A Pastoral Note to Grace Covenant – May 29, 2020

Captain John Smith Overlooks the James

Headlines of the week have caused Micah 6.8 to resound as a refrain in my mind. This charge from the prophet to the Lord’s people:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

I am often slow to chime in on hot-button issues that replay over and over and again on the news, not out of fear of the controversy, but out of caution to let the facts unfold before offering my two-bit opinion. But, while all the facts of the brutality that occurred in Minneapolis this week are likely a long ways off, what has been apparent is that injustice is alive in our country, and that it is just as deadly, and just as potentially viral, as this virus that has effected us all.  As God’s people we lament. And as God’s people we are also called to prophetically decry all expressions of injustice. The ESV translation of “act justly” is “to do justice”.  So it is not just a matter of you and me personally refraining from perpetrating injustice. God’s call is for us to stand with the powerless, and to stand up against injustice: abuse of power and authority, racism, deceit, violence, brutality,  and bloodshed. All of these are evident in this recent episode in which a police officer killed an already handcuffed man – with at least three other policemen apparently standing by just watching. And while Minneapolis may seem far away, expressions of injustice are also in our back yard.  Like the coronavirus, injustice may not always be evident to the eye, but the effects are devastating. What is even worse, the virus may be harmful but injustice is disgraceful.

My apologies if this seems like a bummer of a way to open a “pastoral note”.  As we move toward our community re-opening over the next several weeks, it has led me to begin again thinking about my hopes for Grace Covenant.  I want for us to be a godly church; faithful to love what God loves, and hate what God hates. (Psalm 97.10)  I want for us to celebrate all that God has made beautiful, and to be his servants who confront evil and ugliness. (Matthew 16.18)  I think of what I hope for Grace Covenant, I see so many ways God has graced us, and yet the headlines remind me of how fallen & broken our world is.

How thankful I am that Grace Covenant loves mercy! That is evident in your generosity, resourcing our Deacons to help those in need because of the economic shut-down – helping not only those who are part of Grace Covenant, but helping neighbors in need as well. Love of mercy is evident in the way you continue to care for one another, pray for one another, call one another, hang out with one another (with appropriate social distancing, of course!).  Love of mercy is evident in the kind phone calls made and the emails of encouragement sent to me – and to others on our church staff. Love of mercy is evident in those who have given of themselves to serve our neighbors and our community.

I am thankful that it is evident God is knitting us together as his church – his family. We not only mourn with those who mourn, but we celebrate with those who celebrate. Among those with whom we can celebrate this week are the recent college grads who are part of Grace Covenant.  I want to offer congratulations to the following for earning  their degrees:

Associates Degree

    • Sarah Rutan (Thomas Nelson; plans to matriculate @ ODU in the Fall)
    • Audrey Wilmoth (Thomas Nelson; plans to matriculate @ CNU in the Fall)

Bachelor’s Degree

    • Patrick Choi (William & Mary)
    • Emma Preston (William & Mary)
    • Christopher Robison (Grove City College)

Masters Degree

    • Jamie Field (Indiana Wesleyan University – Athletic Training)
    • Rebekah Griffith (Randolph College – Education)
    • Erica Pence (East Carolina University – Speech Patholology)

Doctoral Degree

    • Dena Kota (VCU – Pharmaceutical)

Congratulations to all of you! If I missed anyone, please let us know.   (We’ll recognize the high school grads in a few weeks. Charley is on it!)

Another note of congratulations is due as well. But this one requires a brief explanation.

Among the things that I love about Grace Covenant is that, from the very earliest days as a church, God has been raising people up and sending them out to serve: missionaries, college & seminary professors, a seminary president, youth ministers, music ministers, church planters, chaplains, and pastors. Not to mention the many who have been part of Grace Covenant’s family who have made an impact, though not in full time ministry! Well, one of Grace Covenant’s former students will become the Senior Pastor of Peninsula Community Chapel, in York County, near Poquoson, this weekend…

Congratulations to Garret Spitz! (During his time at W&M, Garrett was adopted by Wayne & Kathy Buhl, as part of our Adopt-a-Student program. So congrats, of sorts, to Wayne & Kathy, as well!)

Let’s pray that God would continue to raise up servants from Grace Covenant. May God continue to make us a church filled with those who “walk humbly with our God”.

I guess I’ll begin to wrap up this note.

Just a reminder, we begin next week, June 7, with a “soft” opening; meaning that we will shift to a live service, with relative few people in the sanctuary.  The service will begin at 10am, and will be LiveStreamed at that time. The reason for the “soft” opening is to allow us to work through the protocols that will be in place to ensure the health of those who choose to participate in weeks ahead. Exactly who will be in the sanctuary on June 7 has yet to be decided. Details will be sent out during the week, after the Session meets Tuesday evening.

On Sunday June 14, we plan to shift to our two service schedule, at 8:30 & 11am. Both services will be LiveStreamed, and we expect at least one of the services will be recorded and available on our web page.

Please continue to pray for our Elders and Deacons to have wisdom. We do not re-enter public worship lightly. We continue to monitor the status of the virus in our community; we urge those who fall into “at-risk” to worship with us from home via the LiveStream; and we fully respect the concerns of those who are uncomfortable about joining us in person just yet. Protocols for in-person worship will be published and sent out next week, or early in the week between June 7 – June 14, at the latest.

In the mean time, may God Bless you – and have a great week!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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