“In All Things” podcast episode 8 highlights EPC human resources with Marti Ratcliff

 

Episode 8 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Marti Ratcliff, EPC Human Resources Manager. This week, host Dean Weaver and Ratcliff discuss her role and responsibilities at the Office of the General Assembly and identify a variety of best practices in human resources unique to the local church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Colorado EPC churches assist in wildfire ministry effort

 

Grass fires fueled by 100-mph winds destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the Boulder, Colo., area on December 31. Photo credit: Kyle Clark, KUSA-TV 9News (Denver).

In the aftermath of a December 31 wildfire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the Boulder, Colo., area, Colorado EPC congregations are helping minister to local residents.

Most of the lost homes were in the towns of Louisville and Superior, suburban communities located approximately 10 miles southeast of Boulder and 20 miles northwest of downtown Denver. There are no EPC churches in the immediate vicinity. The nearest EPC congregation is in downtown Denver, and the suburban EPC churches are in the southern part of the metro area. Three additional Colorado EPC churches serve the Loveland/Fort Collins area, roughly 40 miles north of Louisville.

Greg Daniels, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the West and a Ruling Elder for Parker EPC (PEPC) in Parker, Colo., said donations PEPC received were being sent to Grace Commons Church (formerly First Presbyterian Church) in Boulder and Ascent Community Church in Louisville. The congregations are affiliated with ECO (A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) and The Evangelical Covenant Church, respectively.

Doug Resler

“I know many of the leaders of both churches,” said Doug Resler, PEPC Senior Pastor. “The Pastor at Ascent was the college director at the University of Colorado for years. These are great churches doing great work in their communities.”

Resler noted that both churches have donation links on their websites.

Other EPC pastors in the region confirmed that their congregations were not affected, though many know people who were.

“We have some folks who work in the Boulder area and have co-workers now without homes,” said David Hoffelmeyer, Lead Pastor of Faith Church in Loveland.

Others who reported that their congregations emerged unscathed include Curt Brophy, Senior Pastor of Lookout Mountain Community Church in Golden, Colo., Doug Brown, Lead Pastor of Greenwood Community Church in Greenwood Springs, Colo., and Erik Ohman, Senior Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colo.

“The fire was obviously devastating to those communities,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “But the way our Colorado EPC churches are rallying around their hurting brothers and sisters represents the best of who the EPC is. When tragedy occurs, as it too often does, to God be the glory that EPC churches embody the love of Jesus to their neighbors.”

“In All Things” podcast episode 7 highlights EPC communications with Brian Smith

 

Episode 7 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies. This week, host Dean Weaver and Smith discuss how the Office of the General Assembly’s Communications Department serves the EPC. In addition, Smith recaps a chapter related to communicating EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s two-year imprisonment in Turkey.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Florida magazine profiles EPC church planters

 

If you live near Jacksonville, Fla., and happen to pick up a copy of the “Ponte Vedra Beach Neighbors” magazine this month, you may notice some familiar faces on the cover.

Brady and Christy Haynes, EPC church planters in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, were featured in the magazine, which is mailed to every home in Ponte Vedra Beach. The publication shares stories about local citizens who are making a positive impact on their community.

Ponte Vedra Beach is about 20 miles southeast of downtown Jacksonville on Florida’s “First Coast”—so named because 30 miles further south is St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the United States.

“In July of 2021, the editor of Ponte Vedra Neighbors Magazine reached out and asked if they could profile our family,” Brady said. “The editor is a Christian, and she said that God had laid it on her heart to call us. We took this opportunity to share our family story.”

The Haynes lived in Ponte Vedra for six years while he served as Director of Family Ministries at Ponte Vedra Presbyterian Church. In October 2019, they felt God calling them to move to Vilano, a community 20 miles south of Ponte Vedra and just outside St. Augustine. Little did they know that in just a few months a pandemic would shut down the world and God would open a new door of ministry for their family.

Ripe for harvest

“If you were to do a search for churches along the 16 miles of barrier island that stretches between South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach, you would notice that there are no churches at all,” Brady said. So when COVID hit and public beaches were closed, the Haynes had an idea.

“We hit the sand across the street from our home and started ‘Devotion by the Ocean’—a daily video posted on several social media platforms,” he explained. Filmed at sunrise and set against the background of Christy’s beautiful photography, the videos included Scripture, a devotional thought, prayers, and music.

“Our purpose was simple,” Brady noted. “We wanted to create something that would lift people’s spirits with the Word of God and also encourage them with a sunrise on the beach.”

The videos gained an audience, and it wasn’t long before the Haynes were getting comments from neighbors about how much they enjoyed the series and missed connecting with a church. At about that same time, public beaches began slowly opening back up.

