Category Archives: Church News

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


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


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.”

Overwhelmed in Puerto Rico


JeffJeremiahJeff Jeremiah

My wife, Cindy, and I spent two days in Puerto Rico last month visiting two of the newest EPC congregations. On Sunday, the leaders and congregation of Westminster-Bayamon warmly welcomed us. For those who attended General Assembly last June in Orlando, you will recall this church as the first Puerto Rican congregation welcomed into the EPC after the boundaries of the Presbytery of Florida were expanded. We visited for their celebration of the first anniversary of their exit from their former denomination.

I realized how much they sacrificed for Christ, the gospel, and God’s Word after we saw the beautiful facilities they walked away from to form Westminster. However, Pastor Juan Rivera told me the congregation disconnected from the building quickly. “We’ve been focused on Jesus,” he said, “and we’ve constantly been surprised by how the Lord has provided for us.” Here’s an example of their commitment to Christ rather than a building: on the first Sunday after they left, the congregation worshiped on the second floor of a four-level parking garage.

After each worship service that day we “Happy Birthday, Westminster!” in Spanish and English, and then enjoyed birthday cake. What a glorious time celebrating with these brothers and sisters!

On Monday, we went to Mayaguez on the western side of the island—three hours by car from San Juan. We visited Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangelica en Mayaguez, a church plant of Westminster that was received by the Presbytery of Florida on February 20. Like Westminster, they are a group that walked away from its former denomination.

I was told that we would meet with the church-planting pastor and some of his lay leadership. Imagine my surprise when more than 100 of the 175 members gathered to welcome us! Commissioned Pastor Abraham Montes then led a two-hour worship service celebrating their reception into the EPC. They gave us a special gift to commemorate our visit, and concluded the service with an incredible “coro” that had been created especially for the occasion.

The EPC has received more than 350 churches since 2007, and each is a testament to God’s faithfulness and its leaders’ commitment to Christ. Yet I have never been with a group as energized and excited to become a member of the EPC as Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangelica en Mayaguez.

Let’s continue to thank the Lord for these new EPC congregations in Puerto Rico. He is risen!

EPC welcomes twelve new churches


Twelve congregations have joined the EPC family of churches. The new churches are:

Presbytery of the Alleghenies:
Colonial Village Church, Niagara Falls, N.Y. (James Henkel, Pastor).

First Presbyterian Church, Barton, Md. (Thomas Morgan, Pastor)

First Presbyterian Church of Lonaconing, Lonaconing, Md. (Thomas Morgan, Pastor)

Presbytery of the Central South:
First Presbyterian Church, Blytheville, Ark. (Michael, Wey, Pastor)

Presbytery of the Great Plains:
Freeman Presbyterian Church, Freeman, Mo. (Ilona Buzick, Pastor)

Three Timbers Church, Bennington, Neb. (Jeff Ryan, Pastor)

Presbytery of the Gulf South:
First Presbyterian Church, Mexia, Texas. (vacant pastorate)

Presbytery of Mid-America:
Big Creek Presbyterian Church, Hannibal, Mo. (vacant pastorate)

Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic:
Buffalo Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, N.C. (vacant pastorate)

Memorial Presbyterian Church, Greensboro, N.C. (Benjamin Williams, Interim Pastor)

Presbytery of the Midwest:
Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church, Trenton, Ohio (Jerry Pitman, Pastor)

Presbytery of the Pacific:
Merrill Presbyterian Church, Merrill, Ore. (Elizabeth Arakelian, Pastor)

EPC welcomes four new churches in November


The EPC added four new churches to its membership in November. The new churches are:

Midwest Presbytery:
Peace Church, Middleville, Mich. (Adam Barr, Pastor).

Pacific Presbytery:
Christ Presbyterian Church, Boise, Idaho. (Phil Moran, Pastor).
The Table Church, San Francisco, Calif. (mission church; Troy Wilson, Evangelist).

Southeast Presbytery:
Central Presbyterian Church, Hyden, Ky. (Merle Caudill, Commissioned Pastor).

Three churches join the EPC in October


The EPC added three new churches to its membership in October. The new churches are:

East Presbytery:
Christ Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Mass. (Tracy Andrew Johnson, Pastor).
Little Britain EPC, Peach Bottom, Pa. (Thomas Milligan, Pastor).

