With most of Summer now in the rearview mirror, we are getting ready to roll into the Fall. For many, myself included, Fall or Autumn is a favorite season of the year. Anticipation of the beauty of the changing leaves, cooler temperatures (eventually), are only a few of the reasons many look forward to the coming season. But it is not only the leaves and the temperatures that change. Our church also shifts out of Summer mode into our more “regular” rhythm.
Before highlighting some important things for this Fall at Grace Covenant, let me first offer a reminder that our final Summer Family Picnic will be held next Sunday afternoon/evening, August 28, from 4-6pm, at First Colony Pool & Clubhouse. These picnics, held the last Sunday afternoon of each Summer month, are a great way to connect with old friends and meet new ones. So, if you have not already, mark your calendar and plan to join us.
Fall Worship Schedule
Most significant of the things I need to communicate is a temporary change to our weekly worship schedule. While our usual pattern is to return to two weekly worship services, 8:30 and 11am, as we approach Labor Day, Session has made a decision to remain in a single 10am service through the Fall (and Advent, which is our normal pattern).
With the present patterns that churches all across the country are seeing as we continue to emerge from the wake of COVID, we believe we can fit into a single service for a little while longer, though some weeks may get a bit snug. So after considering input from our Deacons, ministry leaders, and Ben Robertson of RUF, Session has decided that, rather than just maintaining the status quo, returning to our planned two services, we would try to seize this as a season of opportunity. We want to remain in one service, and use it as an opportunity to welcome those who are new to Grace Covenant and connect people to one another – people who, in different services, may have little opportunity to meet. We expect to resume our two service schedule in January.
To maximize this opportunity, I do want to make a request of everyone for whom Grace Covenant is home. This is a personal request, meaning it is coming from me and not from the Session (though I have no reason to believe any of our Elders would object). I invite all – all who are willing – to adopt what is sometimes called The 5-Minute Rule. The 5-Minute rule is this: For the first 5-minutes after any worship service, find someone you do not know, or that you do not know well, and talk with them before they head for the doors. Talking with those you do not know before you catch up with old friends is a simple way for newcomers to be made to feel welcome, and for relational connections to be strengthened throughout the church. (John 17.20-21)
For those who are wondering, we will have our full range of ministries on Sunday morning. Children’s Sunday School and Adult Ed will meet at 9am; Worship at 10am; with Children’s Church, Kid’s Quest (Beginner Catechism), and Advanced Catechism offered as usual. Nursery will be offered for both Education Hour and during Worship – though children of any age are welcome to remain for worship if that is the parents’ preference.
With Fall will come another change. Starr VanWingerden has been serving as our Children’s Ministry Director for the past few years. Starr has been on sabbatical from this position since Easter, but has decided that she would step down to give attention to other important things. I would personally like to extend my thanks to Starr for her labors on behalf of our children, especially as she was at the helm during a very difficult time when COVID caused shut-downs, isolation, and social distancing. When you see Starr, please join me in expressing appreciation for her.
For the past few months, Rachel Bartelmay has served as the Interim Children’s Ministry Director. Rachel has done a great job preparing us for Fall, and she will continue to guide the Children’s Ministry as we enter the new school year. But Rachel has chosen to not pursue the job on a permanent basis, and so will rather help to transition the next Children’s Ministry Director into the position. So, as with Starr, I want to express my appreciation for Rachel and the work she has done; and I invite you to thank Rachel for her work, as you have opportunity.
We have not yet appointed the next person for this role, but a recommendation has been made which the Session is considering. We’ll provide more details once a decision is finalized. But we do ask your prayers both for wisdom as the Elders make this decision and for the one the Lord is raising up to assume leadership of this vital ministry.
Finally, our next Discovery Class will begin on Sunday September 18, and will run for six consecutive weeks. The class is designed to introduce the beliefs, history, and values of Grace Covenant to those who are interested in learning more, and for those who have interest in becoming a member of the church. That said, commitment to joining the church is not a pre-requisite for participation in the class. The class will meet in the church library at 9am each week. For more information, or if you would like to sign up, please email Kathy Buhl. If you are new or newish to Grace Covenant, and you are not yet a member, I hope you will join us for Discovery Class. It would be our pleasure to get to know you more personally.