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Grace Covenant Worship – July 26, 2020

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July 26, 2020

Words of Approach

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63:1-4)

Prayer of Approach

 

Song of Approach                                                               

Behold Our God

 

Prayer of Confession

Almighty and most merciful Father, we are thankful that your mercy is higher than the heavens, wider than our  wanderings, deeper than all our sin. 

Forgive our careless attitudes toward your purposes, our refusal to relieve the suffering of others, our envy of those who have more than we have, our obsession with creating a life of constant pleasure, our indifference to the treasures of heaven, our neglect of your wise and gracious law.

Help us to change our way of life so that we may desire what is good, love what you love, and do what you command, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Words of Grace 

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Christians, be assured that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~ John 10:27-30; Romans 8:38-39

Song of Celebration                            

Redeemed, Restored, Forgiven

Reception of New Member  

Madeline Nimmon  

 (11:30 Service Only)

Recognition of High School Graduates

 

Prayer for God’s Protection, Provision, and Guidance

 

Doxology

 

Meditation on God’s Word

Scripture:       John 6:25-35          
Message:       When You Hunger for More

                             

Song of Dismissal                                

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks

 

Benediction

 

***

NOTES

 

Passage Next Week: 

       John 6:67-71

 Worship Leaders Today:

  • Piano: Isaiah Day
  • Message:  Rev. Camper Mundy, Associate Pastor
  • Congregational Prayer:  Steve Tewksbury
  • Video/Sound/Tech:  Tim Nargi & Jeff Field

 

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.

Other News & Notes:

Even during this time when many are still scattered and social distancing, the ministry of Grace Covenant continues.  News and notes about events and activities of Grace Covenant are all included in our weekly Grace Notes e-bulletin.  If you are not receiving Grace Notes, but you would like to, please contact the church office to provide us with the e-mail to which you would like Grace Notes to be delivered:  kathy@gracecovpca.org or 757-220-0147.

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant: July 18, 2020

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Well, back in the saddle again after a week-long getaway to Hilton Head Island.  With the pace of life still slowed by COVID, it was easy enough to pick up again, a little more refreshed. Thanks to all of you who prayed for our time away, and for those who stepped up and stepped in to assume some of my usual duties. Chiefly I want to thank Kathy Buhl, who always carries a yeomans weight of the work around here; and special thanks to Mark Begly and Kelly Moore for filling the pulpit these past few weeks.

While this week was in many ways mercifully slow, allowing me to resume ministry, and catch up on things I missed, it also brought it’s sadness.  This week Grace Covenant lost a beloved church member, Janette Barr, who has gone home to be with our Lord. While this is wonderful for Jannette, it is a great loss to all who knew Janette. Her wit, her wisdom, and her encouraging words will all be missed.  Please pray for Gene Barr, as he grieves the loss of his wife. May he be comforted by the promises and the presence of our Lord.  A very small graveside service will be held early in the coming week. A future memorial service is being planned. When details of that service are finalized we will make them known to all.

While we mourn the loss of one whom we love, we also get to celebrate with others. Our lives go on. In particular this week we get to celebrate with the VanWingerden family, as tomorrow, during our 11am service, we will be baptizing their young twins, Thomas & Ruthie.  Baptism is such a wonderful celebration, reminding us of God’s Covenant promises, and his presence with his people.

On Sunday we will also resume our series Questions Jesus Asked, considering what is perhaps the most personal and most pivotal of questions Jesus ever asked: “Who Do You Say I Am?”.  For the order of worship for Sunday, click GCPC July 19 Worship. This link will take you to the digital worship outline. A link to the .pdf worship bulletin is found at the top of the digital page; just click the date beneath the GCPC logo.

Keeping this note short, I want to again thank everyone in the Grace Covenant family for your faithfulness and your generosity. As always, your gifts, tithes, and offerings are tremendously appreciated. This is perhaps especially so during the Summer months, when most churches, Grace Covenant included, tend to experience a bit of a lull in in giving. So I want to thank you for your continued support of this church and the ministries of this church.  Ministry continues, even if socially distanced. Bible studies are taking place, times of prayer, counseling, and even some Youth gatherings.  And in the coming weeks we’ll be providing some details about an opportunity to serve our neighbors through partnering with Habitat for Humanity. Check out Grace Notes, or contact the church office, if you would like information about getting involved.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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Grace Covenant Worship – July 19, 2020

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July 19, 2020

Words of Approach

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

My only comfort is that I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the enemy. He also watches over me in such a way that not even a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

 ~ Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1

Prayer of Approach

 

Songs of Approach          

Come People of the Risen King

Celebration of Baptism  

(11:00 Service Only)

 

  • Thomas Harold VanWingerden
  • Ruth Elizabeth VanWingerden

Baptism Questions

For the Parents:

    1. Do you acknowledge your children’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
    2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises in his/her behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, as you do for your own?
    3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your children to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before them a godly example, that you will pray with and for them, that you will teach them the doctrines of our Faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

For the Church:

    1. Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?

 

Invitation to Confession

(8:30 Service Only)

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 BOLD = Congregation Response

 

 – Silent Confession of Personal Sin & Brokenness –

Words of Grace   

(8:30 Service Only)            

Remember that you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in this world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.  (Ephesians 2.12-13, 19)

Song of Celebration  

His Mercy Is More

 

Prayer for God’s Protection, Provision, and Guidance

 

Doxology

 

Meditation on God’s Word

  • Scripture:       Mark 8.27-29             
  • Message:       Who Do You Say I Am?

 

Song of Dismissal    

Jesus I My Cross Have Taken

 

Benediction

 

***

 

NOTES

 

Passage Next Week: 

       John 6.22-40 

Worship Leaders Today:

  • Musicians: Isaiah Day, Timothy Seaman
  • Vocals: Candy Cleary
  • Liturgy: Rev. Camper Mundy, Associate Pastor
  • Message:  Rev. W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor
  • Congregational Prayer:  Kathy Buhl (8:30); Isaiah Day (11am)
  • Video/Sound/Tech:  Tim Nargi & Jeff Field

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.

Other News & Notes:

Even during this time when many are still scattered and social distancing, the ministry of Grace Covenant continues.  News and notes about events and activities of Grace Covenant are all included in our weekly Grace Notes e-bulletin.  If you are not receiving Grace Notes, but you would like to, please contact the church office to provide us with the e-mail to which you would like Grace Notes to be delivered:  kathy@gracecovpca.org or 757-220-0147.

 

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Grace Covenant Worship: July 12, 2020

GCPC

July 12, 2020

Words of Approach

~ Hebrews 12.2

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Song of Approach           

 

Prayer of Approach

 

Prayer of Confession

O Father, you are our Creator, and we are the work of your hands; you are our Shepherd, we are your flock; you are our Redeemer, we are the people you have bought back; you are our God, we are your inheritance. Therefore, do not be angry against us because of our iniquity.

Recall not our sin, to punish it, but discipline us gently according to your kindness. Finish the work you have already begun in us by your grace, in order that the whole earth may recognize that You are our God and our Savior!

 BOLD = Congregation Response

 – Silent Confession of Personal Sin & Brokenness –

 

Words of Grace 

 ~ Romans 3.21-26

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 

Song of Celebration

 

Prayer for God’s Protection, Provision, and Guidance

 

Doxology

 

Meditation on God’s Word

Scripture:       Habakkuk 1.1-11             

Message:       When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
                         Rev. Kelly Moore (Chaplain, U.S. Army)

 

Song of Dismissal    

 

Benediction

 

***

NOTES

 

Passage Next Week: 

 Mark 8.27-29

 

Worship Leaders Today:

  • Music:  Isaiah Day
  • Message:  Chaplain (Colonel) Kelly Moore (U.S. Army TRADOC)
  • Congregational Prayer:  Tim Nargi (8:30); Bryan Simpers (11am)
  • Video/Sound/Tech:  Tim Nargi & Jeff Field

 

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.

 Other News & Notes:

Even during this time when many are still scattered and social distancing, the ministry of Grace Covenant continues.  News and notes about events and activities of Grace Covenant are all included in our weekly Grace Notes e-bulletin.  If you are not receiving Grace Notes, but you would like to, please contact the church office to provide us with the e-mail to which you would like Grace Notes to be delivered:  kathy@gracecovpca.org or 757-220-0147.

We invite you to connect with us on our Grace Covenant Facebook page. There you will see regular posts to encourage you on your faith journey, photos and updates of activities within the Grace Covenant family, and notice of events and opportunities to serve at Grace Covenant and in our broader community. Click the link above, and “Like” our page.

 

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – July 2, 2020

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This note should be somewhat shorter, or at least simpler, than the past few notes.  I just want to keep folks in the loop, and offer a reminder or two of things that are going on.

This is an unusual week at Grace Covenant, at least around the office. Kathy Buhl has been on vacation all week, returning on Monday (July 6). Camper began his vacation earlier this week (returning July 15), and I begin a vacation tomorrow (returning July 12).  So, for a couple days, it may appear that no one is driving the ship.  But… appearances can be deceiving!

Among the most beautiful things about Presbyterianism is that we recognize Christ alone as the Head of the Church; and the local church is shepherded & governed by a team of Biblically qualified leaders, called Elders.  (This is as God has prescribed. Check out Titus 1 & 1 Timothy 3.) Camper and I are both Elders, with the formal title Teaching Elder.  Other Elders in the church have the formal title Ruling Elder. The two are the same office, just considered different Orders within the office of Elder. The “Teaching” aspect signifies that Camper & I (and Ben Robertson, as well,) have been examined by a “presbytery” – the regional network or consortium of churches – and endorsed to preach and teach. But both Camper and I also share in the governing of the church. The Ruling Elders were nominated and elected by the Grace Covenant church members for the purpose of leading, guiding, and shepherding the church. The term “Ruling” has more to do with the shared governance than any implied power. But one of the qualifications of an Elder – a Ruling Elder – is that the Elder be able to teach. So all of our Ruling Elders are capable of teaching – some feeling more comfortable in a classroom, lecture, or pulpit setting than others; and others feeling more comfortable teaching through counseling and conversation. But all teach.  That’s Presbyterianism in a nutshell. The word “Presbyterian” simply means “governed by elders.”

  • Elders = pastors
  • Pastors = Elders

I give that insight primarily for two reasons:

1) Even in the temporary absence of both “pastors”, the church is in good hands.  If any need should arise, you should feel free to contact any of our active Elders: Lanning Anderson, Mark Begly, Bryan Simpers, Bob Smole, Steve Tewksbury, and Jack Tuttle.  (Click on their names to email. If you need to call them, their numbers are in the church directory. If you don’t have a church directory, Kathy will be back in the office on Monday, and she can provide the contact info you need.)  We have a few other Elders as well, but they are presently not actively serving. Allen Slade is on Sabbatical; Dan Caprio, Dalton Hylton, and Ron Pohl are all Elders Emeritus – meaning “Retired” and “with Merit” – for their years of faithful service to Christ’s Church. But all are godly and capable men. And, if needed, you can always still feel free to call or text me.

2) The second reason I mention the meaning of Presbyterianism is because on Sunday, July 5, one of our Elders, Mark Begly, will be offering the morning message. Mark has taught and preached a number of times in the past, including a few times in the pulpit here at Grace Covenant. No doubt he will offer a sound and helpful gospel-centered message.  Please join me in praying for Mark, not only with thankfulness for his willingness and ability to teach, but for him to have the joy of doing so at a time that is somewhat odd – what, with, most of the people to whom he will be speaking not actually being in the building.  (Believe me, it is uncomfortable. But it is still much better than talking to just a camera!)

3) There may be a third, though unintended, benefit to my explaining the meaning and significance of Presbyterianism. That benefit would be for those of you who have trouble sleeping at night. I imagine just reading over that explanation a few times ought to help put most people to sleep in nearly no time. 😉

I’ll be returning from vacation late next Saturday evening. So I plan to be back for worship on that Sunday morning. However, preaching that morning, July 12, will be Rev. Kelly Moore. Kelly is a Colonel in the U.S. Army, and Command Chaplain @ TRADOC (Fort Eustis).  Kelly & Judy have been attending Grace Covenant since last Summer. It will be Kelly’s first time in our pulpit. I am looking forward to learning from him.

Beyond this, just a couple of reminders:

We invite everyone to participate in the survey: GCPC Faith & Race Check-inThis  survey is intended to help as we continue discussion of Race, Justice, and Racial Reconciliation. We hope everyone connected to Grace Covenant will take the 3-4 minutes it takes to complete this survey. Again, your answers will be completely confidential, unless you choose to provide your personal info after the completion of the survey. No one, not even Camper or I, who are administrators of the survey site, will know who answered, or how anyone answered. This survey is designed by Barna Research. All survey data is collected by Barna Group. Results of surveys completed by those connected with Grace Covenant will be complied and provided to us; all survey results from Grace Covenant will also be included in Barna’s national survey results. To partake in the survey, click GCPC Faith & Race Check-in. For those who prefer texting, Text ZARS to 90888 to start the assessment.

Another reminder, we are still in the midst of our annual Baby Bottle Drive, in support of CareNet Peninsula, and their important ministry to expectant mothers & pre-born children.  We ask for families and/or individuals to take a baby bottle that we provide, and fill it with your change over the next few weeks. Change is a loose term meaning coins, bills, or even checks.  Once filled, return the bottles to Grace Covenant, and we will get the gifts to CareNet Peninsula. And… maybe pick up a second bottle(?)! For those who would like a bottle, but who are not joining us in-person for worship just yet, we be happy to have a bottle delivered to you.  Just contact Donna Davis or Kathy Buhl. Or, you can give directly to CareNet. Just write a check, or use their online giving link: CareNet Peninsula. Again, if you  have any questions about the Baby Bottle Drive, or about CareNet, please contact Donna Davis.

Finally, please continue praying for Charley & Rachel Bartelmay, and for Charley’s family. Charley’s father is under hospice care, and in his final days. Beyond all expectations, he is still holding on, though he is not communicating or responsive. Please pray that this would be a time for Charley, and family, to grieve in a healthy way; and for God to be honored by Charley and Rachel in this difficult time.

Since I will be away, I will not be sending out a note next week. But I look forward to seeing many of you when I return; and to seeing the rest of you sometime soon!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – June 27, 2020

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In my reading this week, I have been pondering these familiar lines penned by Peter, the Apostle, in 1 Peter 2.4-5:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I marvel at the imagery Peter uses to describe the Church – to describe us.  Peter speaks of us “coming to” Jesus, the Living Stone, who Peter will go on to point out is the “Cornerstone”, and the foundation of the Church. I think most Christians understand that part. But Peter also shows that we are “like living stones being built up” together. Another word for being built up is “edified”. God is building us “up” and “together” into an “edifice” – a “spiritual house”.  It is a reminder to me that we need one another; that God did not design us to be an assortment of individuals who have come to Jesus, rather he designed us to be “built together”, like stones that make a building.  He designed us for community.  As Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson has written: “Christ wants to create ‘a People’, not merely isolated individuals who believe in him.”

The sad irony of this imagery, during a time when many of us, out of wisdom and precaution, still find ourselves scattered because of the threat of the coronavirus, is not lost on me. But I am heartened when I realize Peter says we are “being built up”. It is passive language, reminding us that it is God who is at work; it is not us who edify. We are like the stones – albeit “living stones” – in the hands of the master chief mason. But it also reminded me of the importance for us to reflect that edification, as much as it is for us to understand it. It is a reminder of the importance of continuing to connect with one another, via phone, or Zoom, or whatever means. Many of us probably thought we would all – or mostly – be back together by now. I certainly did. But with so much still unknown, and with questions arising due to renewed outbreaks in different parts of the country, it may be some time before we all meet together again.

I find Peter’s purpose statement for the Church to be significant. We are “a royal priesthood”.  That means, in part, that we stand in the gap between God and man. That’s what Old Testament priests did. They prayed, offered godly counsel (the good priests, anyway), and they offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. For us it means we pray, for one another, for our neighbors and our community, and for the World; we speak God’s Word, in season, to encourage, counsel, and to build one another up in God’s grace – and to bring good news to our neighbors who do not yet really know Jesus (see Proverbs 15.23); and we point one another to the sacrifice made once for all, by Jesus, on the Cross. (See Hebrews 10.10)

Practically speaking, this means please continue to use the church directory to call others, and as a guide to praying for one another. If you do not have a directory, please contact the church office and we’ll get a list out to you.  I am thankful for the way we have been connected by doing this through the early stages of social distancing. I am thankful that it is still occurring. But I suspect it might be a bit naive to assume some of the connecting has not waned, at least a little bit, as this pandemic has dragged out longer than many of us could have imagined.

As part of our connecting, we rejoice with those who rejoice, and we mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12.15) This week we rejoice with Jason & Jen Lemons, and family, on the birth of their son, Caleb Justice Lemons, in the early hours of Wednesday June 24.  (For those who do not yet know this family, the Lemons were relatively new to Grace Covenant when we suspended worship gatherings in March. We are delighted to include them as part of our church family!)  But we also mourn with Charley & Rachel Bartelmay. As many are aware, Charley and Rachel are in Pennsylvania, where Charley’s father is in his final days. A text from Charley this morning said that they did not expect it to be much longer. It is quite possible Charley’s dad will have passed by the time many of you read this note. So we pray for God to comfort Charley, Rachel, and Charley’s family with his love and with his grace.

For the women of Grace Covenant, there are a couple of opportunities to note. First, you are invited to join a Virtual Coffee Fellowship on Thursday July 9 @ 10 am. This is open to all women for the purpose of fellowship. Bring your own coffee for this ZOOM chat. Gwen Martin, who is leads our Women’s Ministry says there is “no agenda” and that she hopes to make this a regular fellowship opportunity, at least until in-person gatherings can resume. Email Gwen Martin to receive the ZOOM link for July 9th. Second, for any woman who needs an ear, a team of lay counselors have been trained to provide confidential listening, Christ-centered care, and biblical guidance. If you would want to talk and/or pray with one of these women, contact: Gwen Martin or Kathy Buhl.

Finally, as part of our plan to continue discussion of Race, Justice, and Racial Reconciliation, I want to invite everyone connected to Grace Covenant – whether you are new to the church, or you’ve been here for years – to participate in a short survey to help us get a clearer sense of how to frame our discussions.  The survey will take only 3-4 minute of your time, and your answers will be completely confidential, unless you choose to provide your personal info after the completion of the survey. By “completely confidential” I mean completely confidential. Not even Camper or I, who are administrators of the survey site, will know how anyone answered. This survey, as was the survey we did several weeks ago regarding COVID-19, is designed by Barna Research. All survey data is collected by Barna Group. Results of surveys completed by those connected with Grace Covenant will be complied and provided to us; all survey results from Grace Covenant will also be included in Barna’s national survey results. To partake in the survey, click GCPC Faith & Race Check-in. For those who prefer texting, Text ZARS to 90888 to start the assessment.

I look forward to seeing those who are able together on Sunday; and I look forward to seeing those who are not able to gather sometime very soon. Please know we continue to work on improving our LiveStream for those who participate in worship from home. I continue to be thankful for Tim Nargi & Jeff Field for all the work they are putting in; and for those who have volunteered to be trained in the the tech work necessary to make our services available.  Our services can be accesssed on the GCPC web page.  Also available:

Have a wonderful week!

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – June 19, 2020

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Not that anyone has recently asked, but the primary purpose of Grace Covenant is to glorify and enjoy God. The heartbeat of Grace Covenant is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only and ultimate authority for Grace Covenant, shaping our beliefs and directing our practice, is the Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments, the Word of God.  These are our  foundations, the same as always for Grace Covenant.

So, if no one is asking, and nothing is new, some may wonder: Why bother to mention any of this?

My reason for highlighting these things is because of the conversations we are recently  having; and because of our increasing ministry to our more marginalized neighbors.  And because I’ve been around the block enough times to know that issues like these can make even reasonable theologically conservative (some prefer the term “orthodox”) Evangelical Christians uncomfortable. The discomfort leads to questions – albeit, often good questions. And good questions warrant honest answers.

A good and reasonable question may be something like: “Are we becoming a Social Gospel church?”

If by “Social Gospel” someone means a church that substitutes good deeds, meeting some very real felt needs of our neighbors, for the proclamation of the gospel – “Christ crucified” in our place, for our redemption, and for our salvation – then the answer is absolutely not. (1 Corinthians 2.2)

If, however, by “social gospel” someone means that, in response to the love of Christ given freely to us, who are all broken and undeserving, we now endeavor to actively love our neighbors in tangible, practical, and demonstrable ways, then, in all honesty, I hope so. In fact, I pray that is so.  Among my frequent and fervent prayers is that we be a “Full Gospel church”. (Unfortunately, that term, “Full Gospel”, has been hijacked to imply the promotion of speaking in tongues,  even though speaking tongues or not speaking in tongues has little to do with the message of the gospel. So, one item on my bucket list is to reclaim the right use of the phrase “Full Gospel” before I die. I know that might be a bit quixotic, but… I digress.)

Jesus was clear:

“The most important [commandment] is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is oneLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12.29-31)

The gospel of God’s grace compels us to love God AND love others in response. (1 John 4.19) If Grace Covenant were a train, “Loving God” and “Loving Neighbor” would be the two rails that comprise our tracks. The Gospel, which is the power of God (Romans 1.16), is our engine.

In the words of an author whose writings I’ve been reading a lot recently, Tim Chester:

“We were not made to look inward for self-realization, but to look outwards in love.”

Again, I don’t know that anyone was wondering, questioning, or doubting. But even if not, I think it good to periodically clarify this vision for our church.  Having  done so, I want to express how thankful I am for those who are on this train – those who teach soundly, and those who hunger for sound teaching; those who labor selflessly; those who ooze compassion and encouragement; those who practice hospitality; those who share their gifts, talents, and resources with the church; as well as those who go out from us to share the hope of the gospel with others across the country and around the world. At Grace Covenant we are blessed in many, many ways. If you are new to Grace Covenant, or if you are just peeking in the window by reading this pastoral note, I invite you to hop on the train, and engage in this journey with us!

Now for some of the more pastoral matters.

I first want to congratulate those who have recently graduated from high school:

  • Kylie Delaney – Providence Classical School
  • Elijah Rutan – Homeschool
  • Stephanie Smole – Classical Conversations
  • Hayden Stulen – Lafayette High School

Congratulations to all of you! Graduates will all be recognized during our services next week, on June 28.

I want to again remind everyone of the Baby Bottles 4 Life campaign. As I mentioned last week, this is an annual campaign we do at Grace Covenant, in support of CareNet Peninsula and their ministry to both mothers and their pre-born children. Ordinarily we do this from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, but this year the campaign was pushed back a few weeks.  We hope everyone will take a baby bottle (that we’ll happily provide), and fill it with your change – coins, bills, or even checks – over the next few weeks.  Once filled, return the bottles to Grace Covenant, and we will send your gifts to CareNet Peninsula.  There are 3 ways to participate:

  1. Pick up a bottle at the church, and take it home with you.
  2. Contact Donna Davis or Kathy Buhl in the church office, and we’ll be happy to have a bottle delivered to you at your home.
  3. Give directly to CareNet. Write a check, or use their online giving link: CareNet Peninsula.

If you  have any questions about Baby Bottles 4 Life, please contact Donna Davis, who is coordinating this ministry for us.

For those who are interested in continuing the conversation about Race & Justice, please know we are planing to hold conversations, such as the one we did last week, about once-per-month, into the Fall. We have not yet set the date for the next Grace Covenant Conversation, but we will let you know soon.  That said, if anyone has questions, I am more than happy to engage in one-on-one conversations, at any time. Just shoot me an email or give me a call. In the meantime, for those interested, The Gospel Coalition will host an online Night of Lament for Racial Justice on Saturday evening, June 20, at 7pm. This event is open to any who want to participate.

Finally, as we once again look forward to the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, let me remind you that we have two services, 8:30am & 11:00am, that will be offered both Live-In-Person and LiveStreamed.  For those who will be participating via LiveStream, BOTH services will be streamed LIVE. Tim Nargi & Jeff Field wanted to make both serviced available for viewing, and they feel ready with our new camera and graphics to do so.  Just go to the Grace Covenant web page, scroll down a bit, and click the link at the appropriate service time.  If you would have interest in serving the church by running the LiveStream, please let Tim or Jeff know. Tim will contact you about setting up times to be trained in the use of the camera and tech stuff.

As for the services for this Sunday, there will be a little bit of difference in each of the services. The middle part of the first service will be centered around the celebration of a Baptism; while the second service will more follow our regular order.  If you are new to Grace Covenant, or to the Presbyterian Church, or you are just a little curious about why we practice Baptism the way we do, let me refer you to a little book, available for free online, titled William the Baptist.  But in pointing to this resource I want to offer one caveat: At Grace Covenant we do NOT expect everyone to agree with us on all of our practices or doctrines. We are happy to discuss, but we do not want to debate those who differ with us. Discussing an issue brings unity; but debate puts people on different sides. I offer the book solely as information, so that  those curious can understand why we do what we do – and see that it is out of our commitment to be faithful to Scripture, not out of superstition, that we practice baptism the way that we do. Whether you wholehearted agree with us, or you think maybe we’re all wet – or not wet enough! – we want you to know you are loved and welcome at Grace Covenant.

Let’s see. I’ve now touched on baptism, race, justice, and speaking in tongues. That’s probably more than enough for one note. This is a good time to stop. For a .pdf of Sunday’s service, click: GCPC June 21; for the digital worship outline, click: GCPC June 21 Digital.

I close with these words paraphrased from the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1.2:

I always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in my prayers.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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Grace Covenant Worship: June 21, 2020

gcpc

June 21, 2020

Words of Approach

A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4.23)

Prayer of Approach

Song of Approach 

Immortal Invisible

 

Affirmation of Our Faith  

~ Belgic Confession, Article 20

We believe that God – who is perfectly merciful and also very just – sent the Son to assume the nature in which disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of condemnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

Invitation to Confession

We believe that God – who is perfectly merciful and also very just – sent the Song to assume the nature in which disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death.  So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of condemnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

Day

Celebration of Baptism

(8:30 Service only)

Jesse Wei-Yi Day  

Invitation to Confession  

(11:00 Service only)

In spite of God’s love for us and gift of love to us, we often act in destructive and hateful ways.  We close our hearts to God and disobey God’s law.  Together let us confess our sin.

Prayer of Confession  

(11:00 Service only)

Almighty Father; we enter your presence confessing the things we try to conceal from you and the things we try to conceal from others.  We confess the heartbreak, worry, and sorrow we have caused, that make it difficult for others to forgive us; the times we have made it easy for others to do wrong; the harm we have done that makes it hard for us to forgive ourselves.  Lord have mercy.  Help our unbelief, and forgive us through Christ.

Silent Confession of Personal Sin & Brokenness

(11:00 Service only)

Words of Grace   

(11:00 Service only)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of his world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.   For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.  (Ephesians 2:1-5, 8 )

Song of Celebration       

Mighty to Save 

 

Prayer for God’s Protection, Provision, and Guidance

Doxology

 

Meditation on God’s Word

  • Scripture: Mark 5:24-34
  • Message:   Who Touched Me?     Rev. W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

Song of Dismissal    

On Jordan’s Stormy Banks

 

Benediction

 ***

 

NEWS & NOTES:

 

Passage Next Week: 

       Jeremiah 29.-17

Worship Leaders Today:

  • Piano:  Molly McHenry
  • Message:  Rev. W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor
  • Liturgist:  Rev. Camper Mundy, Associate Pastor
  • Congregational Prayer:  Steve Tewksbury (8:30) / Bob Smole (11:00)
  • Video/Sound/Tech:  Tim Nargi & Jeff Field

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 by the Exit doors 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.