Central South Presbytery:
Heartsong Church, Ripley, Miss. (mission church).

Outreach Magazine names two EPC churches to “Outreach 100” list


Outreach100Outreach Magazine has recognized Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., as the fastest-growing and 88th largest church in America for 2014. In addition, Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn., was named the 76thlargest church, with an average attendance of 6,709.

According to the Outreach report, Cherry Hills saw numerical growth of 1,868 which reflected a 43 percent increase. The congregation’s average attendance is listed as 6,201.

The Outreach 100—a ranking of the 100 largest and 100 fastest-growing churches in the United States—is an annual collaboration between Outreach Magazine and Lifeway Research.

Hope Church has appeared in the list in each of the past four years. The congregation was the 79th largest in 2013, 86th largest in 2012, and 69thlargest in 2011.

This year’s Outreach 100 report also featured an interview with Shane Farmer, Senior Pastor of Cherry Hills. The article is available online at

While not exhaustive, the 2014 list is based on self-reported surveys from more than 27,000 congregations that were contacted by Lifeway for participation.

First Armenian Presbyterian Church (EPC)


First Armenian Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Fresno, California called Rev. Gregory Vahack Haroutuian of Belmont, Massachusetts as its 12th Senior Pastor.  Rev. Haroutunian will be formally installed on March 16, 2014.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America will oversee the Service.  A Fellowship Reception will follow the Service of Installation.  The Service and Reception are open to the public.

First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno is California’s oldest Armenian church.  Founded on July 25, 1897, it is a member congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.

Gateway Church chooses to partner with CCO


Why Gateway Church chooses to partner with CCO to minister to college students: An interview with Craig Cramer

Gateway Church is an EPC congregation in Findlay, Ohio. Gateway Church partners with the CCO to reach out to students at the University of Findlay, Bluffton University, and Owens Community College. Craig Cramer is the Teaching Pastor at Gateway Church.

Why does Gateway EPC choose to partner with the CCO?

Gateway has a heart for the next generation. A large percentage of the younger generation is unchurched. When I was introduced to the CCO through the EPC, Gateway found it to be a match made in heaven. Our elders supported this mission work since CCO is reformed in theology and focused on developing disciples in the local church.

Why is Gateway committed to ministry to college students? 

Many churches connect with the older generation through their ministry focus. Not too many churches connect with the younger generation, especially college students. The Gateway leadership believes we are called to target the next generation. Therefore, we have invested time, energy and money towards that goal.

What has been the benefit of having CCO staff members working with you and with students at the University of Findlay and other nearby campuses? 

For over five years now, we have had a full-time CCO missionary focused on connecting college students to Christ and His church. We already had college students attending our services and involved in our ministries, but that number has multiplied over the past five years or so. Mike Barnhart, who served with us through CCO for four years, and Bill Corbin, who has been serving here through CCO for the past year and a half, have been great ambassadors for Christ, CCO, and Gateway Church. God has used these men and CCO in our community in mighty ways.

Do congregation members participate in the ministry to students? If yes, how?  

Yes, we have older and younger adults who are beyond college age who serve as a team to minister to college students. Their participation multiplies the impact beyond just the CCO staff.

How does your congregation draw students into the life of the church?

Our church draws students to Gateway and to Christ through the presence of a ministry on campus. Gateway rents a large home across the street from the University of Findlay campus which serves as a home base for the ministry. Much outreach to students takes place there—meals, studies, events, life groups, etc.—and then students are invited to attend Gateway. When they come to Gateway, they experience a modern worship experience with Word-centered teaching for everyday life. The students are challenged to become active in the church as a whole through service and membership. The ministry has produced great fruit. Thank you, CCO, for what you have done for our community of faith!

Trinity EPC, Loganville, GA worships in new building


Trinity-EPC-Loganville-GA-worships-in-new-building-3On December 8, 2013, Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Loganville, GA (30 miles east of Atlanta) worshipped for the first time in the new church building built and provided by our gracious God! It was an exciting day for the members and friends of Trinity, and many visitors. 128 people gathered to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and enjoyed a fellowship meal in the new building afterward! Trinity moved from a storefront facility where it had been for seven years! The church was started as a mission church of the EPC in 2002, then became a Particular Church of the Presbytery of the Southeast in May 2010. Below are some pictures of the new church building and property, the first worship service in the new sanctuary, and some recent events. All glory to God for His miraculous provision!

Trinity-EPC-Loganville-GA-worships-in-new-building Trinity-EPC-Loganville-GA-worships-in-new-building--2

Interview with James Banks – Peace Church, Durham NC


EPC Pastor James Banks (Peace Church, Durham, NC – was recently interviewed on “Let’s Pray” (The Hope Channel) about his book Praying the Prayers of the Bible.  To watch the interview, the segment starts about 8:10 into the program.  Here’s a link:

Rufus Smith Elected as New Senior Pastor at Hope Church, Memphis, TN


On the weekend of October 26 and 27, the Congregation of Hope Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, elected Rev. Rufus Smith, IV as its new Senior Pastor. Dr. R. Craig Strickland will maintain a very active and visible role within the church as a Teaching Elder and “Founding Pastor.”

Rev. Smith is eager to continue Hope’s mission of “embracing those who may have given up on church or even given up on God.” That mission includes creating a welcoming environment for Memphians of every ethnicity, age and stage in their life, with a particular emphasis on Smith’s passion for developing and deploying the next generation.

Rufus has been an ordained EPC Teaching Elder for 15 years. He is a native of Houston, Texas, and joined the Hope staff in 2010, although he has had very close ties with Strickland and Dr. Eli Morris, III since 1998. His previous roles have included serving as Senior Pastor of the City of Refuge EPC in Houston, Executive Director of City of Refuge’s community development center called “The Forge for Families,” Chairman of the EPC’s Urban Ministry Network and also as Chaplain for the NBA team, the Houston Rockets.

Associate Pastor Eli Morris will continue leading from the second chair and overseeing Hope’s Sunday evening service, The Stirring, and Hope’s urban ministries.

Smith was installed into his new role as Senior Pastor during the five weekend worship hours of November 16 and 17. For more information, read the full press release or visit

Thoughts on Transformation


We know that transfer growth is not what we’re ultimately about. God has something better, He has something much greater for us! As I’ve thought about the increase in our number of churches the last six weeks the number I’ve focused on is 2.5. We’ve grown by a factor of 2.5 the last three years. Let me ask you to imagine with me this future. Think for a moment of the number of members you have in your church today. In the next three years, what would it be like if the membership of your church increased by a factor of 2.5? From 80 members to 200? From 150 members to 425 members? From 1000 members to 2500? If that was your future that couldn’t be explained by transfer growth, that could only be explained by transformation growth.

Transformation – the supernatural power of God the Holy Spirit poured out so that men, women, boys and girls in your community came to saving knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ! Transformation – isn’t that what we’re really about as believers in Jesus Christ? By the power of the Holy Spirit we’ve been born again, transformed from darkness to light, for death to life. And we want to see others transformed in the same way! At its heart that’s what it means to be missional, to be a church on mission for Jesus Christ. (excerpt from oral report to 2013 General Assembly)


  1. What changes would you need to make in your ministry if you were to focus intentionally on a ministry of transformation?
  2. What would a church ministry focused on transformation look like?


Transformation Growth

Genesis Presbyterian Church celebrates first anniversary


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

We, the session, pastor and congregation of Genesis Presbyterian Church, greet you in the mighty, loving name of Jesus Christ our one and only Redeemer, Savior and Lord. Through this letter we want to take the time to welcome you into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Our congregation, along with two other Hispanic congregations (San Benito PC and Jesus Reigns PC), joined the EPC as transitional members in February 2012 and became full members in October of the same year. Even though we suffered considerably as we left our former denomination God blessed us much more through the love and care of brothers and sisters in the EPC. We sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit led us in this move; it has been like coming home for us.

Now, we are grateful to our Heavenly Father for your congregation. We acknowledge that many of you may have had extremely difficult moments in this transition…perhaps for some of you the transition may have been less painful. Nevertheless, we rejoice with you for your arrival. Bienvenidos a la EPC! Welcome!

“Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” We are here to serve you. If we may be of assistance in any way please do not hesitate to contact us. You have already been in our prayers.

With love in Christ

Rev. Héctor Reynoso

and session of Genesis Presbyterian Church

Clerk of session: Carmina Flores. Elders: Dahlia Fernandez, Janet de la Cerda, Carmen Reynoso, Liz de la Cerda