Monthly Archives: October 2020

A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 23, 2020

This coming Sunday, October 25, is Reformation Sunday. It is a day widely recognized by Protestant Christians throughout the world, commemorating the act of a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther who, on October 31, 1517, publicly expressed his frustrations with the Church by posting his points of concern (95 Theses) on the doors to the church in Wittenburg. If Luther were alive today, he would probably still have made his post but, rather than using hammer and nail to a door, he would have used a keyboard and posted them to a blog. Nevertheless, his action gained traction with the sentiments of the people, not only in his town, but throughout much of Western Europe. Rather than starting something, as many suppose, Luther merely put words to what many others were also already sensing. His gesture, and his points (known as Theses), ignited a wildfire, like a spark to the kindling of dry spirituality, spreading and fueled by the dead branches of a dead and mere formalistic religion. Consequently, each year, many churches, from a variety of traditions (though perhaps mostly Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed) make note of this day, not so much to set us apart from others as to re-connect with the Church of ages past and to be re-rooted and renewed in the gospel principles that were recovered in what many historians would call the greatest spiritual revival in modern history – a revival second in all of history only to Pentecost.

At Grace Covenant, we are beneficiaries and direct spiritual descendants of the Reformation. We are, in our essence, a Reformed Church. What I mean by that is that we continue to hold to the core values that were recovered in the Reformation; the key biblical principles rescued, reaffirmed, and restored as foundational pillars of the Christian Faith. Among those key principles are:

  • The Glory of God is our primary goal in life
  • The Scripture of the Old & New Testaments as our only ultimate authority for what we believe and for directing how we should live
  • The “Good News” of the Gospel is that we are able to receive salvation and be reconciled to enjoy a relationship with God, our Creator, by God’s Grace, through God’s gift of Faith, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

These points are not only among our treasured beliefs, they are embedded within the core values of our church, and evident in the daily life an teaching of our church.

With that said, I think what is important is not only that we remember these points, but also that we also realize how we relate to these principles, and to the tradition of which we are a part. I see three ways churches and Christians can – and do – relate to the Reformation:

  1. We can ignore the Reformation entirely.
  2. We can live in Light of the Reformation
  3. We can live in the shadow of the Reformation.

Of these, only one is beneficial.

If we ignore the Reformation entirely, we will gain no great benefit from it. In fact, it is quite likely that we will fall into many of the same errors that the Church experienced during the Dark Ages. The old mantra is true, “Those who forget history are in danger of repeating it.”

To live in the “shadow of the Reformation” is to remember it, but to relate to it in an unhealthy way. It is to celebrate it in such a way that more commemorates the past than benefits anyone in the present. It is like wearing it as a distinctive mark, but not to be shaped by it; or rather, the marks are embraced and worn to be distinguished from others – even other Christians – but not so much for the principles to shape the person or church in such a way that cultivates healthy, holy lives in the present.

But the healthy way to relate to the Reformation is to live in Light of the Reformation. One of the themes of the Reformation was “post tenebras lux” – which is Latin for “After Darkness, Light”! And the Reformation did provide a light for the world. Those principles still shine, especially so where people and churches are continually shaped by these principles. Where these principles are at work, the result is humility, joy, freedom, graciousness – i.e. “Light”.

I write all this because I wanted to seize this date on the calendar to paint a picture. I want to connect us to our tradition, and at the same time point us toward our future. I want us to see that by being faithful to the principles that have always been foundational to Grace Covenant, by being a “Humbly Reformed” church, a church and a people that are continually being shaped or “re-formed” by these gospel principles, we are able to be a Light – a light in an all-too-often dark world; and light for a culture in desperate need of a new Reformation in our own day. In some ways this is an aspiration. But in many ways, it is also already our present reality. And it is because this is both a present reality and an aspiration in our church that I regularly give thanks to God for you all.

