Monthly Archives: June 2020

GCPC Children’s Lesson: Jesus Give Life to Jairus’ Daughter

We are thankful for you and your family, and the privilege you allow us of of being in your homes each week!

In this week’s Bible story, Jesus showed his power as Lord of life by raising Jairus’ dead daughter and restoring her to her family.

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.

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A Pastoral Note to Grace Covenant – June 6, 2020

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Those who keep in tune with the Ecclesiastical calendar – the Church Year – know that we have now entered into the season referred to Ordinary Time – the weeks between Pentecost and Advent, in December. As much as I wish we were entering into an ordinary time, I think we all sense that the times we are now living in are anything but ordinary. Just when we are beginning to emerge from our months-long “stay-at-home” orders, we now are in the early days of serious nationwide civil unrest. For some this is gut-wrenching; for others it may be merely discouraging; for many, I suspect, it is difficult to evaluate exactly how we feel, because what we feel is numb.

This week, at Grace Covenant, we do begin our first steps back toward some normalcy, as we begin preparations to re-gather for in-person worship. Our target is to “re-open” on Sunday June 14. This week, June 7, we will have a “soft opening”, live worship with a limited number of people, enabling us to work through our protocols, and LiveStreaming the service at 10am Sunday morning.  If all goes well, and we are able to accomplish the necessary safety precautions and sanitizing after the service, and barring a new outbreak of the virus in our area, we will begin to welcome all who are comfortable worshiping in a public gathering next week. But a major point of emphasis from all of our Elders & Deacons is that we urge anyone who falls into any of the “at risk” categories, as it pertains to COVID-19, or any other health issue, to remain home, and join us for worship via LiveStream.  The same goes for anyone who is still uncomfortable about the idea of gathering; please stay home, and join us online.

Obviously there will be some adjustments, not only from our norm, but also from what we have been doing these past several weeks. The primary change for those who will continue to worship at home will be that the services will no longer be pre-recorded. They will take place in Real Time, at 10am this week, then at 8:30 & 11am throughout the rest of the Summer. As always, the sermon audio will be recorded and posted to the Resources on the Grace Covenant web page. Knowing that there are likely to be some hiccups, we will continue evaluating ways we can improve the worship experience both for those gathered and those scattered.

For those who are planning to join us in-person in the coming weeks, here are some of the important things you need to know:

1.We will be practicing social distancing in our seating. We will welcome a reduced number of people into each service, roughly no more than 120-130 in any service.  Seats have been set in clusters, each cluster is at least six-fee from the next cluster. Families may sit together, and should try to find a cluster that best fits the number of people in the family. For example, it is preferable that a couple coming with no children would not sit in a cluster of 6 chairs. This probably means an adjustment for some as to where in the sanctuary you sit; but hopefully, if that is the case, you will find the change to be refreshing.  Our Deacons will be monitoring the seating and making adjustments throughout the Summer.  At the present time, we do not plan to require sign-ups for any services, though if one service begins to draw a crowd in excess of reduced capacity, and another service has a lesser number, we may make some adjustments for the safety of all participants.

2. We will require everyone over the age of 10 to wear masks as you enter the building, and during the service.  We know this is a controversial issue for some. We understand that there are differing opinions about this issue, and that such a requirement may be disappointing. Please know, we as church officers are uncomfortable with the word “require”, but we did not feel that there was an adequate alternative to convey the importance of wearing masks in our services at this time. “Require” has the ring of law, and legalism, and maybe not of grace and liberty.  But we are appealing to everyone to wear the masks out of love – love for those around you; love for those who are understandably concerned about the potential infectiousness of the virus. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you have questions about the masks, please speak with either Camper or me; or with one of the Elders or Deacons.  For those who do not have a mask, yet who want to participate in our services, our Deacons have secured a supply of masks, which we will will be happy to provide to you when entering the church building.

3. There will be no nursery or children’s ministry programs on Sunday mornings at this time. Children are always welcome to participate in our services. (A great resource for parents to acclimate their children to worship is a short book titled Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman. I highly recommend it. It was a great resource for us, as Carolyn trained our children for worship, even essentially like a “single mother” on Sunday mornings.)  To make this participation easier for families, our services and sermons will continue to be shorter.

4. Restrooms will be available, but should be used only if necessary. We encourage everyone, as much as possible, to use the restroom at home before coming to the church. Among the benefits of the shorter services is it minimizes the need for use of restrooms. That said, as always, if you need the restroom it will be available – and it will be clean.

5. Our Deacons will be sanitizing the building – sanctuary, commons, restrooms, doors, etc. – after each service.  The building is also cleaned and sanitized during the week. We want to ensure that your time of worship is as safe and clean as possible. On a related note, if you would be willing to help our Deacons to sanitize after each services, I am sure your help would be appreciated.  Our Deacons have all necessary supplies both for the cleaning, and for your safety.

6. We will have Greeters, all of whom will be wearing both masks and gloves. They will open doors, and welcome you, but they will not be shaking hands, or offering hugs – at least not just yet.

7. No bulletins will be printed. As we have been doing for the past several weeks, we will be sending out links to a digital worship outline and a .pdf of the worship outline. We encourage you to pull these up on your phone or tablet, if possible; or to print out the .pdf to bring with you. (We also ask you to please take it with you after the service.) We will project song lyrics on the wall, as usual, but you will need access to a bulletin to fully benefit from participating in the service.

8. During the service no offering will be taken up. Offering boxes will be placed by the doors exiting the sanctuary, for those who want to bring their tithes & offering. For most we encourage continuing to use the online giving option, or mailing your gifts to the church. I think it only appropriate for me to again express how thankful I am – how thankful we all are – for your faithfulness and generosity.  During this season of distanced worship, there have only been two weeks when we received less than we need each week to make budget – and your gifts the other weeks more than made up the difference of those shortfall weeks. We are blessed by your gifts. And because of your faithfulness we have been able to keep pace with our budget during a time when many churches across the country have struggles. So, again, Thank You!

9. When entering the church building, come through the front doors, as always. Once in the Commons area, you can enter the sanctuary through the usual doors. However, in order to minimize cross-traffic, and to avoid unnecessary contacts, we will be encouraging folks to exit the sanctuary after each service through the doors that exit to the outside pathway – the gardens and the buffer zone between the church and our neighbors in Settler’s Mill.

10. For those planning to watch via LiveStream, the link can be found on the Grace Covenant web page. On the home page, the “front” page, scroll down to the section heading “Worship With Us”.  There you will find the link to the LiveStream. Again, the service will begin at 10am tomorrow.

I know this is a lot of information, but we wanted to get it out to you. We plan to have this information sent out during this next week in a simple bullet-pointed document. But if anyone has any questions at all, please contact the church office.

I also know this note is already pretty long, but there are a couple other items I feel I need to touch on.

I assume you, like me, are likely still feeling the sadness, discouragement, frustration, and even anger, over the civil unrest throughout our country.  It is a complicated web of issues, some of which are clear, others perhaps less so.  As Christians we can in no way accept bigotry or racial oppression in any form. At the same time, the violence and destruction of riots that have evolved from originally justifiable and understandable protests is concerning. For some the riots have confused the issues, and maybe even dulled the sense of righteous outrage that we almost universally felt when we witnessed the brutal killing of a handcuffed man, and other recent social and racial atrocities.  I am still trying to process my own thoughts about all of these things. I have been writing, but nothing I am ready to publish yet.  That said, there are two opportunities related to these issues I want to make known to the Grace Covenant community:

  1. First, on Thursday of this week, June 11, Ben Robertson & I are going to co-host a discussion via Zoom. For those new to Grace Covenant, Ben is the RUF Campus Minister at College of William & Mary, and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). I had been asked by a few people if we were considering some kind of discussion or teaching. Ben graciously agreed to join me. Neither of us claims to be experts, but we have both been wrestling with these issues for some time, at both a theological/philosophical level and a practical level.  I know Thursday is not ideal for some, and that many of our home groups will be meeting via Zoom; but if you are free, and interested in participating in a discussion of a Christian perspective about race, justice and injustice, please plan to join us. Details and Invite link will be sent out early to mid week.
  2. Tomorrow afternoon, June 7, at 2pm, a Community Rally will be taking place in front of the Capitol Building in CW. I have been invited to this rally, and asked to invite you, by some other local pastors, but I cannot give too much info about what to expect. I am just an invitee, not a leader nor a participant in the planning of the event. However, I am told – even promised – that this is NOT a protest event, it is a rally for unity involving community leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement, and everyday neighbors.  If you are interested, you can participate either in person, or online. For those unable to be there in person, or uncomfortable attending, the event will be streamed on Facebook live (CBC Word Ministry), and Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/425294573).

