to be faithful to God’s instruction to his people who were living in exile: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29.7) Further, it is an expression of our commitment to children and families. And, perhaps ultimately, because participating in prayer is one of God’s appointed means of drawing ever-closer to Him. While many may assume prayer is just a mere precursor to the “real work”, I am convinced that prayer IS the part of our “real work” in the Kingdom of God. So please join us next Saturday by praying for the school where your children or grandchildren attend, or for the school(s) closest to your neighborhood, or for whatever schools God may bring to your mind. Together, I hope, we will cover every school in our area with prayer. If you want to join a group that will meet at a particular school, please invite others to join you, or email Mark Mortier, who might have an idea of where an when people will be meeting. Additionally, Mark sent out a suggested prayer guide earlier this week in an to those who serve on our prayer teams. I am sure Mark would be more than happy to provide the guide to anyone who inquires.

Finally, for this note, I want to touch on our plans for resuming Sunday School this Fall. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to offer classes for nearly 18 months! I am excited that we not only about the opportunity to resume, but by what we will be offering.

Of course, first thoughts of Sunday School are often about what we do for children. Grace Covenant has a long-tradition of excellent ministry with our children. We are looking forward to resuming our Children’s Sunday School beginning Sunday September 12. In the coming weeks our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Starr VanWingerden, will provide an overview of what the children will be studying through the Fall. In the meantime, Starr is busy coordinating with the those who will teach. If you are interested in being involved with Children’s Sunday School, Starr tells me there are still some opportunities. Email Starr to let her know of your interest.

But Sunday School is not just for kids! As we resume on September 12, we also will be offering a class for the adults. Throughout this Fall we will be exploring the life-changing relational principles God has gifted to us through his Word, in a study called Relational Wisdom, or RW360. This class will be interactive, interspersing teaching segments from author-attorney Ken Sande, and illustrative movie clips, with discussion about the principles being presented. This is a tremendous practical course, one that will benefit not only those of us who have some challenging relationships in our own lives, but it will also equip you to encourage others you may know who may experience challenging relationships. More info will be provided in the coming weeks, but for now I invite you to check out this short intro video:

Have a great weekend! See ya on Sunday!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – June 25, 2021

It’s been anything but dull around Grace Covenant this week. Every day we had around 50 kids hopping, scooting, singing, and screaming with delight. It was VBS Week! Wild World of Water was the theme. The numbers this year were just under half of our usual because, due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 protocols during the planning stages, we limited participation to Grace Covenant kids only; we did not invite the community, as we ordinarily do. Though we had half the number there was no less energy, and no less fun! In addition to the gospel-themed lessons, songs, and skits, the children also heard from some of our missionaries via video. As always there was a challenge to bring food for the local food bank and a mission challenge. The mission challenge this year was to raise $150 for a water filtration system, to provide clear water for a village in Africa, where clean water is sparse. The goal was easily eclipsed, as the children raised over $400. That money will go to World Vision as part of their Clean Water Project. What a wonderful way for our children to express practical love to both Christians and non-Christians in Africa!

Check out the video that was shown to the children, explaining the importance of clean water:

During our services on Sunday you will hear more about the week. Those in the 8:30 service will also get to hear the kids sing one of the songs learned during the week. But we invite you to participate in the work of VBS by joining in prayer for the seeds that were planted to blossom and bear fruit in the hearts and lives of the children who were present. And join me in giving thanks to God for Lauren Malone & Jeni Mortier, who coordinated VBS this year; and for all the volunteers who made this such a joy-filled week for the children entrusted to us.

Shifting gears, I also invite you to pray for upcoming General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, which will be held next week, June 29 – July 2 in St Louis. Ron Pohl (Elder Emeritus) and I will be representing Grace Covenant at this national gathering of church leaders from all over the USA. Prayer is always appreciated, but perhaps this year as much as ever. There are some very important issues that have been causing a measure of tension within the denomination for the past few years. Some of these issues will be directly addressed at the Assembly next week. I am anticipating that some of the debates could get a bit testy. So join me in praying that God would be honored, not only by the resulting decisions but also in the demeanor of those engaged in the discussions. For any who may be interested, most if not all of the Assembly – including worship services – will be available for viewing online. Just click the link, PCA GA, for the schedule of events and the link to the LiveStream. (If you wonder what a General Assembly is like, think of C-SPAN, but for churches.) Finally, please pray for Ron and for me, as both of us have been appointed to serve on what is called Committee of Commissioners – Ron serving the committee that will oversee the work of Mission to the World (MTW), and I will be serving the committee that oversees the work of Mission to North America (MNA).

I invite you to join me in welcoming John & Jennifer McCarthy, and family, to Grace Covenant. John is a graduate of Denver Theological Seminary, and is a candidate to become a Navy Chaplain. John will be doing a pastoral internship with us this Summer – and perhaps for the next year. So, when you meet the McCarthy’s at church, please greet and welcome them warmly.

Finally, just a reminder, on Sunday evening we will have the first of our Summer Church Picnics at First Colony Pool & Clubhouse. Details are in Grace Notes. I hope to see many of you there – just as I hope to see everyone on Sunday morning!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – June 18, 2021

Summer is officially arriving this weekend! The Summer solstice – the longest day of the year – will be at 11:31pm on Sunday June 20. Not sure I’ll stay up to watch, but it’s good to know that it is Summer.

Though not tied to the solstice, one of the great harbingers of Summer at Grace Covenant return next week, after a hiatus last year. VBS – or Vacation Bible School – will run Monday thru Friday mornings here at the church – mostly outside this year. Our VBS is one of our most important ministry activities of the year. Countless hours of preparation are given so that we can share the Good News of Jesus with the children God entrusts to us. This is a vital part of our Mission to the Next Generation. Whether you are a parent, a volunteer, of just a lover of Jesus, please join us in praying that, by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, the seeds sown next week will take root and bear fruit in the hearts and lives of those who participate.

As Summer unfolds, we look forward to seeing more and more old friends return to join us in worship on Sunday mornings. We have already enjoyed seeing many who have been away for the duration of the pandemic. We have also enjoyed a number of new friends who have joined us over the past several months. As both old friends and new friends come together, we thought it might be a good idea to try connect as many as we can. So, for these next couple weeks, we are planning to offer refreshments on the front porch between services, and we are inviting everyone to mingle. Regardless of whether you are an 8:30 or an 11am attender, we hope you will join us on the porch and on the lawn, connect, re-connect, and catch-up with one another.

Finally, (this is a short note this week,) I want to take this opportunity to note a newly minted federal holiday that will be observed this weekend on Saturday, Juneteenth. While I confess my awareness of this holiday goes back only a few years, Juneteenth is actually the oldest nationally recognized commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. Now, some may wonder why I would highlight this holiday. It’s not a date on the ecclesiastical calendar. I don’t make a point of necessarily acknowledging every other national holiday. Why highlight Juneteenth? The short answer is this: With racial tensions and racial divisions still plaguing both our culture and the Church across our country, I thought it appropriate to use this date as an opportunity to revisit these issues. I have drafted short post in which I have provided a number of links to a variety of resources that look at some of issues related to racial division from a gospel perspective. I have no desire to create debate. Instead, I hope some of these resources might help promote greater understanding – and maybe some healthy discussion. So I hope you will check out: Resources for Racial Understanding & Reconciliation.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend. As always, I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Resources for Racial Understanding & Reconciliation

This weekend marks the newly minted federal holiday, Juneteenth – which is short for June 19th. I confess my awareness of this day goes back only a few years, but Juneteenth is actually the oldest nationally recognized commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It is the commemoration of emancipation in Texas, on June 19, 1865 – more than two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Why do I highlight this holiday? I hope you will understand as you read on.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Racial tension and racial division are major issues in our culture – and in the Church. This is not a new problem. It was also a problem in the Early Church. But because it is still an issue, Paul’s words to the early church in Ephesus are still relevant for us today:

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:12-14)

Whether one see racial division as a “gospel issue” or not, racism and racial division are inarguably Kingdom issues. And these are issues that the Gospel – and only the Gospel – can resolve. Only the Gospel has the power to make us one in Christ, regardless of race or culture. 

Therefore, as tensions linger, and even intensify, the Church has the ability – and therefore the responsibility – to show that only Jesus has the power to break down the dividing walls of hostility and bring Shalom – true and lasting peace. In a culture that often, and increasingly, views faith in Jesus to be irrelevant and unhelpful, we have an opportunity to be “Salt & Light” by actively pursuing peace and friendship between all races and cultures in our community. (Matthew 5.9; Matthew 5.13-16)

Racial reconciliation is not the goal of a gospel-centered church and life, but it is clear from Scripture that it is a beautiful fruit of it.

A Biblical worldview responds to every circumstance with love, empathy, and understanding even of those different from us, instead of letting popular culture and news soundbites define our attitudes and beliefs. When we listen to more voices, sometimes especially some that sound different from our own, God often reveals to us some of the blind spots in our own hearts.

At Grace Covenant we are committed to mercy and justice. (Micah 6.8) As a church, we believe grace changes everything! The gospel frees us, compels us, and empowers us to seek justice and reconciliation in the midst of brokenness. This is gospel work – work that we’re committed to doing together as we learn, lament, repent, and – by faith – move forward. But “to do justice” and “to do mercy” requires both humility and understanding.

So, using Juneteenth as an occasion to help us move forward toward better understanding, I have compiled a list of resources. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but these resources are among those I have found helpful. Some are from our own denomination, others from the broader Evangelical church. Some of these resources may resonate more than others; and some express viewpoints I cannot entirely endorse. Nevertheless, there is benefit from listening to a broad range of voices and seeing from a variety of perspectives.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Resources

Listen & Watch

Articles

Books

Voices

NOTE: Over time I will add to these lists. So I hope you will bookmark this page, and make use of it both now and in the future.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – May 28, 2021

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, a time that for many marks the unofficial start of Summer. Of course Memorial Day itself is a day established to remember those who gave their lives in service of protecting American freedoms – which is something we ought not forget nor neglect. But it has also become a day, a weekend, of family reunions and festivities with friends – also worthwhile endeavors.

Fortunately for most of us, we will have more opportunity this year to fully enjoy this holiday weekend than we had last year. Last year we were still in the early stages of COVID-19 restrictions; this year many of those restrictions have been relaxed. While we all ought always to be wise, and ever vigilant, a sense of “normalcy” seems to have begun blossoming again. For that I am thankful.

New Guidelines

With that said, I want to take the moment to remind everyone of the changes that are taking place regarding the COVID guidelines at Grace Covenant. In short, many of the more restrictive protocols are being relaxed. Our Deacons have drafted new guidelines which, effective this weekend, are as follows:

  • In accordance with the CDC recommendations and our Governor’s Executive Order 79, masks are no longer required to be worn by people who are fully vaccinated.
  • In accordance with the Governor’s order, any persons aged 5 or older, who are not vaccinated, should wear a mask and social distance to minimize potential exposure.
  • Seating in our sanctuary will be adjusted to for additional capacity, as needed.
  • There are be no other facility limitations. Cleaning will be done on an as necessary basis to ensure surfaces are disinfected in high demand areas.

So, again, the short of this is that masks are no longer required for those who have been fully vaccinated. All those who have not been fully vaccinated should wear masks over their nose and mouth whenever they are in the building. Beginning this weekend, mandatory physical distancing and room max capacities will be suspended. 

All that said, as good a news as this is for many, some of this would not have mattered as much for us at Grace Covenant this weekend anyway. That’s because this Sunday at Grace Covenant we have been planning to worship outdoors; and outdoors many of the required protocols were already more relaxed.

Outdoor Service

The plan for this Sunday, weather permitting, is for us to hold our 8:30am service on the church lawn. Over the past year, as many churches were forced to move to outdoor services, we have been fortunate enough to have a sanctuary with enough space, and seating that is flexible, to enable us to worship pretty much as usual. (I give much thanks to our Deacons for enabling us to worship unimpeded over the course of this season.) But, though we have been able to worship in our sanctuary, some have asked if we might consider an outdoor service at some time. After the positive response we had to our Easter-on-the-Lawn opportunity, I thought holding an entire service outdoors might be something we ought to try. So, for those who would like to gather for worship on the lawn, we invite you to come on Sunday with your lawn chairs, picnic blankets, your lean-to tents and canopies, etc. We will sing, pray, and wrap up our survey of the Book of Romans (looking at Romans 16.25-27). For those who without lawn chairs or beach chairs, we expect to set up a limited number of seats, and other folding chairs can be made available as necessary. Song sheets will be provided.