OK. Quickly, as I finish up this note…. Don’t Forget: Church Work Day tomorrow morning (October 24). It’s a time when we can come together and take care of some things to prepare our building and grounds for the coming Winter. But more than that, it is a time when we can come together, and enjoy one another. No skills are needed. Just come with a good attitude … and maybe some gloves.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 20, 2020

While it is unusual for me to write one of these pastoral notes early in the week – in fact, I do not think I have done so before – I have been asked by several people for recommended books and/or articles to further consider the Doctrine of Unconditional Election, which was the predominate theme in the message from this past Sunday. So rather than waiting, or answering one by one, I thought I would offer a few suggestions for possible resources. But before I get to that, I want to invite everyone to join me in expressing condolences to the Mundy family.

We learned this morning that Heather Mundy’s mother had passed away. This was not unexpected; and, in fact, Heather has been in Birmingham, Alabama the past few days to be with her mother. But even when expected, such a loss is jarring, even for those who are confident of the hope we all share in Jesus. So please pray for Heather & Camper, and Hope, Mercy, and Ty this week, and in the coming days.

I’d also like to take a moment to offer my thanks to all those who worked to put on a Pinewood Derby competition for the children and families of Grace Covenant. During these past months there have been few communal opportunities, but on Sunday afternoon it was different! Dozens of Grace Covenant families gathered on the lawn – mostly masked, and socially distanced – while the cars crafted by the kids (possibly with some help from Dad or Mom) raced on the track. It was a lot of fun. Even more than fun, it was refreshing. So thanks to everyone who participated. Special thanks to Nathan Mortier, Justin Stevens, and David Hoffman for the work they did organizing, building the track, and running the event.

Now, as for the resources regarding the Doctrine of Election. The best resource I can recommend, that is substantive but not too academic, is R.C. Sproul’s contemporary classic book, Chosen By God. In addition to the book, Ligonier Ministries developed a 6-part video series, also titled Chosen By God, with Sproul teaching. The video series is available for FREE on both Amazon Prime Videos and through Ligonier.

Other books worth checking out:

Chosen for Life by Sam Storms

The Potter’s Freedom by James White

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer

Articles worth considering can be found for free from:

Monergism

The Gospel Coalition

Ligonier Ministries

I hope those of you who are curious find something helpful from among these resources. There may be copies of some of the book titles in our Grace Covenant Library – and if there are not, there ought to be. ūüėČ

Finally, let me take this opportunity to invite everyone to join us at lunch time on Thursday, as we gather (via Zoom) to pray for the advancement of the gospel to the Nations, and to hear from and pray specifically for some of our Grace Covenant missionaries, who will be joining us.

J.I Packer, in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (recommended above), notes:

Prayer is a confessing of impotence and need, an acknowledging of helplessness and dependence, and an invoking of the mighty power of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves‚Ķ It is [God’s] way regularly to withhold His blessings until His people start to pray.

So, in line with Packer’s thinking: Prayer is our way of supporting those who are serving Jesus on the front lines. Prayer support is every bit as important as financial support to those who are in foreign fields. Prayer is not only our way of supporting global missions, prayer is one way we can ourselves engage in global mission, even if we ourselves are not venturing far from home.

To participate in the prayer gathering, at Noon, on Thursday October 22, click this link: GCPC Missions Prayer Gathering. If you have any questions, please contact Nathan Kiewiet.

That’s it for now. I expect to have another note out for the weekend, as usual. In the mean time, I pray you have a great week!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 9, 2020

I am regularly reminded of what a blessing it is to be part of this Grace Covenant family. Kind words and notes from many in the church; your prayers, your faithfulness, and your generosity. It is such a delight to see more and more folks joining us for worship each week in person – and online. We are by no means the only “good” church in town. But we are Christ’s Church – and our God has blessed us.

I have the privilege today to announce some exciting news to the Grace Covenant family! As of today, Grace Covenant is debt free! Yep. Read that again. We are now a debt free church! Our mortgage was paid off, in full, this morning!

Let me take a moment to share how this has come to be.

Several weeks ago, at the recommendation of our Finance Committee, the Elders voted to pay off the mortgage by transferring funds from our Building Fund. Unbeknown to anyone – Elders nor Finance Committee members – only a few days later, before we had opportunity to execute our decision, one of our church members (who wishes to remain anonymous), without any knowledge of the Elders’ plan, notified David Lunt, our Finance Chair, of his/her desire to pay off our mortgage! So God was working in the heart of one of our members at the same time he was guiding the Finance Committee and the Session (i.e. Council of Elders, for those who are new to this Presbyterian thing)! Neither aware of the other’s thinking! Amazing!

The gift from our anonymous church member will be given over the course of a couple years. Along with the first portion of the gift, funds were shifted from our Building Fund to entirely pay the mortgage off. Future installments of the gift will go to rebuild the Building Fund. Along with the funds from the gift, the same amount as we have been paying each month toward our mortgage will now also be directed to our Building Fund. Our expectation is that, at an appropriate time in the future (- hopefully a not-too-distant future), we will be able to add the much needed additional classroom space, and other planned renovations and expansions. (For those who are not aware, we already have blueprints for a few different options and phases.)

On behalf of our Elders, Deacons, and Staff, I want to thank all of you for your generosity to Grace Covenant. I especially express thanks to our generous anonymous benefactor. And I think I would be remiss if I did not also express thanks to another Grace Covenant couple who gave a significant gift earlier this year to pay down the mortgage that has now been retired. Please join us in giving thanks to God for his provision; and giving thanks to God for blessing these people to be such a blessing to our church!

As exciting as being able to pay off our mortgage is, I am reminded that God blesses his people – his Church – in order that we be a blessing. While we celebrate being free from debt, God has blessed us in this way to free us to be a blessing to those around us – that through us (and through other faithful churches in town) our neighbors, and those who come to visit the Historic Triangle, might come to know God. This principle is repeatedly expressed throughout the Scriptures, in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is embedded in the Covenant God made with his people through Abraham (Genesis 12.1-3) and it is outlined in Jesus’ response when asked “What is the most important commandment?” (Matthew 22.36-40) So we have been blessed to be a blessing. One of the ways we do this is by committing ourselves to be faithful to God, by delighting in his grace, by being students of and obedient to his Word, and by loving one another. (John 13.34-35) The other is by loving our neighbors as we love one another, and as we love ourselves. We love our neighbors by praying for them. We love our neighbors by sharing the hope we have in Christ with them. We love them by earning the right to share by serving them.

There are many ways we can – and should – serve our neighbors. I want to highlight two of them:

  1. Habitat for Humanity Faith Build – Grace Covenant has the opportunity, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, to serve a family in our community by participating in a Faith Build. Details of this Faith Build can be found by clicking the link above. If you have interest in participating, or if you have questions about participating, feel free to contact Jennifer Allen.
  2. 3e Restoration Fund Raiser – Grace Covenant proudly partners with 3e Restoration to minister to our neighbors most in need. (I also have the privilege to serve on the Board of Directors for 3e.) We are thankful for the work 3e does, and for what we at Grace Covenant have been able to do to help some of our neighbors – including some in our own church – because of the training we have received through 3e. As all faith-based non-profit ministries, 3e Restoration is dependent upon the generosity of of individual and corporate donors. Usually this time of year preparations are being finalized for a banquet. Due to the lingering threat of COVID-19, this year 3e is doing something a bit different – a three-part Virtual Celebration! While I will be sharing more details in weeks to come, I invite you to click the link, check out what 3e will be doing, and, if able, sign up to “attend” and/or support this tremendous ministry.

That’s all for now. There are a number of things going on at Grace Covenant. Check out Grace Notes to find out about those things. If you don’t receive Grace Notes, email Kathy in the church office to sign up. In the mean time, may the Lord bless you and keep you; May he shine his face upon you, and give you … Grace!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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Grace Covenant – Habitat Faith Build

Grace Covenant is excited to partner, once again, with Habitat for Humanity. During the month of October, and likely into November, Habitat will be holding a Faith Build here in Williamsburg. Faith Builds are an opportunity for Habitat and faith-based communities to partner together to build a home for a local family. 

THE FAMILY

Families for whom Habitat partners build homes are selected through a thorough vetting process; and upon selection are required to put in at least 300 hours of “sweat equity” by participating in the building of their own and other families’ homes.

The family for whom we will be partnering to build is the Newby Family. The Newby’s have¬†been very active in the Williamsburg community.¬†While Mr. Newby is retired, wife¬†Jennifer has been a stalwart employee at one of the most recognizable buildings in the Colonial Williamsburg area. Jennifer‚Äôs ‚Äúput others first‚ÄĚ mentality is on display wherever she goes, and it permeates through the Newby Family.¬†

In their new home, the Newby Family wishes to continue their family traditions that have kept them a tight-knit group during the past and hope to make new long-lasting memories in their new home.

We are grateful to be able to partner with and sereve them!

There are a variety of ways we can serve the Newby’s:

1) Praying for the family. Make a note to yourself, and pray for this family as they transition into their new home.

2) Build a picnic table or a bench for the family to enjoy for years to come. You can do this on your own time in your own space. 

3) Help make a welcome home basket to be given at the ribbon cutting.

4) Donate to the build, click on the following link: Peninsula Habitat Faith Build.¬† Donors need to designate gifts to ‘Faith Build Williamsburg’ and indicate donations are being made on behalf of GCPC.¬† Grace Covenant Deacons plan to match gifts of GCPC donors from the Mercy Fund, so your gift is actually doubled! These gifts will go toward paying the cost of the build and toward “house warming” gifts to help the family get settled.

5) Participate in the build! No skills are necessary! (Though skilled workers are very much appreciated.) You can help build. Grace Covenant folks can choose from the following dates/times:

  • 2 slots on Wednesday, October 14
  • 3 slots Friday, October 16
  • 2 slots Wednesday, October 21
  • There will also likely be additional opportunities to serve in November. We will make those dates known as Habitat makes them known to us.

If you are interested in serving any of these slots, you can sign up as a church group or individual volunteer @ www.faithbuilds.habitatpgw.volunteerhub.com. 

Please contact, Mimi Mitchell, Faith Engagement Director at mimi@habitatpgw.org if you have any questions.

**NOTE: Volunteers for construction must be 16 years of age and over. Please contact Habitat if you would like to create an opportunity for younger volunteers. (There are also non-construction volunteer opportunities. Prayer on the site, bringing lunch, and writing blessings on the studs of the home all count as volunteering!)

6) OTHER – You might take pictures of the build and make a keepsake album for the family. Or you – perhaps with your small group, or with a group of friends, make and provide a meal for a work crew shift. If you are interested in helping in any of these ways, please contact Jennifer Allen.

BUILD LOCATION

119 Forest Heights Road Williamsburg, VA. (Near Williamsburg Outlets)


SAFETY GUIDELINES

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg’s first concern is the health and wellness of our volunteers, supporters, donors, homeowners and staff. To help us care for one another, Habitat has updated the safety guidelines and recommend all volunteers adhere to Habitat’s safety precautions. This includes NOT volunteering if you experienced symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 in the last 14 days (i.e. cough, fever, or any respiratory illness), been near someone who is sick or if you or anyone in your household have been in close contact with anyone who is confirmed to have COVID-19, traveled to any foreign country or traveled by cruise or have been in contact with someone who has traveled, in the last 14 days. In addition, masks must be worn on site!¬†

Habitat will only accept volunteers on any site if the volunteer has registered for the opportunity on the volunteer website. More information can be found at www.faithbuilds.habitatpgw.volunteerhub.com when you register. 

LIABILITY WAIVERS: 
Do not forget your volunteer liability waiver!! Liability waivers are necessary every 12 months. Waivers can now be signed online when you register!! Waivers for volunteers ages 16 and 17 must be printed, signed by a parent and brought to the construction site. Please note that waivers have been updated with new language regarding Covid-19. Visit www.habitatpgw.org/liability-waivers to download the waiver of liability. 

For more information on the Faith Build in Williamsburg, please visit www.habitatpgw.org/building-on-faith.html.

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