Monthly Archives: August 2020

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

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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.


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.


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

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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.

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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


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