Other News & Notes:

Even during this time when many are still scattered and social distancing, the ministry of Grace Covenant continues. News and notes about events and activities of Grace Covenant are all included in our weekly Grace Notes e-bulletin.  If you are not receiving Grace Notes, but you would like to, please contact the church office to provide us with the e-mail to which you would like Grace Notes to be delivered: kathy@gracecovpca.org or 757-220-0147.

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GCPC Children’s Lesson: Jesus Brings Lazarus Back to Life

Lesson 12: Jesus Brings Lazarus Back to Life from Great Commission Publications on Vimeo.

Once again, we are tremendously thankful for allowing us the privilege of being in your homes each week over the course of this Spring! As we finish this last lesson of the Spring, it shows us Jesus’ glory and power as he brings Lazarus back from the dead. It also declares his promise that he is the resurrection and the life, who gives his people life that lasts forever.

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 – June 13, 2020

Captain John Smith Overlooks the James

For the past several days I have been musing and mediating on the first several verses of Ecclesiastes 3, the portion of Solomon’s wisdom that begins “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..” (Ecclesiastes 3.1-8)

Well, while not one of Solomon’s expressed categories, we have been in a season of hibernation. And just as Spring is beginning to give way to Summer, we are now beginning to emerge from our seclusion. While the dangers have not entirely passed, things seem to be trending in a positive direction, with more and more things in our area opening up each day.

For us at Grace Covenant, we have come to a day that many of us have been looking forward to – the first Lord’s Day when we are able to re-gather for worship.  While it won’t be ideal, with many for whom wisdom dictates to remain cautious and safely distanced from from potential viral infection worshiping with us from home, I am excited for these first steps.

Having conducted our “soft opening” last week, with a limited number of church staff and church officers, with their families, in the building; and having worked out our protocols, aimed at protecting participants, without any hiccups, we are prepared to open the doors again tomorrow, Sunday June 14, for two service, 8:30 & 11am – open to all who feel comfortable coming. With that said, there are a few things that I feel need to be reiterated.

First, if you are in an “at risk” category, someone in one of the categories for whom this coronavirus has proven to be particularly threatening, we urge you to stay home and worship with us online. The same encouragement goes to any and all who are still uncomfortable about being out and part of a gathering of people. In as season like this, when a reasonable threat is not entirely extinguished, neither being in church nor remaining at home is necessarily a reflection of commitment to Christ.  I know we all look forward to worshiping together, but the question of when to do so is still a matter of conscience and personal discernment.

Second, for those who are planning to join us in-person for worship, please be advised of some important practices put in place by Grace Covenant’s Elders & Deacons for the safety of all who come:

  • First, if you have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, even if you are not feeling awful, you will need to remain home. If anyone in your family is symptomatic, even if you feel fine, we ask that you stay home until everyone in your home is well.
  • We will practice social distancing in the sanctuary and in the building. We are requiring masks for everyone 10 years old and up. While wearing masks is probably not the preference for anyone, we want to do so as an expression of love and concern for those around us. (Despite the masks last week, the singing still filled the sanctuary!)  Additionally, seating is set up in clusters to enable social distancing. We ask that you find a “cluster” that best matches the number of people in your family.  Each cluster is 6-feet from the next closest cluster.
  • There is no nursery, nor children’s activities during the service. Children are welcome to participate in the service. We do not expect children to remain perfectly still, or totally silent. (Most adults don’t even do that!)  While we understand that some families will opt to remain home until children’s activities resume, please also consider that this can be a great opportunity to acclimate children to worship. (Again, this is a matter of conscience. It is not necessarily an indication of commitment or of faithfulness to bring your children to worship at this time.) Each family should decide what is best for their own children. My primary point is that the children are welcome, and a little squirming or talking does not change that welcome.
  • Restrooms will be available, but we are encouraging use of them only if necessary. We are keeping them clean and sanitized, so if you need use of the restroom please do not hesitate. However, we have shortened the service somewhat in hopes that restrooms will be less needed. The less used, the more sanitized they remain.
  • Greeters will greet you when entering the building. All greeters will be wearing masks and gloves. There will be no handshakes or hugs. Just know that they are smiling at you as you arrive, even if you cannot see it beneath the mask. Greeters will open the doors and welcome you. If you have questions, they can direct you. But for safety and comfort for all, there will be no contact; nor will there be handing out of any bulletins.
  • No bulletins will be printed out. The worship outline is available digitally, and in .pdf format. We will project the words to songs, as we have always done, and in time we hope to project more of the service, but for now we are asking you to either print out the .pdf to bring with you, or pull up the digital (or .pdf) on your tablet or phone.  June 14 Digital Worship Outline; June 14 Worship Outline (.pdf)
  • When exiting the sanctuary after the service, we ask that you leave through the doors that lead directly outside, to the back of the church building, rather than through the doors to the Commons. This is to minimize cross-traffic.
  • No offering will be taken during the service. We do not want to pass a plate between 100+ people. But, as giving is an act of worship, we have set out baskets next to each exit door, for those who prefer to bring their gifts & offerings, rather than to give online or through the mail. That said, with great thankfulness we do again thank you for your faithfulness and generosity to date, and we encourage continued use of online giving and/or mailing your gifts to the church. Giving is an act of worship whether given during the service or during the week.

