It will be a busy day at Grace Covenant this coming Sunday. In fact, it will be busy around our church for the next few weeks. In addition to our regular Sunday services, in the coming week we will meet (via Zoom) for our Spring quarterly prayer gathering, this time focusing on prayer for our country; the following week Grace Covenant serves as host to the Tidewater Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. But first things first.
Reception of New Communicant Members
This Sunday, May 2, we again have the joy of receiving new members. These new members, those to be received on Sunday, are our new communicant members – children of church members who are making their own professions of faith, joining the church, and partaking of Communion (ostensibly) for the first time. Most of those who are joining the church have already been baptized, in accord with our Covenant tradition; and two who will be baptized as part of their profession of faith before joining with the others – one this week; the other, who cannot be with us this weekend, in a few weeks down the road. This weekend provides us with a beautiful picture of God’s grace, and in particular the grace of God’s Covenant promises extended to the children of Believers. Secondary to the splendor of God’s grace, we will also see a vivid demonstration of what I consider a wonderful aspect of the Grace Covenant family: While we are boldly faithful to the Biblical practices of our Covenant tradition, we humbly recognize that godly people differ on a number of secondary issues (the mode of Baptism, being among the most common), and we passionately encourage everyone to be conformed to God’s Word, not merely to our traditions. At Grace Covenant, there are no second-class citizens/members. While we corporately hold to the Faith, as expressed in the traditional Reformed confessions and creeds, some of the most godly among us may hold some differing – yet still orthodox – views. As Ephesians 4 declares:
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Celebration of Communion
After the baptism, and after all the new communicant members are received – and after the message, which will be aimed at turning our attention to the Lord’s Supper – we will all come and partake of God’s grace at the Table. I hope you will notice a beautiful symbolism of receiving new members and then, in the same service, all communing together. To me, this is perhaps especially precious when we are communing with those who are participating at the Table for the first time.
As has been our practice for the past several months, we invite those who are worshipping with us via LiveStream to also commune with us. We do ask that you make preparation in advance, setting aside the bread and the wine or grape juice, before the service, so you are able to “eat and drink” the elements of the table at the same time as those who are communing in the sanctuary. We also encourage you, both those who worship in-person and those who worship with us virtually, to prepare yourself in advance. As I have done from time to time in the past, I want to commend to you this short article, What Should I Think About During the Lord’s Supper? as a resource to aid in your participation. I pray that we all “taste and see that God is good” (Psalm 34.8)
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, on Thursday May 6 we will be gathering together for a time of concerted prayer. It is the Grace Covenant practice to gather quarterly for such prayer, each time with a different focus. While ordinarily these times of prayer are coupled with a congregational dinner, during this season of social distancing we have had to switch to coming together via Zoom. While there is no substitute for gathering in person, we have found that our Zoom gatherings have offered an enjoyable new dynamic, as we shift from the gathering of the whole to our “Breakout Rooms” we get to pray for different aspects of our prayer focus with different groupings of people.
Our focus will be praying for our Nation, for those who govern, and for specific important aspects of our American culture. We will be praying through lamentations, confessions, as well as thankfulness and intercession. We will also not be alone, as our prayer gathering is intentionally set to allow us to participate with others throughout the USA for the National Day of Prayer. The theme for National Day of Prayer this year is Love, Life, and Liberty. Just to be clear, we choose to participate in National Day of Prayer not out of a sense of nationalistic pride, (not that there is anything inherently wrong with someone being proud of one’s country,) but in accord with God’s instructions throughout the Bible, but in particular such as his instruction to His people living in exile:
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.Jeremiah 29.7
We hope you will join us. It’ll be just one hour – 6:30-7:30. Here’s the link to participate: Grace Covenant National Day of Prayer. (If asked, Meeting ID is: 853 5798 2221 and Passcode is: 311731.)
Church Officer Nominations
Finally, as we give thanks to God for the many ways he has blessed our church, through the years, and during these months of pandemic, the Session (Council of Elders) has turned our attention – some of it, anyway – toward the future.
One of the essential aspects of a healthy church is qualified, godly, Biblical team leadership. One of the means God has appointed for the cultivation of healthy churches is for the members of each congregation to nominate and (eventually) elect those who are to serve as Elders and Deacons. The Session, looking optimistically to the future of Grace Covenant, is requesting the members to prayerfully submit names of those who meet the biblical qualifications for Elder and for Deacon to be vetted, trained, and examined, and upon satisfactorily meeting all qualifications, to be presented for election to respective offices. Nominations will be received from May 1 through May 31, 2021.
As you will hear repeated many times, officer nominations for the church is not something to be taken lightly. God has outlined specific character qualifications for those who are to hold office, in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5. Additionally, God has gifted people differently to serve in different ways. Elders and Deacons have different responsibilities, and often exercise different sets of gifts. To aid in your consideration, we have published an overview of the officer nomination process: Grace Covenant Officer Nominations. We encourage all members of Grace Covenant to review this overview, which includes a helpful short video, as you prayerfully consider who you will nominate to the two respective offices.
Here is a short checklist of important points to consider:
- Only those who are members of Grace Covenant are eligible to nominate candidates for office. ALL Grace Covenant members, after prayer and careful consideration, are encouraged to submit nominations. This privilege is not just for a select few.
- To be eligible for nomination, a candidate must be a member of Grace Covenant for at least one year prior to nomination.
- While we assume some relationship should exist between the candidate and the one submitting the nomination, we ask that candidates not be nominated by immediate family members. (There are practical reasons for this request, which I am willing to discuss if anyone has concerns, but I will not attempt to delve into in this note.)
- We ask that you do NOT speak with the candidate you nominate about being nominated, neither before or after you submit the candidate for nomination. Session will speak with the nominees about their willingness to serve. And on some rare occasions there are issues that might disqualify a candidate from being considered, though the issue is not widely known. In such cases, it saves everyone from a measure of awkwardness if the Session is allowed to notify candidates of having been nominated.
- Church members are permitted to submit more than one nomination for each office.
- For the first time, this year all nominations should be submitted digitally. The link to the nomination form can be found at the bottom of the overview page: Grace Covenant Officer Nominations. Click on that link, fill in the respective blanks, then click “Submit”. It is very simple.
If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to ask us. We want to make this as simple as possible, but it is quite possible that we have failed to anticipate some very good questions.
I continue to be thankful for you all! I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday – and the rest of you one day soon!
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor