Category Archives: Church News

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

 
MariaPath

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

 
BartHessPresentation

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

 
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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).
www.cvpchurch.org

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

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

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

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

Three Timbers Church, Bennington, Neb. (Jeff Ryan, Pastor)
http://threetimbers.nextmeta.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).
www.peacechurch.cc

Pacific Presbytery:
Christ Presbyterian Church, Boise, Idaho. (Phil Moran, Pastor).
www.christpresboise.org
The Table Church, San Francisco, Calif. (mission church; Troy Wilson, Evangelist).
www.meetup.com/Uniquely-SF-Church-Startup

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).
www.christ-pres.org
Little Britain EPC, Peach Bottom, Pa. (Thomas Milligan, Pastor).
www.littlebritainchurch.org

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

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 www.outreachmagazine.com/interviews/10153-shane-farmer-an-irrevocable-call.html

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