Category Archives: Church News

Bart Hess Award presented to Restoration Church (Munford, Tenn.)

 
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Mike Gibson (right), Pastor of Restoration Church, receives the Bart Hess Award from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly, on June 22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Restoration Church in Munford, Tenn., is the recipient of the 2018 Bartlett L. Hess Award for church revitalization. The award was announced on June 22 at the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

“Receiving this award came as a shock,” Pastor Mike Gibson told the Assembly. “When I found we would be receiving this, I asked God, ‘What I am supposed to do with this award when I am supposed to be cultivating humility?’ because I can have some trouble in that area. I believe He told me ‘This is to encourage and inspire churches who have been where you’ve been, to know that I am in this and you can go forward.’ There were so many times I was ready to give up, thinking the ministry was never going to take off and have an impact in our community. But I know something like this—or bigger—can happen in any church.”

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said Restoration Church received the 2018 award because its leadership was not only willing to ask hard questions about its health and ministry to its community, but also was willing to make changes in response to the answers they received.

“Launched in 1911 as Munford Presbyterian Church, they have a rich history and beautiful sanctuary,” Jeremiah said. “However, they were in decline. But under Mike’s leadership, that decline was reversed. To reach the unchurched in their community they changed their name and their image, and the Lord brought them scores of new people. Lives are being redeemed, revived, and restored through the ministry of Restoration Church, and I am thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by the entire EPC.”

Jeremiah will present the award to the congregation on Sunday, August 19.

The Hess Award is given annually to the EPC church that has demonstrated the most innovative approach to church growth or revitalization. Church growth—in both its spiritual and numerical aspects—is an essential part of the mission of the church. The award provides a vehicle by which positive, reproducible innovation is encouraged and shared with others in the EPC. It is named for Bart Hess, founding pastor of Ward Church in suburban Detroit, who was instrumental in the establishment of the EPC in 1981.

#epc2018ga

EPC adds seven churches in 2017–2018

 

Seven churches joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the reporting period of May 23, 2017, through June 1, 2018. The new EPC churches were announced on June 22 at the 38th General Assembly at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Ken Roberts, Moderator of the 32nd EPC General Assembly, prayed for the new churches.

“You already know every person who will be attending all these churches,” Roberts said in his prayer. “You know their needs, joys, hurts, and hearts. We pray for each staff member who will be ministering to each person in these congregations. As we commit these churches to you, may You be gloried in the worship and business of each church, and in each heart.”

These newest members of the EPC family of churches are:

Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (Leawood, Kan.)
Sheldon MacGillivray, Pastor
www.cornerstoneks.org
Presbytery of the Great Plains

First Presbyterian Church (Malden, Mo.)
Derek Evans, Commissioned Pastor
www.facebook.com/Malden-Presbyterian-Church-144604838944152/
Presbytery of the Central South

Hendersonville Presbyterian Church (Hendersonville, N.C.)
Bill Campbell, Pastor
www.hendersonvillepc.org
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

New Life Gathering (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Scott Jackson, Pastor
www.newlifeknoxville.org
Presbytery of the Southeast

Walkersville Presbyterian Church (Waxhaw, N.C.)
Eric Bartel, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Walkersville-Presbyterian-Church/117441554948378
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wayside Presbyterian Church (Sanford, N.C.)
Robert Johnson, Pastor
www.facebook.com/pages/Wayside-Presbyterian-Church/464287536951632
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Wylliesburg Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Wylliesburg, Va.)
David Wood, Stated Supply Pastor
Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic

Each of the new churches was a previous congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

#epc2018ga

Hollywood EPC (Greenville, N.C.) celebrates 75th anniversary

 

Hollywood Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Greenville, N.C., celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sunday, May 6. The church started as a Sunday school in the 1920s, and became a particularized church in 1943.

WITN News in Greenville aired a story about the day’s festivities:

HollywoodEPC

Keith Cobb is the Pastor, and the congregation joined the EPC in 2015.

First Presbyterian Church (Orlando, Fla.) ministry to homeless sees results, garners recognition

 

Lead Homelessness, a national initiative formed to fight the causes and effects of homelessness in the United States, has named David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, one of the “11 Most Important Leaders Needed to Solve Homelessness in Orlando.” Others named to the list include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; Linda Gonzalez, Vice President of Social Responsibility for the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA); and Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In a video presentation produced by Lead Homelessness, Swanson said that in his 13 years as pastor at the downtown Orlando church, “the primary need I have faced, since day one, has been how to deal with the countless numbers of homeless people that have been on our steps, that are in our church on Sunday mornings, that are coming seeking money, shelter, and all the different needs that they have. It has been a constant challenge.”

Under his leadership, First Presbyterian Church has spent $1.5 million serving the homeless population of Central Florida. However, he emphasized that while those efforts helped people, they did not address the systemic issues that caused homelessness. In a partnership with the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness and the Lead Homelessness initiative, efforts are now focused on securing permanent supportive housing, in addition to meeting felt needs.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that homelessness in the United States is a ministry opportunity for every city-center church, and many suburban and rural congregations as well.

“The emphasis that First Orlando is involved with in helping secure housing for the homeless is having a major impact in a major city,” he said. “What this church is doing can be a real model for all our EPC city-center churches.”

Swanson emphasized that ministry to the homeless, while not always easy, can have long-term significance in many ways.

“One of the Church’s most effective witnesses is the manner in which she serves the larger community,” he said. “Being actively engaged with community leaders, civil servants, non-profit leaders, and elected officials builds positive relationships while also addressing larger social issues. It is often a winsome and positive way to intrepret the gospel to a city.  This has been the case for us as it has engaged us with the city of Orlando in the area of homelessness.”

Donations to EPC hurricane relief funds top $860,000

 
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Dead shrubs and stained walls provide evidence of the extent of flooding in Houston, Texas, as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

As of November 20, more than $860,000 has been donated to the EPC’s emergency relief funds for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The fund for Hurricane Harvey has received $575,541.54 toward relief efforts in Texas; the Hurricane Irma fund for relief in Florida has received $159,250.67; and the Hurricane Maria fund for Puerto Rico recovery has received $126,862.25.

In addition, $21,000 has been donated to the Mexico Earthquake emergency relief fund, which was set up at the request of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The Mexican body is a fraternal partner of the EPC.

“In this week that we celebrate God’s generosity, I praise the Lord for the magnificent generosity demonstrated in support of our hurricane disaster relief funds this fall,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We continue to work closely with the EPC churches in areas affected by the hurricanes to ensure we can get these funds to them as quickly as possible.”

Recovery efforts in southeast Texas continue, with Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Houston serving as the resource center for Samaritan’s Purse in the area. Pastor Richard Harris said that Samaritan’s Purse has hosted more than 2,800 volunteers at the church during the recovery effort.

“That is a Samaritan’s Purse record for disaster relief work,” he said.

Brad Starner, Director of Church Finance for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., expressed gratitude for the donations to the Hurricane Irma fund.

“We thank God and the EPC for the goodness of His people through our denominational family,” he said.  “Almost all of us in Southwest Florida lost trees, electricity, water, internet, and lots of little things from our homes. However, some of us lost considerably more due to flooding and wind damage. In particular, we have families with extensive damage to their homes and property which will require months of rebuilding and repair.”

Starner noted that Immokalee, a largely migrant agricultural community southeast of Fort Myers, was hit especially hard by the storm.

“Immokalee was devastated,” he said. “In partnership with First Baptist Church of Immokalee, we sent teams of volunteers and supplies to those in need—many who simply could not live in their homes due to flooding and wind damage,” he said. “We continue to support those relief efforts directed by our Missions Council, which is taking an active role in caring for those effected by the storm.”

On November 20, the Office of the General Assembly received a check and note from a member of the New Hope congregation, which read,

Please accept the enclosed donations for Hurricane Maria Relief. My daughter, Lily, had a birthday party and collected donations instead of gifts. She also sold brownies and lemonade to add to the donations.

“While it is certainly a blessing to see the amount of money given to these relief funds,” Jeremiah said, “the spirit (and act) of generosity displayed by Lily—who turned 12—and her friends touched me in a way that is hard to describe.”

Each of these emergency relief funds remain open for donations. Gifts can be made online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and the specific fund from the second pulldown menu,) or checks made payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the appropriate fund noted on the memo line and sent to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

“We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” Jeremiah said. “Thank you for your generous, sacrificial response in helping those in need in the EPC.”

Hope Church Memphis featured in The Gospel Coalition

 

HopeChurchTGCThe Gospel Coalition’s lead story on November 2, “How the Country’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic,” tells the story of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. Planted in 1988 in a predominately white suburban area, within 20 years the congregation was the largest in Memphis—but with less than 1 percent of its 7,000 attendees African American.

The EPC’s largest congregation is now more than 20 percent African American, including the senior pastor, Rufus Smith.

Hope Church will host the 38th EPC General Assembly in June 2018.

Click here for the full story.

The Gospel Coalition is a network of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition, and was founded by Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and D.A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

Hurricane Maria fund receives $3250; EPC relief efforts on temporary hold

 
HurricaneMariaWorship

Members of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, gathered for worship on September 24 in an open-air parking garage.

As of September 28, $3,255 has been contributed to the EPC’s Hurricane Maria emergency relief fund. However, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said further efforts to assist the three EPC congregations in Puerto Rico are in a “wait and pray” mode.

“The recovery and reconstruction of the infrastructure on Puerto Rico has gone painfully slow since Maria swept through,” Jeremiah said. “Because electrical power and cell phone service has not yet been restored, our text and phone contacts with leadership of Westminster-Bayamon have been infrequent—though we have learned that Anasco and Mayaguez are doing OK. But the loss of infrastructure has made life difficult.”

On Sunday, September 24, Pastor Juan Rivera led the Westminster congregation in worship at a local multi-level parking garage. Ruling Elder Alfredo Aponte said “Prayers were offered, the Word was read and preached and God was given His rightful place—first place and above all.”

Don Mason, retired pastor of GracePoint Church in Plant City, Fla., and a key leader in the effort to bring the Puerto Rican churches into the EPC, said recovery efforts are limited by the extensive damage on the island.

“Until the infrastructure is restored, all we can do is wait and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and their neighbors,” Mason said.

As an example of the challenges facing the recovery effort, many of the relief supplies that have reached the island are sitting in port in San Juan due to a shortage of truck drivers, gasoline, and diesel—as well as a large number of roads that still are blocked by storm debris.

Jeremiah noted that the Office of the General Assembly has received many inquiries about how the EPC can help.

“For now, it falls to the U.S. military, FEMA, and other government agencies to rebuild the island infrastructure before our relief efforts can begin,” he said.

“As soon as we are confident we can successfully get relief support to our churches in Puerto Rico, we will promote the Maria emergency relief fund again, as well as opportunities for our churches to send relief work teams to the island.”

Hurricane Harvey and Irma relief funds raise more than $343,000

 

As of September 28, a total of $343,072.19 has been contributed to the EPC’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma emergency relief funds.

“The ‘above and beyond’ giving of our churches and members has been amazing,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I’m so thankful for the generosity they’ve demonstrated. We’re also overwhelmed with other offers to help, especially churches who want to send work teams to these affected areas.”

Hurricane Harvey

HurricaneFundAllocationHouston

In Texas, $262,000 of the $303,030.94 contributed to the Hurricane Harvey fund as of September 28 has already been distributed to six EPC churches in the area affected by Harvey:

On September 26, these six pastors met with Jeremiah via conference call to allocate up to $196,000.

“Our pastors expressed gratitude for this outpouring of support from the EPC,” Jeremiah noted. “As they discussed relief needs in their church and community, they acknowledged that while the need is overwhelming, they are still in a ‘cleanup and dry out phase’ and don’t yet know what actual costs will be for those affected by Harvey.”

Jeremiah said the group decided that those with damaged homes who do not have flood insurance would be “first in line” to receive aid.

“Those with flood insurance can receive up to $250,000,” he said. “But those without flood insurance are only eligible for up to $33,000—and only if FEMA determines the damaged home is inhabitable.

The following allocations were made:

  • EPC Chaplain Aaron Laenger, whose single-level home was flooded with more than seven feet of water for a week, received $10,000.
  • Vietnamese Christian Fellowship pastor Daniel Nguyen, whose home also suffered significant damage, received $10,000.
  • Edna pastor Michel Yonts reported that his congregation and community were recovering well and needed just $10,000.
  • The remaining $166,000 was equally divided among the remaining four churches—each of which committed to reporting how these funds were used in relief work.

Jeremiah said the pastors described the unusual and immense burden of responsibility to their congregation and community each was carrying.

“Many are getting by on as little as three hours of sleep a night as they minister to the victims of Harvey,” Jeremiah said. “Please pray that they would get the rest they need and are protected from illness in this extraordinary time.”

In a previous conference call on September 5, these church leaders discussed with Jeremiah how to distribute the $66,000 that had been received in the Harvey fund up to then.

“It was decide to allocate $10,000 to each church to help with the immediate costs of members whose homes were no longer habitable,” Jermiah said. In addition, Laenger received $6,000 to help cover immediate living costs.

“In most cases, these homes had sustained flooding for seven days or more,” Jeremiah added.

“An example of a family that was helped is a retired couple who will have to replace their roof,” he said. “Being on a fixed income, covering the insurance deductible as well as their short-term living expenses was going to be a major challenge.”

Hurricane Irma

HurricaneFundAllocationFlorida

In Florida, $36,000 of the $40,041.25 contributed to the Hurricane Irma fund as of September 28 has been distributed to the three EPC churches in the disaster area:

On September 26, Jeremiah and these pastors met via conference call to discuss ways the contributions could help meet needs in their congregations and communities.

Jeremiah noted that the pastors in Florida echoed the appreciation offered by the pastors in Texas, and also expressed concern for our churches in Puerto Rico—where Hurricane Maria made landfall with widespread impact 10 days after Irma lashed Florida.

“While each pastor reported they were still learning about the needs in their congregations, with some exceptions it appeared as if they escaped with relatively minor damage,” Jeremiah said.

He reported that the group decided to focus aid effort on church members whose homes had been damaged by the storm. New Hope received $8,000; First Orlando received $5,000; and Faith received $23,000—of the three congregations, Brooksville had the greatest number of homes that were damaged. Each church committed to report how these relief funds were used.

During the storm, New Hope and Faith served as shelters for their communities. Spencer said New Hope had “a memorable worship service on September 10 with about 100 people, 16 dogs, 4 cats and a rabbit.” First Orlando had offered their facility as a storm shelter, but it was not needed.

In addition, New Hope is raising funds locally to help the relief work in Immokalee, an under-resourced, largely agricultural community about 30 miles southeast of Fort Myers with a large migrant worker population and many trailer homes.

EPC churches help with Texas, Florida hurricane recovery efforts

 
HurricaneIrmaBrooksville2

Hurricane Irma caused a large tree to fall on the home of Andy Black, an elder for Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Fla. (photo courtesy of Matthew Everhard)

EPC churches in Texas and Florida continue to both recover and minister in their communities following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Eddie Spencer, pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., said Irma brought heavy winds and flooding rains to southwest Florida.

“A number of our folks have been hurt by flooding,” he said. “We will help them.”

Spencer also said the focus of their outreach efforts “will probably be Immokalee,” a largely agricultural community about 35 miles southeast of Fort Myers with a significant migrant worker population—many of whom live in trailer homes damaged or destroyed by the storm. “I am very proud of our church family. We have been very engaged in the community and caring for each other.”

He also noted that as of September 18, the church was without electricity. “We had church yesterday with generators and fans and people seemed delighted that I preached a shorter sermon.”

Matthew Everhard, pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Fla., said the homes of two of their elders were damaged—one severely—but he was not aware of any injuries or major casualties.

“Most else is debris-related,” he said, “but we are contacting all 400 members and our 100 shelter guests.”

HurricaneIrmaBrooksville

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the home of Jim Phinney, an elder for Faith EPC in Brooksville, Fla. (photo courtesy of Matthew Everhard)

The church used its Family Life Center as a shelter, where approximately 100 local residents rode out the storm. Everhard said everyone at the shelter “survived happy and well-fed,” but reported several leaks to the church building and damage to the facade.

Ikki Soma, pastor of City of Refuge Church in Houston, reported via email that one of their ruling elders’ homes “looked like a war zone,” following Hurricane Harvey, noting that the all the drywall in their home had been removed from floor to ceiling.

“It’s the most devastated home I’ve seen,” Soma said. “Most people only have three to five feet of drywall removed. Pray for him and his family. His wife lost her mother last Saturday too, and many mementos from her mom were lost in the flooding.”

Michael Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South, requested prayer for Michel Yonts, pastor of Edna Presbyterian Church in Edna, Texas. Edna was in the path of Hurricane Harvey, and Herrin said the home Yonts still owns in Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma.

“Please pray for Michel and Pauline as they deal with this double dose of difficulty,” Herrin said.

HurricaneHarveyHouston2

Following Hurricane Harvey, piles of rubble from flooded homes are a common sight in southeast Texas.

Herrin also reported that Daniel Situka, EPC teaching elder and a hospice chaplain in Houston, needs significant repairs to his home. “His house was flooded and his roof needs some repair, but he said it is hard to find a contractor,” Herrin said. “FEMA has inspected the house, and has recommended that some more wet material be removed.”

Herrin also said Situka ‘s car was totaled. “He has a rental car and is back to work, but will have to buy a new car. Daniel has been very impressed with how helpful everyone has been.”

Daniel Nguyen, an EPC evangelist working with the Bellaire Vietnamese Fellowship, expressed gratitude for the EPC’s Hurricane Harvey emergency relief fund.

“Thank you for showing your love of Christ through your prayers and financial support,” he said. “We have several members as well as non-Christian friends in our Vietnamese community who sorely need this kind of help to get back to their normal lives. As we earnestly share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our Vietnamese people, please pray for God to soften their hearts so they would soon receive Him as the Savior and Lord of their life.”

Alan Trafford, pastor of Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lake Jackson, Texas, reported that flood waters from Hurricane Harvey have receded in southern Brazoria County, south of Houston.

“It hasn’t rained since the storm, thankfully, but the millions of gallons that fell on the Greater Houston area had to pass through the coastal counties to reach the Gulf,” Jackson said via email. “This is what caused our flooding, approximately ten days after the storm hit.”

He said volunteers from Covenant have worked closely with a local ministerial alliance in coordinating volunteer efforts and serving the area in a variety of ways.

“We have had a hand in many tasks, from feeding evacuees at one of the local shelters to collecting diapers for the Pregnancy Help Center, from unloading huge amounts of supplies for the local food pantries, to filling hundreds of sandbags,” he said. “It has been gratifying to see so many groups coming together to help, and we hope to work with groups from other churches in the coming months.”

Jackson noted that the need is “immense,” with more than 120,000 homes in Southeast Texas completely flooded, and thousands more damaged.

“Some of the poorest neighborhoods, in rural or unincorporated areas, have suffered the worst flooding,” he said. “We are sending teams out to rip out carpets and flooring, remove debris, and cut out drywall. About a dozen families in the church had water in their homes. The worst was one of our elders who got four feet of water in his newly remodeled house—his second flood in just over a year.”

He said the church’s new youth facility has been converted into accommodations for work groups. “We trust that the Lord will continue to use us to demonstrate the compassion of Christ.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said contributions to the EPC’s emergency relief funds have helped local churches immensely.

“In the wake of Harvey, Irma, and now Maria in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean, I am so grateful for the generosity of individuals and churches across the EPC who have helped our churches minister to their members and communities. I hope we can continue to bless them in this way.”

As of September 20, the Hurricane Harvey emergency relief fund has received $235,182 while the Hurricane Irma relief fund had received $14,976.

A Hurricane Maria relief fund has been approved by the National Leadership Team and will be announced by September 22. Maria caused significant damage in Puerto Rico—home to three EPC churches in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean—including loss of power across the entire island.

EPC churches in Puerto Rico request prayer in face of Hurricane Maria

 
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Puerto Rico, in red at bottom center, is expected to take a direct hit from Hurricane Maria on September 20. There are three EPC churches on the island. 

As Hurricane Maria bears down on Puerto Rico as a major category 5 storm, leaders of EPC churches on the island are requesting prayer.

“The entire island will be impacted and major damage is expected,” Alfredo Aponte, ruling elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, wrote in an email on September 19. “Please pray for our island and our EPC churches in Bayamón, Añasco, and Mayaguez. May the Lord protect us. May the Lord be praised. May this be an opportunity to serve the Lord wherever we are, under all circumstances.”

The National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Warning for Puerto Rico. Sustained winds are expected to be 105-125 mph, with gusts to 175 mph. The warning indicates “extreme” threat to life and property throughout the island from wind and flooding rain, and a high risk of storm surge and tornados.

“In Luke 18, Jesus reminds us of the power of persistent prayer,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Please pray for the people of Puerto Rico, and for the protection of our churches there as they minister through and after this storm.”

Closer to God Church (Kearny, N.J.) receives 2017 Bart Hess Award

 
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Valdir Reis (right), pastor of Closer to God Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kearny, N.J., received the Bart Hess Award on behalf of the congregation from Jeff Jeremiah during the church’s worship service on September 10.

Closer to God Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kearny, N.J., is the recipient of the 2017 Bartlett L. Hess Award for church revitalization. The award was announced at the 37th General Assembly in June at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.

“This award is tremendous to our church,” pastor Valdir Reis told commissioners to the Assembly. “Thank you to the EPC, this faithful church that received us with much love.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, presented the award to the congregation during their September 10 worship service.

Jeremiah said Closer to God Church received the 2017 award “because of its outstanding outreach efforts into their local community, which includes those of Brazilian, Mexican, Portuguese, and Dominican background—as well as many immigrants.” He also noted that the church provides professional courses, medical care, legal assistance, and counseling to immigrant families.

“They also serve the underprivileged in the Newark area through a food bank and used clothing store that deeply discounts its prices,” Jeremiah said. “I’m excited for the great things the Lord is doing through their ministry.”

The church was launched on July 3, 2011, and came into the EPC’s Presbytery of the East on April 5, 2012.

The Hess Award is given annually to the EPC church that has demonstrated the most innovative approach to church growth or revitalization. Church growth—in both its spiritual and numerical aspects—is an essential part of the mission of the church. The award provides a vehicle by which positive, reproducible innovation is encouraged and shared with others in the EPC. It is named for Bartlett L. “Bart” Hess, founding pastor of Ward Church in suburban Detroit, who was instrumental in the establishment of the EPC in 1981.

EPC churches in Puerto Rico ‘doing very well’ following Hurricane Irma

 
IrmaPuertoRico

Waves from Hurricane Irma hit Fajardo, on the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, on September 7. (photo credit REUTERS/Alvin Baez)

Juan Rivera, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteria Westminster in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, reported on September 7 that the EPC’s three churches on the island emerged from Hurricane Irma in good condition.

“Thanks be to God!” he said. “We are doing very well; Westminster, Anasco, and Mayaguez also. Praying for all in Irma’s route and giving thanks for the EPC family.”

The Miami Herald reported that nearly 1 million people in Puerto Rico lost power after the storm skirted the island on September 6, and some areas could be without power for up to four to six months.

A Hurricane Irma Emergency Relief Fund will be launched soon for people to donate funds for recovery and cleanup in areas affected by the storm.

Gulf South church leaders assess hurricane damage, plan recovery efforts

 
CityOfRefugeHarveyRelief

Volunteers prepare donations received by the EPC’s City of Refuge Church as the congregation helps meet needs of its neighbors near downtown Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Amidst the devastation in southeast Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, a number of EPC congregations in the region have been affected. On August 31, the Presbytery of the Gulf South hosted leaders of Houston-area EPC churches via conference call to assess damage from the storm and discuss recovery strategies for their congregations and communities.

Participants included presbytery leaders Kory Duncan, Bob Vincent, and Michael Herrin; EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah; Richard Harris, pastor of Christ EPC in Houston; Ikki Soma, pastor of City of Refuge Church in Houston; Carter Sanger, pastor of Cornerstone EPC in Katy, Texas; Alan Trafford, pastor of Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson, Texas; and Michel Yonts, pastor of Edna EPC in Edna, Texas. Edna is about 90 miles northeast of Rockport and is the closest EPC congregation to where the hurricane made landfall on August 25.

During the conference call, the church leaders reported that all members of their congregations are safe and accounted for, though some families and individuals responded to mandatory evacuation orders and have yet to be reached. However, some church members’ homes have been flooded, and they will need significant help in the days to come. The church properties only sustained minimal damage. The pastors’ homes were not damaged, with the exception of Harris’ which received minor damage.

Christ EPC suffered some electrical problems at their church building, but the facility received no major flood damage. Harris said the church is making plans to help church members and the community.

Soma reported that City of Refuge, located five miles from downtown Houston, has been helping their neighbors, volunteering, and directing donations to flood victims for several days. The only damage to church property was the loss of some ceiling tiles, though he said 20 percent of the congregation suffered damage to their homes.

Cornerstone in Katy had no damage to their church building, but Sanger said that some church members have not yet been able to determine the amount of flood damage to their homes. He also said they plan to offer space to other congregations whose places of worship were damaged.

Covenant EPC in Lake Jackson is downstream from Houston, so Trafford said they are waiting on the waters to rise to see how much of their area will be flooded. They are making preparations to serve as a shelter for local residents if necessary.

Yonts reported that that town of Edna suffered significant wind damage, but the church building did not flood. He said they were under a mandatory evacuation order, so many of the church members are still out of town. He added that the area is only “just now” getting electric power restored.

Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South, said that EPC Chaplains Daniel Situka and Aaron Laenger were both flooded out of their homes.

Evangelist Daniel Nguyen—who works among the Vietnamese community in the Houston area—reported that he’s in the same situation as Lake Jackson, waiting to see how high the rivers will rise to know whether his house will flood. He has made contact with his church members and discovered one had their home flood.

Each pastor noted that they are still evaluating the needs in their congregation and community, and will have to identify what will (and will not) be useful in a recovery effort that will last for months.

Jeremiah encouraged people across the country to donate to the EPC’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. In collaboration with the Presbytery of the Gulf South, donations will be sent to EPC churches affected by the storm. Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Harvey Relief (506)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Harvey Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

As of September 1, more than $30,000 had been received into the fund.

Iconic golden hand back atop Port Gibson (Miss.) EPC church

 

Written by Brandon O’Connor/The Vicksburg Post
Photos by Courtland Wells/The Vicksburg Post
Reprinted by permission

PortGibsonGoldenHand

Michael Herrin, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Port Gibson and Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South, reads a poem as The Hand Pointing to Heaven is hoisted atop the church’s steeple on Aug. 16.

The Hand Pointing to Heaven is once again in its rightful place atop the steeple of First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Miss.

The 10-feet 4-inch, 250 pound golden fist with its index finger pointing skyward was returned to the top of the steeple at First Presbyterian on Aug. 16 following a two-month restoration process.

The golden hand was taken down from the steeple on June 26 and sent to Virginia where it was restored and then recovered in gold plate.

“We sent it to American Stripping Company in Manassas Park, Virginia.” Rev. Michael Herrin said. “They stripped off the previous coatings, repaired the metal, it had rust mainly on the cuff around the bottom. They then prepared the surface for gilding. The gilder’s studio from Maryland put the gold plate on it. It is real gold plate, just real thin.”

The hand was then shipped back to Port Gibson where it was originally scheduled to be reinstalled Aug. 9. Inclement weather caused a slight delay in the process, but Wednesday it was raised back to the top of the steeple where it sits 147 feet above the ground.

“It is a symbol of Port Gibson,” Herrin said. “It is a symbol of what we are all supposed to be about. It reminds us that this life isn’t about us. It is about God. It does what steeples are supposed to do. They are supposed to point us to God.”

There was some question Wednesday of whether they would raise the hand to the top of the steeple or not after a few cracks were found in the back when it was unwrapped. They decided to go ahead after sealing the cracks to keep water out.

“I carried it up there with a mattress and it worked fine,” Jimmy Cassell, the chairman of the Deacon’s Board, said. “They built some cradle they wanted me to bring it back in. That cradle is too hard evidentially, and when we hit bumps it bent it a little bit. We calked it and hopefully it is going to be alright.”

After the repairs were made and members of the congregation had the chance to have their pictures taken with it, the hand was raised to the top of the steeple using a crane. There it had to be bolted back onto the steeple and the lightning rod had to be attached.

A hand has been atop the steeple of First Presbyterian since 1860, when the current building was finished. The original hand was made of wood and this hand, which is made of metal, was purchased and placed atop the steeple in 1903.

“The original minister, Dr. Zebulon Butler, during his sermons would make the hand gesture,” Cassell said. “They took that hand gesture and made it.”

It has been a fixture of Port Gibson ever since. The hand was last taken down from the steeple in 1989 to be refurbished.

“It is always scary when it comes down because there are so many things that could happen,” Azalea Knight, who has been a member of the church since 1972, said. “It is such a landmark for the state of Mississippi and Port Gibson. It is beautiful and I am so excited to see it back up. It is such a void while it was gone.”

Norma Bearden made the drive from Natchez to see the golden hand returned to the steeple. The hand and the church hold a special place in her heart and she wanted to be there for its return.

“I was married in this church in 1979. It really was a good feeling that we are trying to keep the town up. It brought back a lot of good feelings about my wedding,” Bearden said. “I grew up in the area and I saw the hand nearly everyday of my life. I thought it was monumental that we have been able to keep it restored and in such good condition. It shows the pride of everybody in the Presbyterian Church.”

The two month long project cost the church $43,000 Herrin said.

“I am so thankful for all the people that contributed to this and did it. It is so great to have deacons who will take a project and just run with it,” he said. “It looks wonderful. Beautiful, golden, shiny. I think it does its job. It points people to Christ and that is all we can ask.”

EPC church plant featured in The Gospel Coalition

 

DowntownChurchDowntown Church in Memphis, Tenn., was featured in an article by The Gospel Coalition on August 16. The essay, “How a Multiethnic Church Is Chasing the Dream in MLK’s Last Stop” tells the story of the EPC church plant, led by Richard Rieves, and the historic Clayborn Temple that provides the congregation a unique platform for ministry in the community.

Clayborn Temple was built by Second Presbyterian Church in 1892, and at the time was the largest church building south of the Ohio River. Second sold the property in 1949 to the country’s oldest African-American denomination, and it later became a rallying point for civil rights protests in the 1960s before falling vacant in 1999.

Second began negotiations to re-acquire the property for a multi-ethnic church plant as early as 2003. Efforts stalled until 2015, when title to the property was transferred to a local non-profit organization which raised funds to stabilize the structure. Downtown Church, which launched in 2011 and previously met in a refurbished warehouse and then a remodeled train station, began worshipping in Clayborn Temple in January 2017. Worship attendance has grown to about 300.

Earlier this month, Clayborn Temple was named a National Historic Landmark.

George Carey installed as Kingman, Ariz., pastor

 
GeorgeCarey

George Carey

George Carey, former EPC World Outreach Director, has been installed as pastor of Kingman Presbyterian Church in Kingman, Ariz.

Carey noted that Kingman is in northwest Arizona, and is famous for having the largest remaining stretch of the old Route 66 highway.

“If you are ever traveling I-40 on Sunday morning, stop by and visit our worship services at 9:00 or 10:45!,” he said.

Carey added that the congregation is comprised of a high percentage of retirees who have moved into Kingman from other states—especially California—due to the area’s drastically lower cost of living.

“Nita and I are very excited to serve these wonderful people and we look forward to ministering to them and the entire community.”