I’ll close with a couple of personal notes. First, Congratulations! to Josh & Michaela (Allen) Jahnsen, for being wedded today (June 6).  Second, more of a sad note. Williamsburg has lost a great spiritual leader. I received a text this morning informing me that Bill Warrick, longtime pastor of Williamsburg Community Chapel, has died. I am thankful for the friendship Bill extended to me these past few years. His passing is no doubt his gain, after several years of serious health issues, but I will miss him. I know many others around town will as well. Please join Carolyn and me in praying for Bill’s wife, Lindy.

If you have gotten this far reading this note, thank you for your perseverance.  There is a lot going on this week. But like most of you, I am looking forward to a more ordinary time.

Grace & Peace,

Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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Info for Grace Covenant Worship: June 7

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One goal of worship is to enable people to be renewed in grace, by engaging God personally, deeply, and honestly.  Worship engages the mind, the heart, and the emotions. While worship transcends time and space, it is never to be an escape from our real and present situation. If we read the psalms we see that those who worship God engage him in the midst of a wide array of circumstances. The psalms are a reminder to us that God is near not only in good times or bad times; God is present with us, and at work in His people, at ALL times.

As always, our worship this week is focused on God, His glory and His grace. But our service also subtly reflects an acknowledgement of this unsettling time in our culture.  The Words of Approach remind us of the ultimate reality – that our world belongs to God.  But both our Song of Approach and our Prayer of Confession reflect our recognition of a broken world.

The second verse we’ll sing in our Song of Approach includes the words:

“Though the darkness hide thee; though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see…”

These words remind us of the reason why the world we live in, with all it’s beautiful aspects, is the way it is – why it is not the way we wish it would were; not the way it should be. But we can accept that truth because we know that God will one day make everything the way it is supposed to be.

The Prayer of Confession this week is responsive, and the various petitions lament various ways in which our world is broken. It would be beneficial to take some time before Sunday morning to read through the prayer, and to consider the various points, and then consider them in relation to our present cultural problems.

As Christians we do not just point our fingers at the unbelieving world; we first consider, and then confess, how we ourselves, and how the Church, is part of the problem. As the late John Stott notably quipped:

“When society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?”

In honesty and humility we own our share of the problem. But we do so in the context of, and with the promise of, being forgive, renewed by God in God’s grace; and then empowered by God, and commissioned by Him, to make a positive difference in this world. We are empowered and renewed in grace when we stand not on our own righteousness and the merits of our goodness (as if there are any),  but when we understand that Christ is our righteousness. And we are credited with Christ’s righteousness only by grace through faith. So as always, our service is designed to re-root us in grace, centered on the Cross.

The service as a whole will have a familiar feel.  There will be a few differences, however, as we begin to transition back toward in-person worship. For instance, for a few weeks, at least, we will be singing fewer songs – only two at first – so that those who will be projecting and streaming can get acclimated. Further, since we are moving this week to live services that will be LiveStreamed, some parts of the service that families and groups have been leading on their own will instead be led by a worship leader.  (For those who have enjoyed the format we have been using, we would be more than happy to connect you with resources for family worship.)   But other than these relative minor adjustments, the service should feel quite familiar to any and all who have been worshiping with Grace Covenant for any length of time.

Resources for our June 7 worship can be accessed here:

Please Note:

…those who will be participating in-person, in the Grace Covenant sanctuary, that we will not be printing bulletins. You will need to either print out the .pdf and bring it with you, or pull up the .pdf or the digital worship outline in the sanctuary to be able to fully participate.

…those who will be participating via LiveStream, as always, it is best if each person in your home or group has a worship outline, whether printed or digital. LiveStream can be accessed on Sunday morning, at 10am, through a link on the home page of the Grace Covenant web page.

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Grace Covenant Worship: June 7, 2020

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June 7, 2020

Words of Approach

[Congregation should respond to each Affirmation by declaring the words in Bold]

As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world – which some seek to control, and others view with despair – we declare with joy and trust: Our world belongs to God!

From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until the kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever: Our world belongs to God!

God is King: Let the earth be glad!

Christ is victor: His rule has begun!

The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!

Hallelujah!

~ from Our World Belongs to God, Articles 1-2

 Song of Approach          

Holy Holy Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee, Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see; Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All Thy works shall praise Thy name In earth, and sky, and sea; Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Words: Reginald Heber
Music: John Dykes
Public Domain

Prayer of Approach   

 

Invitation to Confession

Apart from grace we prove each day that we are guilty sinners: we fail to thank God, we break God’s laws, we ignore our tasks. Looking for life without God, we find death; grasping for freedom outside the law, we trap ourselves in Satan’s snares; pursuing pleasure, we lose the gift of joy.

~ from Our World Belongs to God, Article 15

Responsive Prayer of Confession

[This is an interactive prayer. Congregation should respond praying words in Bold.]

Lord, you showed us true humility by becoming one of us, yet too often we practice pride.

You cried alongside your friends and for the city of Jerusalem, yet too often we rush past the pain of others and are careless about our cities.

You loved those who were weak, despised, or cast out, yet too often we love those who are strong, respected, or popular.

You freely forgave and healed, yet too often we hold grudges and cause pain.

You lived a perfectly holy life, yet too often we do not yearn for righteousness.

You prayed that we who believe in you should be united with each other and you, yet too often we focus on the differences that separate us from other believers.

You were mocked, whipped, and even killed for us, yet too often we deny you – if not with our words, with our actions and our inaction.

You call us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, yet too often we blend into or hide from our culture.

Forgive us, Lord! Make us to shine with your glory.

Silent Confession of Personal Sin & Brokenness

[Spend a moment in silent confessing prayer. If you are not sure what to pray consider any ways in which the points of the corporate confession above may be true of you.]

Words of Grace   

~ Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Prayer for God’s Protection, Provision, and Guidance

Meditation on God’s Word

Scripture: Matthew 7.1-5

Message: Why Don’t We Notice Our Own Stuff

Rev. W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

 [After the pastor prays following the message, the congregation will join in and we will offer the Lord’s Prayer together.]

Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. – Amen.

Song of Dismissal     

Jesus I My Cross Have Taken

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee. Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be. Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought or hoped or known. Yet how rich is my condition! God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me, They have left my Savior, too. Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue. O while Thou dost smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, Foes may hate and friends disown me, Show Thy face and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure, Come disaster, scorn and pain In Thy service, pain is pleasure, With Thy favor, loss is gain I have called Thee Abba Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee Storms may howl, and clouds may gather; All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation Rise o’er sin and fear and care Joy to find in every station, Something still to do or bear. Think what Spirit dwells within thee, Think what Father’s smiles are thine, Think that Jesus died to win thee, Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

Lyrics: Henry Lyte
Tune: Bill Moore
CCLI #360938/#20167508

Benediction

 

***

 

NOTES:

 

Passage Next Week: 

       Mark 10.35-52

 

Worship Leaders Today

  • Piano/Guitar/Vocals: Isaiah Day
  • Vocals: Jamie Field
  • Drums: Peter McHenry
  • Message: Rev. W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor
  • Liturgist: Rev. Camper Mundy, Associate Pastor
  • Congregational Prayer: Steve Tewksbury
  • Video/Sound/Tech: Tim Nargi

 

Special Note on Supporting the Mission & Work of Grace Covenant:

Our giving is an act of worship. It is a response to who God is and to God’s grace. Giving is a way that God invites us to participate in His work. During these extraordinary times, the life and ministry of our church will continue – even when we are not all able to meet together for worship.  We humbly but boldly ask the people of Grace Covenant to continue to give generously for the benefit of God’s kingdom here in Williamsburg and beyond.

You can make your gifts in any of three ways:

1) Online at www.gracecovpca.org/resources/giving

2) Sending your check to the church offices at 1677 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg VA  23185

3) Bringing your gifts with you to worship. We will not be passing an offering plate in our service for the foreseeable future, but an offering box is available for you to place your gift before or after each service.

If you would like to make a special gift to help those from our church and community who are in need, please write “Mercy Ministries” on the memo line of your check or select that fund when making a gift online.

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GCPC Children’s Lesson: Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

 

 

In this week’s Bible story, Jesus brings the widow’s son back to life. Help your children to see how sad the widow must have been before Jesus raised her son from the dead and how Jesus had compassion on her.

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.

Thank you again for the privilege of being in your homes!

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