While looking forward to our outdoor worship, the weather forecast is making our outdoor service plans look a bit iffy. A decision will be made on Sunday morning if we need to move inside. No notice will go out. If it’s raining as 8:30 approaches, obviously we will move the service indoors. If it is not raining, we will have an eye on the forecast and the radar. If a front appears to be headed toward us and the expectation of precipitation during our service time is high, we will pre-emptively move inside, so as not to risk having to do so during the middle of the service.

Some may wonder, Why are we planning for 8:30am outside but 11am inside? (I’m glad you asked!) The reason for two plans is simple and pragmatic. Some of our Elders were concerned, that due to allergies, high sensitivity to sunlight exposure, etc., that some of our church family might feel less welcome if both services were held outside. Not wanting anyone to feel that they should stay home, it was decided that the best approach was to have one service outside and the other inside. So, that’s why one indoor and one outdoor on the same day. (The structure and the substance of both services will be the same.)

Before moving to the next topic, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to Isaiah Day, Jeff Field, and Tim Nargi. What seemed like a simple idea to me, when I suggested it, actually carries quite a few logistical challenges. Tim, Jeff, and Isaiah have carried the brunt of figuring out how we should do this, and also of setting things up to enable us to do this. So, if we are able to hold our service outdoors, please thank them. (And if weather forces us indoor, pleas thank them all the more. That would mean that they did a month of work for no reward at the end of their labors.)

Romans Series

As I mentioned above, this Sunday we will complete our survey of Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have been in this series for the better part of two years, taking breaks only during the early part of the pandemic, and during Advent. I have been blessed by my study of this letter, as I have prepared for each message. I am thankful for the many stories I have heard from you about how this study, or how particular portions of this study, have impacted you. I sincerely hope – and truly pray – that this series has been of benefit to many. I am reminded of what John Wycliffe, the man who translated the Bible into English, said of Romans:

“the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is…”

I certainly hope you have found this to be true.

When we began this series, in September 2019, we issued a little challenge: We encouraged everyone to read through the Book of Romans one-per-month during the months we are studying this book. I suspect those of you who accepted this challenge, at least partially, and “chewed” on this letter, have most likely been the most enriched. However, just because this series is coming to a close does not mean that our challenge needs to end. I’d like to offer a new challenge – or a new edition of this old challenge: Make a commitment to reading through the Book or Romans at least once per year, if not more! I have no doubt that the more you dig into this letter the more treasure you will mine from it. And, if you have not already, I would also encourage you to read Martin Luther’s Preface to Romans – the preface to his commentary on this book. Whether you read it alone, or make it part of a small group discussion, Luther’s preface itself has a history of bearing tremendous spiritual fruit. It was through hearing Luther’s Preface being read aloud that John Wesley was became a Christian – though Wesley was already an Anglican minister and a missionary (albeit a failure as a missionary) before his spiritual conversion. But after his conversion his life was changed; and through Wesley’s ministry and legacy countless other lives have also been changed.

And for those who are in any way saddened that we have come to the end of our survey, take heart! We may be at the end of our survey, but not necessarily at the end of our series. In June, Camper plans to draw two messages from Romans. Perhaps we can consider his messages something of an encore – like the songs that come after the initial conclusion of a music concert.

Children’s Ministry

Finally, as we move back (hopefully) toward normalcy, we plan to resume both our nursery and ministries for younger children during our worship services, beginning Sunday June 6. While children are always welcome to remain in our worship services, we realize that our inability during the pandemic to provide nursery or children’s church has been difficult for many young families. But with restrictions now being lifted, we feel it is time to resume these vital children’s activities.

Starr VanWingerden, our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, and Mary Slade, our Nursery Coordinator, have sent out emails to those who have previously served our Children’s Ministry. If they have not already gone out, another email will be sent out in the coming days to nearly everyone in the church, inviting you to consider serving our children (and their families) in some way. Children are a very important part of our church family; and ministering to our children is our Mission to the Next Generation. We will need your help. This includes a number of you who have come to Grace Covenant during these months in the midst of the pandemic. It is quite possible that you have an interest in serving the children but have not had opportunity to do so since much of our children’s ministry has been on hiatus. If this is you, and you would enjoy serving and teaching our children, please let us know. Click on Starr’s name above, and shoot her an email to let her know of your interest. She’ll be happy to get back with you, and outline what is involved, including the prerequisite training we require in order to ensure a safe environment for children at Grace Covenant .