“A lot of people were still uncertain about meeting indoors, so we started a Sunday Bible study on the beach at sunrise,” Brady said. Neighbors began to tell other neighbors about the service, and soon people from all over the community were showing up on Sunday mornings.

“Through all of this, God has confirmed that He has called us to plant a beach church in our area that ministers to the needs of the people here,” he said. “With over 33,000 people in the South Ponte Vedra to Vilano stretch of the island, the field is ripe for harvest.”

The area has seen a lot of growth over the past seven years, with many of the new residents coming from New York and California. The business market of Vilano has also grown in the past two years, lending to the vitality of the island.

“Our calling is to plant a beach church that loves God and loves people while capturing the ‘vibe’ and heartbeat of this unique place,” Brady said. “There are a lot of hurting and spiritually hungry people in desperate need of the gospel, and they are looking for a place to connect and to serve.”

On October 16, Haynes was ordained by the Presbytery of Florida and Caribbean and he and Christy began to lay the foundation for Seaside Church.

Seaside by the sea shore

The Haynes hit the ground running, establishing Seaside Ministries in November. They meet every Sunday morning on the beach, and have seen attendance continue to grow. When the weather does not permit them to meet outdoors, they gather in homes across the street, and have even had local families host the services.

At Thanksgiving, the group served a meal to homeless families. On Christmas Eve, they gathered for a lighting of the advent candle, traditional carols, and worship. The evening also included their first communion as a church.

21 families joined Brady and Christy Haynes for a Christmas Eve candlelight service at the beach.

“Brady led us in some traditional Christmas carols as the sun set behind us over the Guana nature preserve,” Christy said. “Once it was dark, we all began to light our candles. It was a very special time of worship, with over 21 families who have been coming faithfully to Seaside Sunday Services.”

Even though the church does not officially launch until next year, the families who have been attending the gatherings are impacting the community. They have partnered with several local ministries—raising money to help rehabilitate women in the sex industry, collecting clothing items for the women’s shelter and food for the local food pantry, and supporting a local therapy center that works with children and veterans.

The Haynes plan to sponsor a community surf event next summer as a means of reaching youth, and partner with a local surfing ministry to put on a camp for underprivileged children in Vilano Beach. They have begun hosting block parties around the fire pit and leading beach cleanup days alongside their neighbors.

The Haynes have also earned the respect of their neighbors as small business owners in their community. Christy has been using her photography skills to photograph families and do beach fashion shoots for the past 12 years. In addition, she owns two beach-themed stores—Beach Chic Weddings and Beach Chic Threads. The Haynes can now look back and see how God has been preparing them in every aspect of their lives to serve in a coastal community.

“I grew up in a home that didn’t go to the beach very much,” Brady said. “When vacation time rolled around we headed to the mountains. When I married Christy, who is a nine-generational Floridian, I not only fell in love with her, but I also fell in love with the ocean. We have been blessed to serve in some amazing places. But we have found ‘our people’ to be coastal people.”

Seaside Church will officially launch on Easter Sunday, which will be held at Guana nature reserve (Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve) beach access.

“We are very excited about launching Seaside Church in 2022,” Brady said. “God has been affirming His calling in our lives through this process, and we cannot wait to see what He does here in our coastal town. Vilano is called ‘the island without a name.’ We want to show this ‘island without a name’ that hope has a name in Jesus Christ!”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

EPC Emergency Relief Fund to assist Cumberland Presbyterian Church congregations

 

The heavily damaged Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Dresden Tenn., shown in Google street view and following the December 10-11 tornado, is only one of many CPC churches affected by the quad-state tornado outbreak. (photo credit: Ministry Council of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.)

While the deadly quad-state tornado outbreak on December 10-11 did not have a major impact on EPC congregations, the effect on churches of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (CPC) denomination was severe.

“I spoke with the CPC Stated Clerk, Michael Sharpe, on Saturday,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “They have had numerous small congregations severely affected by the storms—some completely destroyed. Some members were killed, and many lost all of their possessions.”

Weaver noted that the EPC has received many inquiries “about whether or not we are doing anything to aid in the relief work that is so overwhelming” in the aftermath of the storms. In response, the EPC National Leadership Team has approved distribution of donations to the Emergency Relief Fund to the CPC.

“One of our pastors (and former Director of World Outreach), George Carey in Kingman, Ariz., saw the photo on the EPConnection article with the damaged CPC church in the background,” Weaver said. “He emailed me and asked if we could do anything to help. He has a heart for the CPC, since that is the denomination in which he was saved and called to ministry. I am thrilled that the NLT has approved soliciting emergency relief funds to help our brothers and sisters in need.”

Secure online donations to help CPC churches in the affected area with identified needs can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church formed during the Great Revival of 1800. The denomination has more than 650 churches around the world, with strong concentrations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, southern Illinois, Arkansas, and Texas. The CPC Office of the General Assembly is located in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

“In All Things” podcast episode 6 highlights EPC collaborative ministry efforts with Michael Davis

 

Episode 6 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Michael Davis, EPC Chief Collaborative Officer. This week, Davis and host Dean Weaver discuss the role of the Chief Officer, and how evangelism is the foundation for the EPC’s strategic priorities of church planting, church health, global movement, and effective biblical leadership.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

EPC Teaching Elders named PIR Ministries regional representatives

 

Anne Horton and Jason Yum have been named Regional Representatives for Pastor-in-Residence (PIR) Ministries. Horton is as Pastor of Cedarville United Presbyterian Church in Cedarville, Ohio, in the Presbytery of the Midwest. Yum is currently without call but serving on the Nominating Committee for the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest.

PIR Ministries is led by Roy Yanke, a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel EPC in Farmington Hills, Mich. The ministry helps exited pastors navigate vocational transition by providing a proven process of restoration within a caring and restorative environment.

Jason Yum

“We are excited that the Lord has led Anne and Jason to become a part of our ministry family,” Yanke said. “Their individual experiences have made them both passionate about pastors’ health. Because we are a highly relational ministry, our volunteer Regional Representatives continue that emphasis through their natural connections with those in ministry, including those in crisis and transition.”

Horton said she is excited to work with PIR Ministries.

Anne Horton

“We work with pastors in crisis who have left or were asked to leave churches, but also with those in the pulpit who want a little help navigating day-to-day ministry,” she said. “Clergy coaches provide a confidential listening ear as they walk alongside a pastor who is struggling with such ministry realities as conflict, self-care, addiction, and stress. In my opinion, clergy coaching is the best gift a church can give a pastor—or we can give ourselves—especially as we continue to navigate these extra-stressful times.”

PIR Ministries offers a variety of services to ministry leaders and churches, including the Pastor-in-Residence restorative program for pastors in transition; Refuge Church, a place of protection and security for exited pastors; Clergy Coaching; Ministry Spouse Care; the Pro-D Assessment professional development assessment; and more.

Roy Yanke

“Anne and Jason are helping us put flesh and bones on the hope that the gospel and grace of Christ offers to those in vocational ministry for a healthy ministry life,” Yanke added. “They are good at listening, encouraging, and helping ministry leaders find the resources they need for renewal or restoration—many of which PIR Ministries offers. As Regional Representatives, they will be volunteering their time and effort to share information and the resources of PIR Ministries in their areas of influence.”

PIR is a commended resource of the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee. For more information, see www.pirministries.org.

EPC congregation suffers effects from quad-state tornado outbreak

 

The Dresden , Tenn., Fire Department suffered significant damage from the December 10-11 tornado outbreak. In the background is the damaged Dresden Cumberland Presbyterian Church. (Photo credit: Dresden Enterprise)

The deadly December 10-11 tornado outbreak affected at least one EPC congregation. Paul Tucker, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield, Tenn., reported on December 13 that a family in the church who lives in Dresden, Tenn., suffered “a total loss.”

“They survived in a stairwell closet,” Tucker said by email. “That’s all that I know of at this time. Dresden is our county seat, so we know many are affected.”

The Dresden Enterprise reported that the downtown area received significant damage, including total losses to City Hall and the Fire Department and Police Department buildings. Dresden is about 12 miles northeast of Greenfield, in northwestern Tennessee approximately 15 miles south of the Kentucky state line.

Other EPC churches in the affected area reported no effects from the storm.

“Though we were under a tornado watch here in southern Illinois, were passed by,” said David Fischler, Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Anna, Ill..

Mike Wey, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Blytheville, Ark., reported no damage to the church property or any homes of the congregation. Blytheville is about 30 miles west of the Monette (Ark.) Manor nursing home, which suffered a roof collapse and the death of one resident due to the storm.

“Thanks for checking in on us,” Wey said. “Everyone in my congregation is fine. Our church is OK too.”

Several other EPC churches in the region have been contacted, but as of December 15 have not responded to requests for information. We will update this story as details emerge.

Secure online donations to help EPC churches in the affected area with identified needs can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.

“In All Things” podcast episode 5 features Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri

 

In Episode 5 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” host Dean Weaver welcomes Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk and Chief Governance Officer. The two discuss how Iamurri’s background and role at the Office of the General Assembly serves the EPC, its churches, and its pastors.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Heartland Seminary’s innovations benefit students and EPC congregations

 

TE Kent Mathews serves as President and Academic Dean for Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City. The school is a commended resource of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“Why is it,” Kent Mathews keeps asking, “that preaching is the only class in which seminary students are required to practice what they’re learning?” An EPC Teaching Elder who serves as President and Academic Dean of Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City, Mathews asks a long list of other questions related to seminary education in the 21st century:

  • Why are academics so often separated from application?
  • Does someone learn to become an evangelist simply by reading books and listening to lectures—shouldn’t he or she be required to actually “do” evangelism, or apologetics, or pastoral care?
  • Why don’t seminaries attempt to make traditionally academic subjects like theology or church history more practical?
  • Why are students not asked to reflect on how what they study might apply to their daily lives or their current ministries?
  • Why aren’t students required to identify and meet weekly with a mentor—someone who is resourced by the seminary to invest his or her life in the life of the student and whose purpose is to discuss the student’s failures and successes; patterns, processes, and learned behaviors; attitudes and approaches to ministry? In short, to take the student under his or her wing and impart the things that seminary doesn’t address?
  • Why is so little of what future pastors actually do in day-to-day ministry taught—or even talked about—in seminary courses?
  • Why is seminary education so expensive?

Mathews knows students are asking them too, along with this one: How will I pay off my exhorbitant student debt why working in my modestly paid pastoral position?

“According to a ten-year-old study, seminarians were asked if they could change anything about their seminary experience,” Mathews noted. “The top three answers were to reduce the cost of tuition, allow me to practice what I’m learning or make seminary courses more hands-on practical, and provide a mentor to invest in my personal development.”

Mathews explained that those answers are the basis for Heartland Seminary’s Master of Divinity program.

“Heartland is the first accredited MDiv program to make all three of these things non-negotiables,” he said, adding that the program meets all of the EPC’s educational ordination requirements for Teaching Elders and was recently recognized as a “Commended Resource” by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“The MVC was very excited to commend Heartland as a resource for the EPC,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. Iaumurri serves as the Office of the General Assembly’s staff resource for the MVC. “As seminary education continues to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation, Heartland offers students a unique avenue for ministry preparation that will surely benefit the EPC and its churches.”

Heartland is firmly committed to conservative biblical scholarship, Reformed theology, and the Westminster Confession. Tuition for the 72-credit Master of Divinity degree is $500 per course.

“Typical seminaries charge between $1,500-$2,000 per course,” Mathews said, adding that each Heartland class is completely accessible online and incorporates a close mentor relationship for every student.

Heartland also maintains an in-person Master of Arts in Applied Theology program in the Kansas City area that has been pioneering its program since 2000.

“The plea for practical training has been proven in our program,” Mathews said. “Our second-most popular course is Cultural Analysis and Engagement, where we talk about the major issues that are currently polarizing both culture and the church. We discuss how to understand both sides and how to engage positively in the discussion and affect change.”

The most popular course? “How to Not Only Study the Bible, but Actually Apply It in Your Life.”

Mathews said the curriculum is also non-traditional in that “up to half of the books students are required to read are books that the student identifies for himself or herself—as long as they are approved by the professor—which allows each student to focus on areas of particular interest to him or her within the scope of the course curriculum.”

He added that assignments in all courses are geared toward application.

“For example, students read top-level, highly regarded texts on each of the three broad periods of church history, then are required to write research papers on the 25 most important people, events, and developments in each period and how they should affect both daily Christian living and effective pastoral ministry,” he said.

Julien de Leiris and Paulo Barros are “textbook examples” of the effectiveness of Heartland’s innovative approach. De Leiris has just begun his MDiv studies while Barros completed his this past summer. Both men are on staff at Colonial Presbyterian Church EPC in Kansas City, which hosts the in-person Heartland classes.

Paulo Barros

Barros, who serves as Colonial’s Director of Worship and Arts, has been a worship leader for more than half his life—the last 21 as a fulltime vocation. At 57 years of age, he was the oldest student in the program.

“I hadn’t been in school for a long time and it was tough,” he admitted. “But I always wanted to learn how to pastor others. I needed that knowledge and felt drawn to it, so this was part of my dream to be a better worship leader. When you work with vocal leaders and musicians, you develop relationships, you shepherd them. I can do that much better now.”

De Leiris, Colonial’s Executive Director of Ministry and Programs, also leads Called to Serve, a ministry intending to do no less than “energize and revitalize the Reformed Church that is slowly dying in France.”

Julien de Leiris

Two years ago, after two decades as CEO of major public works projects for the city of Leon (the second largest city in France), de Leiris felt God calling him “to serve Him, not just faithfully but fully.” To the consternation of his non-Christian extended family, he resigned his job and moved his wife and children across the Atlantic and half of the United States to be obedient to that call.

Called to Serve will bring French youth leaders to study a variety of successful churches in the Kansas City area for several months before returning to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge in local French Reformed Churches,” De Leiris explained. “The FRC funds one-year of sabbatical for every pastor after his or her fifteenth year in ministry. We are developing a practical continuing education program for them over here as well.”

“Just like Paulo and Julien,” Mathews said, “all of our students gain invaluable skills and insights that will bless both them and their ministries. But the benefits to the EPC go further. EPC churches will be able to call new pastors who won’t make all of their initial mistakes at the expense of their first churches.”

Mathews emphasized that Heartland MDiv graduates “have acquired more than just information from their education. Churches will also be able to call pastors who don’t have five to ten to twenty years of student debt to pay off. And the denomination will begin to develop a growing subculture of ministerial leadership development—one that believes the current generation of pastors should be involved in the discipleship of the next generation of pastors.”

For more information about the Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry, see www.hsmkc.org.

by Craig Bird
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 4 highlights Theology Committee with Zach Hopkins

 

Episode 4 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Zach Hopkins, Pastor of Edgington Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Taylor Ridge, Ill., and current chairman of the EPC’s Theology Committee. He and EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver discuss the scope and work of the Theology Committee, and highlight Hopkins’ involvement with the Westminster Society.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 3 highlights EPC World Outreach with Gabriel de Guia

 

Episode 3 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Gabriel discuss Gabriel’s journey to faith in Christ, more than 20 years serving with Cru, and now leading the global missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Presbytery of the Alleghenies golf tournament raises $42,000 for EduNations

 

Thanks to the sponsorship and participation of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations hosted its third annual golf outing in September at Avalon Golf and Country Club in Sharon, Pa.

Motivated by compassion for “the least of these,” EduNations gives forgotten children tangible reasons to hope. More than teaching ABCs, EduNations creates schools in Sierra Leone, West Africa, that become beacons of growth and learning. In addition to providing education to children during the week, these schools function as the center for their communities’ development by providing clean water, health education, AIDS prevention, adult education, future vocational training, and community empowerment. Through partnership with the EPC, many first-generation believers have been born in the six remote villages where EduNations has schools. As part of the Engage 2025 initiative of EPC World Outreach, the Presbytery of the Alleghenies has adopted two of these remote villages—Rokassa and Fintonia.

With the support of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations held its first golf outing fundraiser in 2019 to support the construction of its first boarding high school, which officially opened in January 2021. This two-story school building in Rokassa enables EduNations students from all six remote communities to receive a high school education, focusing in either Science, Commercial Business, or Liberal Arts. In addition, students live in dormitories with the other boarding students and receive three meals each day. In 2020, funds raised at EduNations’ golf outing supported room and board expenses for the first class of 130 high school students who started attending the Senior Secondary School in January 2021.

The goal of this year’s golf outing was to “Send More to School” and provide room and board for EduNations’ second class of students entering the Senior Secondary Boarding School in Rokassa. The boarding school is a big step for EduNations because prior to this, students who had passed the national Basic Certificate Exams after junior secondary school (the equivalent of middle school in the U.S.) simply had nowhere to go to further their education. Now, students from all villages will have the chance to complete an undergraduate education in a Christian environment. This opportunity to directly impact students’ spiritual lives is invaluable, as all of them are entering an age where they can really make their faith their own.

Thanks to the Presbytery of the Alleghenies and all who supported and participated in this year’s golf outing, EduNations raised $42,000—an increase of $10,000 over the 2020 fundraiser. This year, about 260 students are attending EduNations Senior Secondary Boarding School in Rokassa. We are looking forward to seeing how these students, who are for the first time in their lives removed from the Islamic beliefs and practices of their parents, will be impacted spiritually as they are exposed to the gospel and discipled in their young and growing faith. Thank you!

by Sarah Pietryga
Development Coordinator, EduNations

With the support of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies, EduNations golf outing fundraisers have helped support the construction of its first boarding high school, which officially opened in January 2021. This two-story school building in Rokassa, Sierra Leone, enables EduNations students from all six remote communities to receive a high school education, focusing in either Science, Commercial Business, or Liberal Arts. In addition, students live in dormitories with the other boarding students and receive three meals each day.

October 2021 EPC financial report: PMA support rebounds, less than 3 percent behind budget

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2022 (FY22) through October 31 total $745,272. The total is $18,627 (2.4 percent) less than the $763,899 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations. October PMA support was $213,399.

PMA support in the first four months of FY22 (which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) is $35,634 (4.6 percent) behind the $780,906 contributed over the same period in FY21. The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is now $197,229—approximately 1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2020.

“In this season of giving thanks, I am very grateful that PMA support was strong in October,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “In addition, October was a good month for our investments and our operating expenses to date are more than $90,000 under budget. Each of our primary trend lines were up in October from the previous month. God is so good!”

Of the $745,272 received, $149,054 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $2,073,006 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $307,965 (17.4 percent) more than the $1,765,041 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY21. Much of the increase over the previous fiscal year can be attributed to $170,000 donated to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund since July 1 in response to Hurricane Ida.

Of the total, $1,857,552 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $215,454 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

“In All Things” podcast episode 2 highlights EPC benefit programs with Bart Francescone

 

Episode 2 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. This week, host Dean Weaver and Bart discuss the EPC benefits program for Pastors and church staff, including the medical benefits plan, wellness and preventative care programs, retirement plan, and more.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Dean Weaver, World Outreach staff explain 2021 Thanksgiving Offering

 

The 2021 EPC Thanksgiving Offering is designated for a World Outreach project to provide Christian literature and other resources to Afghan refugees in the U.S. and Europe. In this brief video, Stated Clerk Dean Weaver, World Outreach Executive Director Gabriel de Guia, and World Outreach Associate Director Jason Dunn describe how donations to the project will be used.

The financial goal for the 2021 Thanksgiving Offering is $20,000. Secure online donations can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Text-to-give also is available by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Attn: Finance Office
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

For help with donations, contact Catherine Rutter, World Outreach Finance Assistant, at (407) 930-4473.

Open Enrollment for EPC benefits underway through November 30

 

November is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to newly enroll or make changes to their benefit plan offerings to eligible employees. In addition, the Open Enrollment period introduces the EPC’s 2022 Benefit Plan enhancements, changes, and premium rates. All enrollment changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective January 1, 2022.

  • Eligible individuals can be enrolled in the EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Changes can be made to an eligible individual’s benefit selections for 2022.
  • Churches can enroll in EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Churches can change their Plan offerings for 2022.

Open Enrollment is a “passive process” for current participants, said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “That means those already enrolled in the EPC benefit plans will automatically retain their 2021 benefit elections unless they choose a new plan or decline an existing coverage for 2022.”

The EPC provides five Medical Plan options to the staffs of EPC churches and ministries. Plans include traditional Platinum, Gold, and Silver Plans, as well as High-Deductible (HDHP) Gold and Bronze Plans with Health Savings Account (HSA) options. Other available programs include Dental and Vision benefits, as well as Life and Disability Insurance coverages.

Bart Francescone

“The variety of benefit levels offered and range of premium rates allow for churches to select plans that meet budgetary constraints and satisfy their benefit commitments to staff,” Francescone said. “All five plans use the same nationwide, unrestricted network of hospitals, doctors, medical practitioners, and pharmacies that are used by major national employers and health plans throughout the country.”

He added that all five medical plans include 24/7 telemedicine, prescription drug coverage, and wellness programs. Additionally, the plans provide special assistance programs to support those with chronic conditions, or who encounter an unexpected diagnosis or utilize high-cost medications.

Enhancements to the BRI medical plans for 2022 include:

  • My Active Wellness, a program to promote awareness of preventative care, keep healthy members healthy, and to start others on a track to improved physical and emotional health.
  • Care Management and Nurse Health Coaches for those with common conditions such as chronic pain; heart, lung, and kidney disease; and asthma.
  • Livongo, a nationally recognized chronic conditions management program focused on supporting those with high blood pressure, diabetes, and pre-diabetic conditions, as well as addressing associated co-conditions such as depression and weight loss.
  • Healthcare Bluebook, with procedure-quality rankings in 35 clinical categories for more than 4,000 hospitals and 200,000 doctors, as well as pricing transparency tools.
  • Single ID card for both Medical and Prescription Drug coverage.

“As many as one in three adults in the U.S. are diabetic, or on the threshold of becoming diabetic,” Francescone said. “In addition, medications for heart disease—such as drugs treating high blood pressure—are our most common prescriptions. These chronic conditions and their side effects affect us not only physically, but emotionally and financially. The Livongo condition management programs are personalized and have a proven record of member satisfaction, with measurable  and sustainable results. This will be a real blessing to those who have struggled with these conditions. We hope our participants will take advantage of the program, which is included in all five of our medical plans.”

Francescone also noted that premium rates for the 2022 medical/prescription drug plans are increasing by only 2 percent—substantially less than the current rate of inflation.

“The BRI Board of Directors believes this is the lowest increase we’ve ever had, and it follows last year’s low average increase of 3.6 percent,” Francescone said. “The BRI Board of Directors and staff have worked hard to maintain our high-quality plans at the lowest possible cost. This has enabled us to keep our increases significantly lower than the national weighted-average medical cost trend, despite the ongoing situation with COVID and the national healthcare landscape.”

Premium rates for the Vision, Life and Disability Insurance are unchanged for 2022, while premiums for the Dental plans will increase by 8 percent.

EPC benefit plans are available to all full-time (30 hours or more per week) employees of EPC churches, as well as Chaplains, ministers serving out-of-bounds, and various other categories.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should reach out to whoever handles benefits at their church regarding their interests,” he said.

For more information about 2022 benefit offerings, see www.epc.org/2022openenrollment or contact BRI at (407) 930-4492 or benefits@epc.org.

Reformed Theological Seminary dedicates Jeremiah Patio

 

EPC Stated Clerk Emeritus Jeff Jeremiah and his wife, Cindy, were honored on November 3 with the dedication of the Jeremiah Patio at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando. The 32-by-16-foot fellowship space is centrally located adjacent to the main entrance of the campus and features seating for up to 20 people, lighting, and two woodburning fire pits with removable tabletops.

“I am very grateful for the relationship that I’ve enjoyed with Reformed Theological Seminary that extends back to the mid-to-late 1980s,” Jeremiah said. “I especially remember conversations with leadership of RTS then about the possibility of online learning and how that might expand the education of the next generation of leaders in the church of Jesus Christ.”

In remarks made prior to cutting the ribbon to open the patio, Jeremiah thanked Scott Swain, RTS Orlando Campus President; Leigh Swanson, RTS Executive Vice President; Mike Glodo, RTS Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Jeremiah’s predecessor as EPC Stated Clerk; and the staff of the EPC Office of the General Assembly, many of whom attended.

In noting the heavy travel responsibilities of his 15 years as Stated Clerk, Jeremiah also thanked his wife, Cindy, “for her sacrificial commitment to her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, the sacrificial commitment she made to the EPC, and the sacrificial commitment she made to me.”

The patio was announced at Jeremiah’s retirement banquet during the 41st General Assembly in June and is a joint effort between RTS and the presbyteries of Florida and the Caribbean, East, Gulf South, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and West.

Swanson also spoke at the dedication, thanking the EPC and the contributing presbyteries “for making this beautiful fellowship space possible.”

“We also honor Jeff and Cindy, thanking God for their ministry,” she said. “They have been steadfast in their service to Christ. They have given care to countless pastors and their families. They have made sacrifices well beyond what we have seen. It is our privilege to name the patio in your honor.”

EPC launches “In All Things” podcast

 

The EPC has launched a new podcast, “In All Things,” hosted by Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. In each week’s 30-minute episode, Weaver and his guests discuss topics related to the EPC and the greater Church. In the first episode, three members of the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) discussed the group’s scope and function. NLT Chairman Glenn Meyers; Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly; and Rosemary Lukens, Moderator-elect of the 41tst General Assembly), also provided an overview of the EPC’s four strategic priorities.

“I am very excited to talk to leaders throughout the EPC and tell our story in this long-form podcast format,” Weaver said. “We call this series, ‘In All Things’ because as the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1, all things were created through and for our Lord Jesus—He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. So we plan to discuss ‘all things’ as they relate to the EPC. The Office of the General Assembly exists to serve our churches, and we are offering this podcast as a way for people to hopefully better understand some of the ways we do that.”

Guests in future episodes include leadership staff at the Office of the General Assembly, committee chairmen, EPC authors, and many more.

Episode 1 is available below, and also can be downloaded on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Thanksgiving offering to fund materials for ministry to Afghan refugees

 

The 2021 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for a World Outreach project to provide Christian literature and other resources to Afghan refugees in the U.S. and Europe.

“In the Book of Esther, Mordecai wrote to Esther, ‘for such a time as this,’” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach. “In the last two months, thousands of Afghans have fled their homeland and reached the U.S. and Europe. God seems to be answering the prayer for Afghans to know Him by opening doors for them to come to us. I was in the Indianapolis airport just last week and saw a group of about 50 Afghan families. There were older people, parents, little kids—the whole spectrum. While they were being led through the terminal by their guides, they were looking around very bewildered. It was very emotional for me, and I said a quick prayer for them. Their situation has to be so, so difficult.”

Contributions to the Thanksgiving Offering will pay for printing and/or reprinting of Christian materials and other media in the Dari and Pashto languages, as well as electronic distribution of the Bible in these translations.

The financial goal for the 2021 Thanksgiving Offering is $20,000. Secure online donations can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Text-to-give also is available by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Attn: Finance Office
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

For help with donations, contact Catherine Rutter, World Outreach Finance Assistant, at (407) 930-4473.

The annual Thanksgiving Offering supports a project approved by the General Assembly each June, alternating between World Outreach and Church Planting/Church Health.

Pastor-spouse retreat: a gift of refreshment and healing

 

Annie Rose

by Annie Rose
TE, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes

From October 18 to 22, about 70 EPC pastors, spouses, and global workers gathered in Seven Springs, Pa., for the first-ever EPC Pastor-Spouse retreat. I was blessed to be a part of this group as we came together to rest and be refreshed by the Lord.

Our retreat was led by Jim and Shari Hobby, Anglican pastors who masterfully guided us through an exploration of lament via Psalm 13. Together we reckoned with the biblical invitation to:

  1. Bring our pain to God.
  2. Ask God to intervene, and
  3. Embrace hope.

The Hobbys wove this teaching together with their own personal stories of struggle and lament, which gave everyone in the room permission to be honest and vulnerable about our own challenges. As we sat around our tables throughout the week, brothers and sisters gave voice to the burdens of their hearts, and together we lifted our voices to our heavenly Father, seeking His intervention and clinging to the hope we have in Christ.

Each day we were led in praise and worship by Jeremy Casella and Matthew Montgomery, both talented musicians who led us in praising God through singing Psalms and the great hymns of our faith, often set to new melodies. Jeremy and Matthew also blessed us with a worship concert one evening, which was a wonderful way to bookend the day in praising the Lord.

Following on the intensity of leading a church through COVID, this retreat was for me an oasis. It was a beautiful opportunity to engage in a rhythm of life-giving worship and interaction with my brothers and sisters in the mornings and quiet solitude in the afternoons. What a gift to put aside all other responsibilities for a few days and be fully present to one another and to the Lord!

During those quiet afternoons, retreat participants had several options for how to spend their time. Some took naps, while others explored the hiking trails of Seven Springs or enjoyed bowling or golf. Many took advantage of the resort’s spa services, and perhaps even more were eager to sign up for spiritual direction with the Hobbys or counseling with Tara Gunther or Laura Duggan—professional therapists the EPC brought to the retreat to minister to us! We had a smorgasbord of options for pursuing rest and growth in the Lord, and the cost of everything we did on the grounds of the resort was covered by the EPC.

And speaking of a smorgasbord, all of us were overwhelmed by the quality of the meals provided at Seven Springs. Especially for those of us who are the cooks in our families, it was a gift not only to rest from meal planning but also to enjoy such delicious and healthy food. Our bodies and souls were well fed on this retreat! Our mealtimes were rich with fellowship in the Holy Spirit and with laughter. They were a taste of the world to come!

Finally, one of the subtle but meaningful blessings of the Seven Springs retreat was the participation of our denominational leadership. Stated Clerk Dean Weaver not only led the retreat planning team and recruited all those who served, but he and his wife, Beth, also fully participated in every part of the retreat. Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri also participated, and World Outreach Director Gabriel de Guia and his wife, Rachel, were there as well. Seeing our leaders make the time to not simply run a retreat but participate in it validated the importance of the experience and in an unspoken way gave the rest of us permission to put aside our normal tasks and responsibilities and commit our full attention to the deep work the Holy Spirit was doing among us.

I can’t say enough about how wonderful the retreat at Seven Springs was. As Presbyterians, we know the blessing of coming together to worship and to conduct church business. What a blessing to see that we can also come together simply to enjoy one another and be refreshed by the Lord’s Spirit together.

“I will sing of the LORD, because he has dealt so lovingly with me;
Indeed, I will praise the name of the LORD Most High.” —Psalm 13:6

For details about the February retreat in Orlando, see www.epc.org/pastorspouseretreat.

Worship was a key component of the Pastor-Spouse Retreat.

Leigh Swanson named Executive Vice President at RTS Orlando

 

Leigh Swanson

Leigh Swanson, member of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., has been named Executive Vice President of Reformed Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus. She will oversee campus administration, community relations, and campus development efforts.

She previously served as Associate Dean of Students from 2012 until 2017, when she became Vice President of Community Relations. The Executive Vice President role reflects her work on behalf of the students, staff, and donors who are part of the growing Orlando campus. In 2018, she launched “Teaching Women to Teach” at the RTS Orlando campus. The program has since equipped scores of women in churches around the world.

“Over the past five years, Leigh Swanson’s leadership in development has resulted in significant growth in student scholarships and a number of important campus facility improvements,” said Scott Swain, RTS Orlando President. “In addition, she has taken on increased responsibilities in the president’s office, campus administration, and financial aid. Her new role and title are meant to recognize her excellent service in all these areas.”

Swanson is a former member of the EPC’s National Leadership Team. Her husband, David, serves as Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.