For those who will be worshiping with us from home, let me also touch on a few important things that wight effect your worship experience.

  • First, we have upgraded our camera and our LiveStream capabilities. Our first run last week went well overall. We thank those of you who shared your experiences and observations.  Tim Nargi and Jeff Field are working on the glitches. You should see an improvement this week, but it is also a process. As this is somewhat new for us, it will take a few weeks to more fully iron out the wrinkles. But our aim and our expectation is to provide a much better at-home experience that we were able to provide before the pandemic.
  • There will be two services tomorrow, and in following weeks, at 8:30 and 11am, as has been our norm.  For the next few weeks, the 8:30 service will be streamed live and recorded. The recorded service will be available for viewing at 11am.  The reason for this is to allow for training on the new camera and the graphics that will be streamed during the service.  There are a lot of new things for our Sound/Tech team to learn and do.  However, since both services are the same, even those watching the recorded service should notice little to no difference. Hopefully, within a couple weeks, both services will be streamed live. To access the link to the LiveStream, or the recorded service at 11am, go to the GCPC Web Page, and scroll down a little on the home page, and you will find the link.
  • We also encourage you to print out the worship outline, or pull it up digitally, during the service.
  • You are free to use the restroom whenever and as often as you like. 😉

We all anxiously await the day when the danger is past, and we can all come together again. But until that time, I thank you for your patience and your graciousness.

On another note, this week we begin the Baby Bottle Drive, in support of CareNet Peninsula, and their important ministry to expectant mothers & pre-born children.  Normally we do this from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, but for understandable reasons it was postponed this year.  We ask for families and/or individuals to take a baby bottle that we provide, and fill it with your change over the next few weeks. Change is a loose term meaning coins, bills, or even checks.  In a few weeks, or when filled, return the bottles to Grace Covenant, and we will get the gifts to CareNet Peninsula.  There are 3 ways to participate this year:

  1. For those who will be coming to the church building for worship, the bottles are on a table easily accessed on your way to the sanctuary. We ask that you pick the bottles up on the way into the sanctuary, rather than coming back out, to minimize cross-traffic.  Pick the bottle up, and take it home with you.
  2. For those who would like a bottle, but who will not be joining us in-person for worship just yet, we be happy to have a bottle delivered to you.  Just contact Donna Davis or Kathy Buhl in the church office. (My thanks to Donna for coordinating this ministry for us!)
  3. Give directly to CareNet. Just write a check, or use their online giving link: CareNet Peninsula.

If you  have any questions about the Baby Bottle Drive, or about CareNet, please contact Donna Davis.

Finally, my thanks to all who signed in and joined us for A Conversation About Race, Justice & Injustice. Special thanks to Ben Robertson for co-leading the discussion with me, and to David Lunt for setting up and managing the Zoom details. My hope is that this was not just a one-time thing, but that this would prove to be the first of a number of conversations on this important matter.  While thankful for the discussion, we barely scratched the surface of the issue, and spoke little to nothing about the challenges associated with this issue.  We will be providing a variety of resources over the next several weeks. I also plan to begin writing some about this issue on my blog, and will notify you if I post anything pertinent. In the mean time, I want to provide a few resources now.

First a couple of prayer resources:

Second, two other resources:

  • PCA Report on Racial & Ethnic Reconciliation – This is a long document, but worthwhile laying a sound biblical framework for this issue.
  • Race & the Church RVA – this is a series of videos from 6 one-day gatherings that took place in Richmond back in 2016.  Ben Robertson and I had the privilege to attend several of these gatherings. I know a few others from Grace Covenant were able to attend one or two sessions as well.  Watching these you may find that you do not agree with everything you hear. I didn’t. But what you will hear are perspectives that warrant consideration.  (See also: Race & the Church RVA for bio and backgrounds of the speakers.)

I know that this is an uncomfortable issue for some – for many. Many questions may come to mind. I would be happy to talk about any questions or concerns you may have about Grace Covenant engaging this issue. But for now I hope we can all embrace a perspective I learned from a friend:

“Racial Reconciliation is not the primary goal of a gospel-centered church and life, but it is clear from Scripture that it is a beautiful fruit of it.”

I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday. I look forward to seeing many more of you sometime soon.

Have a wonderful week!

Grace & Peace,

Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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