I look forward ts seeing you all on Sunday. That said, no doubt many will be traveling over this holiday weekend. stay safe. Enjoy. And I look forward to seeing you soon.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – May 21, 2021

The day that many have been looking forward to has finally arrived. At least the day has come when we begin to see the first steps back toward pre-COVID measures. As most are no doubt aware, late last week the Governor of Virginia, in accord with recent recommendation from the CDC, issued a revision to previous executive orders and issued a new executive order, Executive Order 79. In line with these new directives, Grace Covenant’s Deacons have drafted new guidelines for our church. Grace Covenant Elders have approved the recommendation from our Deacons.

Beginning this Sunday morning, May 23, the COVID-19 safety protocols that we have been exercising will be relaxed, in two phases, as follows:

Phase 1 – Starting with the first worship service on May 23rd, 2021:

  • In accordance with the Virginia Governor’s Executive Order 72 (as amended on May 14th) and the CDC guidelines, masks will no longer be required to be worn for people who are fully vaccinated.
  • In accordance with the Governor’s order any persons aged 5 or older, who are not vaccinated, should wear a mask and social distance to minimize exposure.
  • All seating arrangements will remain in a social distanced set up to comply with Executive Order 72’s requirements for religious activities.

Phase 2 – Starting with the first worship service on May 30th, 2021:

  • In accordance with the Virginia Governor’s Executive Order 79 (effective May 28th) and CDC guidelines, masks will no longer be required to be worn for people who are fully vaccinated.
  • In accordance with the Governor’s order any persons aged 5 or older, who are not vaccinated, should wear a mask and social distance to minimize exposure.
  • Seating will be adjusted to more generous levels to allow for additional capacity in the service as needed.
  • There will be no other facility limitations. Cleaning will be done on an as necessary basis to ensure surfaces are disinfected in high demand areas.

So the short of it is this: Beginning this Sunday morning, May 23, masks will no longer be required for those who have been fully vaccinated. All those who have not been fully vaccinated should wear masks over their nose and mouth whenever they are in the building. Beginning next Sunday, May 30, the other regular COVID-19 safety protocols that we have been exercising, such as physical distancing and room max capacities, will be suspended. However, the cleaning of chairs between services will continue; and we continue to ask people who are not feeling well to worship with us at home via LiveStream.

We understand that comfort levels are going to vary from person to person. It is likely that there will be a mixture of people wearing masks and not wearing masks at our worship services for a while. Please strive to respect the decisions of others and to not make assumptions regarding the circumstances or motives of other people. We have been tremendously blessed by the attitudes and responses of our Grace Covenant family throughout this unpleasant season. For that we are thankful. Now, we thank you in advance, as we continue to work together, and as we do our best to cultivate ministry that honors God, offers due respect to our governing authorities (Romans 13.1-5), and blesses both our church family and our neighbors.

Outdoor Service

On Sunday May 30 we are going to do something a little different – at lease in our first service. On that morning, we will hold our 8:30 service outside, on the front lawn of the church property. There have been some who have requested that we hold outdoor services, and after the great response to our Easter on the Lawn option, it seemed like a good time to try it. Recognizing that there may be some who, due to allergies or other health concerns, would not feel comfortable worshipping in the outdoors, we are only holding the early service outside. Our 11am service will be indoors, as usual. For those joining us at 8:30, we invite you to bring your lawn chairs, and/or picnic blankets, your canopies – maybe even your beach tent – and find a comfortable space on the lawn. We expect to provide some seats, though probably a limited number, for those who might find the camp-style seating a difficulty. It would be helpful to us if you would let us know in advance if you would like for us to set up a folding chair. Advanced notice will give us a better idea of how many we will need. I will provide more details in a note next week. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to contact the church office.

There is a lot going on, but I think these two items are sufficient for today. I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday – to seeing whole faces on some of you, and not just from the nose up. Have a wonderful weekend!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized