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:

“a timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ.”

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

“Romans is the chief part of the New Testament; and truly the purist gospel.”

While Luther was sometimes prone to hyperbole and overstatement, (no one book is “more important” 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 – which provided the spark for the Protestant Reformation.
  • John Wesley said he felt his heart feel “strangely warmed” while listening to a reading of Luther’s 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’s Progress – 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:

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

In other words, the Book of Romans may seem a little “meaty” 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’t 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 – 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 “the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is.”

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

Kid’s Activity –  lesson coloring sheet and other activities families can do together.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – August 7, 2020

Parkway Bridge

Dear Grace Covenant family,

I suspect more traditional American Evangelicals have at least one verse in Jeremiah 29 highlighted than in almost any other chapter in their bibles. (Obvious exceptions might be John 3 or Romans 8).  Jeremiah 29.11 has long been a favorite of those who memorize scripture, in particular those who memorize God’s promises. Understandably so. It is a beautiful promise that God spoke to his people living in Exile about a day to come when they would be in exile no more.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

But what is often overlooked is the context in which the people were living when God gave them this promise.

Jeremiah 29.11 is a promise of their future. It is a vision; a peeking ahead to the end of the chapter in their story. It is pointing to the day when they would delivered from their exile. It is a reminder that despite living in a culture that does not operate with their set of values, and that does not value them as God’s people, that God had not forsaken them. It is designed to give them hope; and in that hope to have the assurance to be fortified to faithfully endure. But they were still in exile. They still lived in a culture that felt oddly, at the same time, both familiar and foreign (- not unlike Christians today living in a post-Christian society).

What is too often overlooked is what God says to his People about how they are to live in the context of their present circumstances, in which they are essentially “Resident Aliens”. That instruction is summarized in Jeremiah 29.7:

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

While frustration and fear may incline us to remove ourselves, as much as possible, from environments in which Christians may feel unappreciated, undervalued, and at times perhaps even despised, God’s intent is for his People – His Church – to live in, to engage, and to bless the communities in which we live. And if we read verses 4-6, which lead up to the summary instruction of verse 7, we see that God’s design is not only to be “spiritual blessing” to our community, but to be a blessing – to be of benefit, seeking the peace and prosperity of the community – in ordinary, even mundane, things.

One of my fervent prayers for Grace Covenant is that we will be such a blessing/benefit to Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle, and even to the whole of the Peninsula, as far as God enables us to be of influence. To be such vessels as God intends requires us, both as individuals and collectively, to be connected to God, to be growing in grace and faith, and to engage in areas where we have opportunity and interest.  This is really just a more detailed illustration and expression of Jesus’ command that we love God and love our neighbors.  (Mark 12.28-31)

Though we continue to be scattered due to COVID-19, we still have a variety of opportunities to engage and bless our neighbors.

1) As I mentioned in a note a few weeks ago, we will have an opportunity to participate in a Faith Build with Habitat for Humanity here in Williamsburg. A few of us from Grace Covenant – Jennifer Allen, Mark Begly, Heather Hicks, and I – had the privilege to participate in the Ground Breaking a couple weeks ago.  In the coming weeks we will be giving more details about how you might be involved, should you be inclined to serve in this way. (If you have questions, please contact Jennifer Allen).

2) A second way to seek the welfare of our community is to be praying: Praying for our community. Praying for our Nation. Praying for the Nations.  While there are many ways we can pray for our Nation, I learned this week that The Colson Center is hosting a weekly prayer time each Wednesday morning, beginning next Wednesday, August 12, thru November 4 (the day after the Election). For information, to sign up, or to participate, click: Colson Center National Prayer. (I will also look for other resources to assist us in praying for our country.)  To encourage praying for the Nations, I’d like to share two apps I use regularly: Operation World and Joshua Project‘s Unreached Peoples of the Day. (I use these apps on my phone, but they are also available for laptops & pads.)

3) There is a third way I’d like to encourage we “seek the peace and prosperity” of our community. We received an email this week from James City County asking us to invite our church members to participate in the county’s upcoming engagement event, Exploring Our Future Alternatives, as part of the county’s Engage 2045  comprehensive plan. While this may not be of interest to everyone, it is a great opportunity for those who live in James City County to help shape the future of our community. (This seems the very essence of God’s instruction in Jeremiah 29.)

I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday – or one day soon! For convenience, I am including links to both August 9 Worship outline and the LiveStream, which are both, as always, also available in Grace Notes and on the Grace Covenant home page.  I also ask you to join me in praying for Charley Bartelmay, our youth director. Charley will offer the message this Sunday. This is Charley’s first time in the pulpit, so no doubt he’s a bit nervous. No, you are not a scary congregation. Rather, as most ministers will tell you, there is something “awe-some” being behind the pulpit, and it can be quite intimidating. Charley has been working hard to prepare, but I am sure he would appreciate our prayers, as well.

Have a great weekend!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Grace Covenant Worship: August 2, 2020

GCPC

We are making a shift this week, doing away with our digital worship bulletin, as the tools necessary to participate in our worship services are now included in our LiveStream each week.

The link to the LiveStream can be found each week on the Grace Covenant home page.  A link to the .pdf bulletin is also available on the homepage.

For convenience, the .pdf of the service for this week can be found by clicking: GCPC Worship – August 2, 2020

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – July 31, 2020

IMG_0434

I find Job’s words resonating this week: “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”  (Job 1.21) The Lord has taken two from our Grace Covenant family in this past week, Jeanne French, on Sunday evening, and then Francis Nelson on Thursday evening. Our loss, but their gain. Please join me in praying for the families of these two godly ladies. Jeanne was mother of Paulette Murphy. Francis was mother of Valerie Brooks. So we pray for the Murphy’s and Brooks’ to have the comfort of God’s promise to enable them to grieve well. We pray they will grieve, but not as those who are without hope.  (1 Thessalonians 4.13) Pray also for those who surround these families, as both the Brooks’ and the Murphy’s are part of the same small group.

But even as we mourn with those who mourn, we also rejoice with those who rejoice. And we rejoice this week with Katie & Daniel Block on the birth of their son, Arthur Dietrich Block, on Tuesday evening, July 28. We are thankful that both Katie and Dietrich are healthy, and that all are doing well. Let’s all not only give thanks to God for his gift to the Blocks, but let’s all begin praying for Dietrich, that by God’s grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, that he grow to be a godly man. (Incidentally, the Blocks are also part of the same small group as are the Brooks’ and the Murhpys.)

I am also thankful for our freedom and ability to continue gathering for worship.  There was some buzz this week, due to confusion regarding Governor Northam’s most recent order reducing the number of people who can gather from 250 to 50. However, that does not apply to church worship services, so those who are not in the high risk category are free to join us on Sunday morning. (Again, those in high risk category, and those who are caring for someone in high risk category, are strongly urged to exercise wisdom about when to resume in-person worship. We do not want anyone to feel compelled to get out before they are ready, and before the time is right.) But my angst about  our ability to worship together, whether in-person or online, was compounded this week by the storms that passed through on Tuesday evening.   A lightening strike wiped out Internet at the church, and damaged some of the tools we need to be able to LiveStream our services.  Fortunately the Internet was restored Thursday, and WiFi on Friday morning. Tim Nargi has just informed me that the problems have been resolved, so we can offer the services online this weekend, as usual. I may be sounding like a broken record, but please thank Tim for his labors. I also want to thank Brad Allen, who stepped in to check things out and to make sure we contacted the right folks for the necessary repairs.

As for our Sunday mornings, we are going to simplify things somewhat, as it pertains to the tools for worship – links for the bulletin and the LiveStream.  Rather than multiple emails, the links for both the bulletin (.pdf) and the LiveStream will go out in Grace Notes each Friday, and will also be able to be accessed on the Grace Covenant homepage.  We will forgo the digital bulletin beginning this week. The short of it is that you will now receive the links in advance on Fridays (Grace Notes), or on Sunday morning just go to the Grace Covenant web page. We hope the simplicity will make this easier for everyone. As for these Pastor’s Notes, beginning next week a link will (usually) be included Grace Notes on Fridays. That said, there will be times when my schedule does not allow me to write before Saturday morning. In such cases, as separate email will go out.  But for the next few weeks, the link to this note will be both in Grace Notes and sent out as a separate email. (Pastor’s Notes can also be accessed by going to the GCPC blog. Click the link and scroll down to find the most recent notes.)

Carolyn and I are out of town this weekend, so we will not see you on Sunday. But we do look forward seeing everyone, hopefully sometime soon.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

IMG_0434

It is difficult for me to believe that we are at the end of July.  While the idea of time passing quickly is a cliche, I have to admit that during this season shaped so much by the threat of COVID-19 my sense of time has been distorted. Days, as they appear in my rear view mirror, are actually further away than they appear in my mind’s eye. Perhaps one reason for this is that many of the weekly and daily rhythms that I have developed over time have been disrupted.

As I think about this, my warped sense of time, it makes me all the more thankful for the opportunity we have to gather again for worship each Lord’s Day.  God, who designed us, and knows how we function best, has declared that we to be re-calibrated each week. He created a rhythm for us, that one day of every seven, specifically the first day of each week, we are to cease from our regular labors and routines, and gather for worship in his presence, through which we can experience a renewal in his grace.  What a gift the Lord’s Day is, from God to us!

Writing this note I am mindful that while our need of the Lord’s Day is the same for all of our present experiences of the Lord’s Day are not the same for all. The continued threat of the coronavirus makes it unwise for some to risk gathering. While it is a delight to see those who are able to gather each week, I miss seeing the faces (or the top half of faces, since we are all wearing masks!) of those whom wisdom dictates you remain home on Sundays.  I’m hopeful we’ll be reunited in person sometime relatively soon.

In the mean time, while we are hindered from all being gathered, we can be thankful to God for his provision of technology. Historians tell us it has been over 100 years, longer than any of our lifetimes, since the Church in the USA has endured anything like we have been experiencing.  But this time, though providentially prohibited from congregating,  we are still able to keep connected through the gift of the Internet.  I know, not a new thought. But I have been particularly thankful recently for the gift of the Internet and the ability to LiveStream.  Why am I particularly thankful now, as compared to other times? I’m not sure. It may be because in thinking this week of the things we are addressing and improving I have been reminded of what a blessing it has been to have what we already have.

I again want to express particular thanks to Tim Nargi and Jeff Field. Tim and Jeff have spent hours considering what we need, securing the necessary tools, and then working out the kinks in our LiveStream.  Most recently Jeff has tackled some issues with the sound, so that those at home – which is the majority each week – can get as much of the sanctuary experience as possible. We also appreciate those of you who have kindly pointed out some of the areas that need improvement. No doubt we’ll still have some hiccups from time to time, but as you have opportunity please join me in giving thanks to these two men – and to the team they are developing to run the cameras and sound.

Related to our LiveStream services, we have been made aware of some confusion in securing the tools for worship, and that others have been unsure where to find the link to view the LiveStream.  Let me take a moment to try to clear up these questions. Each week a digital worship outline is posted to the Grace Covenant blog. Embedded into the digital outline is a link to the .pdf, which can be accessed and downloaded by clicking the Date at the top of the page.   The link to the LiveStream services are posted on the Grace Covenant homepage.  There is a distinct link for each of the 8:30 and 11am services. These links will go live, enabling you to see into the sanctuary, a few minutes prior to any service.  For convenience and simplification, the link to the digital worship outline will, from now on, be included on the Grace Covenant homepage, just beneath the links to the LiveStream.  These links will also be included in the Grace Notes that go out each Friday afternoon.

Related to this, there has been some question about accessing these Pastoral Notes I began writing a number of weeks ago.  I am delighted that these seem to have been well received, and are reportedly considered beneficial to many.  While initially this was just intended for the time we were socially distanced, I will continue to make writing a regular practice.  These notes have usually been written on Saturday afternoons. During the time we were recording the messages and songs on Saturday mornings, I would sit down after recording to write out the note about the service, and about some upcoming things, etc.  For convenience of access, I will try to get this note completed more often on Friday afternoons, so that the link can go out with Grace Notes. However, please understand, there will be many weeks my schedule may not allow for me to finish before Grace Notes is sent out.  A separate email will still be necessary. But all pastoral notes can be found on the Grace Covenant blog.

That’s a lot of details. I apologize – unless you are one who is having trouble sleeping. In which case, perhaps reading all that a few times may resolve your problem. 😉

Let me touch quickly on a couple things, then wrap it up.

First, we expect to have the privilege of receiving Madeline Nimmon into church membership tomorrow (July 26).  Madeline will be interviewed for membership by two our our Elders between services and, confident of Madeline’s testimony, we plan to receive her immediately after, during the 11am service.  This is more expedient than our norm, but Madline’s parents Scott & Lindsay Nimmon, are missionaries in Africa, presently in the states for an unspecified but limited amount of time.  It is quite possible that the Nimmons, including Madeline, will need to return to Africa before next week is out (…or we may get to keep them around for a few more weeks.)  Once the Nimmons get word, they will have to depart quickly. So… we will be celebrating Madeline joining the church, and her first public profession of her own faith in Jesus Christ, as her only hope for live and for salvation.  Please join us in celebrating God’s grace to Madeline, and in praying for God to continue to be at work in this young lade.

Second, it has been said that a better measure of a church’s health than its “seating” capacity is its “sending” capacity.  That means that a church’s health should be be measured, in no small part, by the number of church members engaged in mission to the community (and to the world). In coming weeks Habitat for Humanity will begin building a new home here in Williamsburg. We will again have opportunity to participate, and in so doing an opportunity to love one of our neighbors in a very practial way. A number of Grace Covenant members have been involved in previous builds in the Grove area.  On Tuesday July 28, Habitat will celebrate the Groundbreaking of this new home. As partners of Habitat Grace Covenant has been invited to participate in the groundbreaking.  If you have participated in a past build, and you would like to be among the representatives from Grace Covenant, we’d be delighted for you to do so.  The ceremony will be at 10:30, Tuesday July 28, and last about 30 minutes. The addres of the build and ceremony is Forest Heights Road in Williamsburg (near the Outlets).  Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.  Details about the actual build will be coming in the next few weeks.

As the Apostle Paul once said (at least once said): “I thank my God when I think of you all!”

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized