Category Archives: People

Pastoral Letter on Racial Lament and Hope interim committee begins work

 

The Interim Committee tasked with writing a Pastoral Letter on Racial Lament and Hope gathered September 20-21 to begin its work. The group met at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. The formation of the committee was approved by the 42nd General Assembly and appointed by that Assembly’s outgoing Moderator, Brad Strait.

The co-Chairmen of the committee are Gerrit Dawson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, La., and Glenn Meyers, Commissioned Pastor of Ardara United Presbyterian Church in Ardara, Pa., and Moderator of the 40th General Assembly.

Glenn Meyers

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this way,” Meyers said. “God has been preparing me personally over the past few years to deal with these issues, and my experience as a Black man is part of the whole. Our pastors are on the front lines of this issue, and even some of my elders are asking me if we want to ‘poke the bear.’ It is a difficult time to be a Black man in America, and I have a new understanding of that.”

Gerrit Dawson

Dawson noted that the American church “has languished on this issue, which has allowed non-biblical groups to grab the narrative. How many of our pastors said this was the most divisive thing they talked about in 2020? I addressed it with our congregation, and after one sentence I was called both a white supremacist and a critical race theorist. It’s difficult—we are balancing the difficulty of being Black in America with the feeling of white people that they are looked at as the problem. But I am passionate that we have a better story to tell,” Dawson said.

“I can’t imagine two better individuals to shepherd this process,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “They bring different viewpoints, but their pastoral hearts will get us where need to go.”

In addition to Meyers and Dawson, members of the committee are Sean Boone, church planting pastor of Woke Bridge Community Church in Ferguson, Mo.; Ken Chang, Ruling Elder for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.; Linda McDaniel, Ruling Elder for Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.; Marcos Ortega, Lead Pastor for the Beacon, N.Y., campus of Goodwill Church; George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis; Annie Rose, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Eric Shipton, Assistant Pastor and Director of Outreach and Missions for Reynolda Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Carol Williams, Ruling Elder for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Sharon, Pa.

Ex officio members are Weaver; Michael Davis, Assistant Stated Clerk; Brad Strait, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., and Chairman of the National Leadership Team; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash., and Moderator of the 42nd General Assembly; and Joe Kim, church planting pastor of Hope Philly Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and Moderator-elect of the 43rd General Assembly.

“In All Things” podcast episode 43 features Bob Garment, EPC Chief Parliamentarian

 

Bob Garment, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and the EPC’s new Chief Parliamentarian is the guest for episode 43 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Garment discuss his path to the EPC from his former denomination, including how a newsletter from an EPC church in Louisiana started the process.

Garment also describes how his relationship with the late Howard Shockley, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, resulted in his own service for more than 30 years as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, and how polity serves the mission of the 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.

Body of Eliza Fletcher, kidnapped member of Second Memphis, identified

 

Eliza Fletcher

Memphis Police officials confirmed on September 6 that a body discovered on September 5 is Eliza Fletcher, a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn. Fletcher was abducted while jogging on Friday morning, September 2.

Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Deputy Attorney General, called the kidnapping and assault an “isolated attack by a stranger.”

The 34-year-old mother of two was approached by a man in a dark SUV who forced her into the vehicle after a brief struggle. Memphis Police discovered the body at 5:07 p.m. on September 5 in the rear of a vacant duplex in south Memphis, approximately eight miles from the University of Memphis campus where she was abducted and in the vicinity of where the suspect was arrested.

The suspect was initially charged with the kidnapping. On September 6, prosecutors announced additional charges of murder, premeditated murder, and murder in perpetration of kidnapping. The cause of death has not been announced.

“Now it’s time to remember and celebrate how special she was and to support those who cared so much for her,” the family said in a statement. “We appreciate all the expressions of love and concern we have received. We are grateful beyond measure to local, state, and federal law enforcement for their tireless efforts to find Liza and to bring justice to the person responsible for this horrible crime.”

“I am just devastated by this tragedy,” said Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “My family and I have known Eliza and Richie for a long time. It’s hard to imagine what they are going through. We are grieving with them, but we all hold on to the promise of Scripture that she is now safe in the arms of her Savior, Jesus. Please continue to pray for Richie, their two children, and their families.”

In a statement, Second Presbyterian Church said the church “is grieving deeply over the loss of dear church member, Liza Fletcher. Please pray for her family and the Memphis community. We’re seeking shelter in the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort whose Son is the blessed hope of the resurrection and will at the Great Day heal us and our world.”

Update: EPC church member abducted, suspect arrested

 

Eliza Fletcher

Eliza Fletcher, a member of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., was abducted while jogging on Friday morning, September 2. In a statement issued by Memphis police, the 34-year-old mother of two was approached by a man in a dark SUV who forced her into the vehicle after a brief struggle. Fletcher was running on the University of Memphis campus, about a block from the church.

“I know the family well from my time serving as Assistant Pastor at Second,” said Michael Davis, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “Please pray for Eliza’s safety, and for her husband, Richie, and their two children. May God bring peace to all today and lead law enforcement as they work the situation. Pray also for the entire Second Pres family as they wait for answers.”

More information is available at www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2022/09/02/jogger-kidnapped-near-university-memphis/7971738001/

September 4 update:

On Sunday morning, the Memphis Police Department released the affidavit in support of arresting Cleotha Abston, 38, in Fletcher’s disappearance.

According to the affidavit:

  • Fletcher was last seen at approximately 4:20 a.m. on Friday, September 2, jogging near the University of Memphis campus about one block from Second Presbyterian Church.
  • A dark-colored GMC Terrain SUV was seen 24 minutes before the abduction surveillance footage.
  • A surveillance camera captured a man “violently and quickly” approach Fletcher, then forced her into the passenger side of a dark-colored GMC Terrain with damage to the right rear tail light.
  • “A male exited the black GMC Terrain, ran aggressively toward the victim, and then forced the victim Eliza Fletcher into the passenger’s side of the vehicle,” the affidavit read. “During this abduction, there appeared to be a struggle.”
  • Investigators found a pair of slide sandals at the scene. Police said DNA from the footwear matched Abston, based on a sample taken from a previous conviction. Other surveillance video showed Abston wearing similar sandals days earlier.
  • Abston’s cellphone placed him near the abduction site around the time Fletcher disappeared.
  • U.S. Marshals found the GMC Terrain on Saturday at an apartment complex in southeast Memphis.
  • Police ended an interview with Abston still not knowing where Fletcher is.
  • Fletcher is believed to have been seriously injured during her abduction.
  • Abston spent just more than 22 years in state prison after being convicted of kidnapping an attorney. He was released from prison in November 2020.

Additional information is available at www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2022/09/04/1-charged-eliza-fletchers-disappearance-no-sign-teacher/7992733001/

As of September 4, Fletcher is still missing.

This story will be updated as information emerges.

Michael Davis named EPC Assistant Stated Clerk

 

Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaborative Officer since August 2021, has been named Assistant Stated Clerk. In his new position he will provide strategic leadership to the denomination’s strategic priorities of church planting and effective biblical leadership.

“The support from the NLT is affirming as I move forward in this new role,” Davis said. “I am excited to facilitate collaborative strategies that will mobilize our strategic priorities. My hope is to better serve and resource our leaders as they carry out God’s mission.”

Prior to joining the staff of the Office of the General Assembly, Davis served as served as Associate Teaching Pastor for Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn., and Adjunct Professor for Memphis City Seminary. He has served on the EPC’s Church Planting Team, Ministerial Vocation Committee, Next Generation Ministries Council, and the Revelation 7:9 Task Force. He also has served on the Ministerial Committee for the Presbytery of the Central South.

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said the Assistant Stated Clerk role has been revised since the March 2022 departure of Jerry Iamurri.

“When the Lord called Jerry to be the CEO at inFaith earlier this year, we took the opportunity to evaluate how the Assistant Stated Clerk position can best serve the EPC,” Weaver said. “With the passion and giftings that Michael brings to the table, we felt he was the best person to lead our strategic priorities. At the same time, we wanted to offload some of the polity and governance responsibilities that so often consumed Jerry’s time.”

To address those areas, Bob Garment has been named the denomination’s Chief Parliamentarian. Garment served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean for more than 31 years, retiring from the role in October 2021.

“Bob has faithfully served the EPC for many, many years—including as a Teaching Elder, presbytery leader, and in an interim polity capacity since the spring,” Weaver said. “He knows our Book of Order backward and forward, and I am grateful that he will continue serve our churches and pastors in this capacity. We will all benefit from his knowledge and expertise.”

“In All Things” podcast episode 39 features Next Generation Ministries Council, Revelation 7:9 Task Force member Enid Flores

 

Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, is the guest for episode 39 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Flores discuss her involvement in the EPC’s Next Generation Ministries Council and Revelation 7:9 Task Force, as well as her recent service as Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and Caribbean. Flores also describes her vision for developing pathways of service for younger leaders in the denomination, as well as her desire that every EPC church member would be engaged in the work of the larger 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 38 features EPC Chief Financial Officer Pat Coelho

 

Patrick Coelho, Chief Financial Officer at the EPC Office at the General Assembly, is the guest for episode 38 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Coelho discuss his upbringing as a first-generation American and his role as CFO of the denomination. Coelho also explains how he serves as a resource for EPC churches, including how the EPC set up online giving for churches at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and his leadership of the annual gathering for EPC Executive Pastors and church administrators. In addition, he describes the EPC’s fiscal year, annual financial audit, and the recently approved change in funding formula from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percentage of Income (POI).

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.

First Presbyterian Church, Orlando, to host World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly

 

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., is hosting the sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) October 27-30, 2022. Held once every four years, the theme of this year’s meeting is “The Nature and Mission of the Church.”

“This inspirational gathering of Reformed believers from all over the world will include daily worship, a Friday evening outreach concert, workshops on a multitude of important topics, and plenty of time for relationship-building and fellowship,” said David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor. “Come to Orlando and join us for what promises to be a very significant time together. With so much upheaval and pain in our world, we need to be together prayerfully for the gospel.”

The Moderator of the Assembly is Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.

On Friday, October 28, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver will participate in an 11:00 a.m. panel discussion, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.” Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, will lead a 4:00 p.m. seminar on Friday, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work.”

Swanson will preach the concluding worship service on Sunday, October 30.

Among the variety of other speakers are Michael Aitcheson, Senior Pastor of Christ United Fellowship (PCA) in Orlando; Michael Allen, Professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando; Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala.; Davi Gomes, WRF International Director and former head of the Andrew Jumper Presbyterian Graduate School of Theology of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil; and Andrew McGowan, Director of the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology in Dingwall, Scotland.

Leaders from several EPC World Outreach partner ministries also will appear, including Richard Pratt, President of Third Millennium Ministries, and Steve Curtis, International Director of the Timothy Two Project International.

For more information and to register, see www.wrf.global/assembly.

“In All Things” podcast episode 35 features EPC church member, former imam Mark Christian

 

Mark Christian, member of the EPC’s Covenant Presbyterian Church in Omaha, Neb., and author of The Apostate: My Search for Truth, is the guest for episode 35 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Christian discuss his upbringing in Egypt in a family of the Muslim Brotherhood, becoming an imam at age 12, and how a journey of questioning the claims of Mohamed for a deeper understanding of Islam resulted in a failed attempt on his life and ultimately to faith in Christ.

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. Christian’s book is available on request from the EPC Office of the General Assembly by emailing info@epc.org. Supplies are limited.

Diversity fuels mission of newly localized Tennessee church plant

 

The congregation of The Avenue Community Church in Memphis, following the service of localization held on March 20, 2022, at Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis.

Embracing diversity has fueled the mission and growth of The Avenue Community Church (TACC) in Memphis—leading to achieving local church status in the Presbytery of the Central South in March. Local church status means a congregation is self-governing with its own elected and installed officers, including Ruling Elders and Deacons.

“We know from Scripture that God’s true church is diverse, from every nation, tribe, tongue,” said Lead Pastor Tim Johnson. “So as the local church, we strive to be diverse as well.”

Tim Johnson

Johnson noted that TACC’s goal is to be not only multi-ethnic, but also multi-class and multi-generational.

“We have to seek to reach people from all types of backgrounds,” he said. “Our heart is to do what every other faithful church has been doing since its inception, and that is to be working for the God of the Bible reverently, passionately, and faithfully. There’s a blueprint to the church that the Lord left us and that’s what we want to fulfill. We want to witness, we want to worship, we want to edify the body until He comes back.”

TACC has been focused on the community in and around—and is named for—Summer Avenue since its launch in September 2018. Running east-west on the north side of central Memphis, Summer Avenue is one of the most diverse areas of the city. In fulfillment of Johnson’s vision for ministry in the community, TACC acquired and is renovating the old Highland Heights United Methodist Church property on Summer and hopes to hold its worship services in the historic Gothic structure within the next year or so. TACC has met at a local school for the past three and a half years.

“The new location places us right in between two communities we would love to wed and be a bridge and bring together,” Johnson said. “One has the highest dollar amount per square foot, and the other is a very multiracial, lower-middle-class. We strategically have always prayed to be on the Avenue. Now that we are officially on Summer Avenue, we can truly be The Avenue sitting right in the middle of all the intersection of all the people who are doing business on our streets.”

The Summer Avenue corridor in central Memphis is the focus of The Avenue Community Church’s ministry.

Johnson and TACC are accomplishing the work that Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis envisioned in the pre-pandemic days of 2017, according to Dan Burns, Second’s World Missions Pastor.

“We were dreaming and praying about how to help plant a diverse, multi-ethnic church in one of our ‘edge’ neighborhoods,” Burns explained. “There are many dividing lines in Memphis where economic and racial patterns tend to divide the community. We were praying about launching a church ‘on the line’ that could serve the community on both sides and draw them into a common fellowship.”

Burns said Johnson has both the vision and passion to pursue this vision.

“He sensed the Lord lead him and his core team to Summer Avenue, immediately got engaged in the community through youth work and community connections, and launched The Avenue a year later,” Burns said. “The Lord soon gave them energy, direction, and resources to launch—and they weathered the pandemic and racial tension of 2020 with gospel grace.”

And the gospel ministry of TACC will now reach literally around the world.

“I was overjoyed to see the first couple from The Avenue commissioned at the 2022 EPC General Assembly to serve as World Outreach global workers in the Middle East,” Burns said.

Johnson said the journey to local church status wasn’t as encumbering as he anticipated.

“The administrative commission from Second Presbyterian and the delegates from the Presbytery just really made it seem more relational, and that we are brothers and sisters and that we’re excited about this process,” he said. “It did not feel like an interrogation—like with the hope that you would fail—but was a discovery and birthing of a new relationship and friendship. That was quite refreshing.”

Tim Foster, Senior Pastor of Highland Heights Presbyterian Church in Memphis, prays over Tim Johnson during the service of localization held March 20, 2022.

Seeing God’s hand in the formation of TACC and its success led to a “marvelous day of God’s grace” when TACC was constituted as a local congregation, said Ken Van Kampen, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Central South.

“It was, in one sense, the climax and closing of one chapter and the opening of another chapter in the life of the church,” he said, explaining that the timing of TACC’s localization was evidence of God’s blessing.

“The Lord graciously upheld the congregation during COVID,” Van Kampen said. “It was during this time that the leadership of The Avenue—who were ordained and installed as the initial class of Elders and Deacons on March 20—was raised up and trained. In the midst of this it was clear that the Lord prepared the congregation for localization. It was all the power and grace of the Lord.”

Johnson said he has been humbled to see God work through TACC from the very beginning.

“We believe the nations are literally in our backyard: Black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor. We believe that God has placed us uniquely and strategically in the middle of all those people,” he said. “And we think He has placed us in the middle of all those people to preach the gospel, to preach it faithfully, and to preach it indiscriminately to whomever we encounter.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 28 features 41st General Assembly Moderator Brad Strait

 

Episode 28 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Brad Strait, Lead Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., and Moderator of the 41st General Assembly.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Strait look back on his year as Moderator of the Assembly, and peer into the future as Strait serves the next year as Chairman of the denomination’s National Leadership Team.

Strait also describes two seminars on persecution at the EPC’s Leadership Institute on June 21-22 that he is co-leading with Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder who was imprisoned in Turkey from 2016-2018. In the first, Brunson will share his experience of being persecuted for his faith and what believers in the western world can expect as hostility toward Jesus and the gospel grows. In the second, Brunson and Strait will be joined by a panel of Christian leaders who have experienced significant persecution, including EPC Teaching Elder Setan Lee, who escaped the “killing fields” genocide of the Communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, and Erick Schenkel, Executive Director of Cru’s “The Jesus Film Project.”

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 22 describes EPC Ukraine relief efforts with Bruce Anderson

 

Episode 22 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Bruce Anderson, Founder and Coordinator of the International Theological Education Network (ITEN) of EPC World Outreach. This week, host Dean Weaver and Anderson discuss how relationships built over more than two decades of ministry in Eastern Europe are providing avenues for donations to the EPC’s International Disaster Relief Fund to be put to immediate use helping people suffering in the war in Ukraine.

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 family finds hope after suicide through Cherry Hills’ Alpha ministry

 

On the first Saturday evening in September 2019, Will and Maria Bales slipped into the back of the room at an Alpha meeting at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo. They weren’t sure they really wanted to be there.

Tyler Grissom

“I noticed them sitting off by themselves,” said Tyler Grissom, Evangelism Director at Cherry Hills who leads the church’s Alpha Course—interactive discussions that explore the basics of the Christian faith in an open and informal environment. “So I went and sat with them. They slowly began to open up. Then the tears started flowing.”

Grissom learned that the eldest of the Bales’ two sons, Nick, had taken his life almost a year earlier. He was only 17.

Their grief hit close to home for Grissom, who also is the father of two boys and lost his father in a tragic accident a few years before. He went through weeks of counseling afterward to find healing.

“I was able to share my own story with them, which helped,” Grissom said. “It enabled me to connect with them in a way I could not have if I had not experienced loss myself.” Most of all, though, Grissom just listened.

Friendship evangelism

He learned that the Bales—who did not have a church home—came to the Alpha meeting at the invitation of a friend.

“I will never forget that day,” said Ashley Gonzales, who attends Cherry Hills. “There were eight of us who knew Maria from playing tennis together. When we heard about Nick all of a sudden there was this chain of phone calls and we were all there.”

The women, who came from all different backgrounds and had never even had a spiritual conversation, did the one thing they could think of to do in the moment. They joined hands and started to pray.

“After the funeral, we wanted to continue to support Maria so we decided to meet every Friday for prayer at her house,” Gonzales said. “We didn’t even really know what to do, so we’d read a devotion from Jesus Calling, then pray and see where it would lead. Sometimes we ended up having deep conversations about life and faith.”

Nick and Maria Bales. (photo courtesy of the Bales family)

The women started calling themselves “The Prayer Warriors” and soon began to grow closer to God and to each other. Occasionally Will also would come in and listen.

“That’s when I got the idea to invite Will and Maria to Alpha,” Gonzales said. “Pastor Tyler had just announced that Alpha would be starting up again. Another friend in the prayer group had been through Alpha at her church, and we both thought it was worth mentioning to them.”

Gonzales had her doubts that they would say yes. But she knew that Alpha could provide some tools that the Bales needed to work through the grief, so she was willing to take a chance.

“I remember walking in that first night of Alpha, so anxious about whether or not they would show up. I realized this was my one opportunity, so I sent a text to Maria during worship saying, ‘I hope you can come.’”

Maria said their initial experience with the Alpha group was both “a good and bad experience,” but they returned the next week. At that meeting, they asked Grissom if he would speak at the remembrance ceremony for Nick in the Bales’ back yard on Sunday, September 29, which was the anniversary of his death.

A divine appointment

At Alpha two weeks later—on the night before the ceremony—Maria raised her hand during an invitation to say “yes” to Jesus. Her hope and peace were now in Christ, strengthened by learning from a relative that Nick had opened up his heart to Jesus before he died.

“I know that I’m going to see Nick again,” Maria said. “As much as I want to have him here, I am thankful to God for taking care of him. There’s no better place to be than in heaven.”

On the day of the ceremony, Grissom pulled into the neighborhood and saw cars stretched down the block, lining both sides of the street.

“There were a lot of people,” Gonzales said. “Young kids and families all there to support the Bales. I was praying hard for Pastor Tyler. I knew he wanted to acknowledge and celebrate Nick’s life, but also use the opportunity to share the gospel.”

Grissom delivered a powerful message, and when he asked if anyone would like to receive Christ, hands shot up all across the yard.

A few weeks earlier, Maria and some friends were in the mountains west of Denver when they were suddenly surrounded by a swarm of white butterflies. Maria said she knew at the time that it was a sign from Nick, so she ordered 1,000 butterflies in individual boxes for guests to release at the end of the remembrance ceremony. As dozens of people made the decision to begin a new life in Christ, the sky above the Bales’ home filled with butterflies rising toward the heavens.

“I believe God creates miracles every day,” Maria said. “Nick had a mission here—to be a light among all of his friends. Losing him was hard, but he has brought so much hope to other kids. I know that was Nick’s purpose.”

Nick Bales

When he was 9, Nick lost a friend to suicide. Three more friends took their lives later. His own battle with anxiety and depression started in the 6th grade.

When he was a 15-year-old sophomore, he launched an apparel company called Brought to Reality (BTR). He designed the T-shirts and hoodies to send a positive message, and he donated 10 percent of his profits to mental health efforts. He shared the story of his friend’s death on his website, and wrote these words to his peers: “My message is that life is precious, and I want to live every day to the fullest by being present, being myself, and following my dreams.”

But he started to isolate himself again early in his junior year and grew increasingly agitated. He even pushed away his brother, Tyler, which broke Maria’s heart because the two had always been close. One day after a heated argument, she exclaimed, “I don’t know who you are anymore!”

The pain in Nick’s eyes told her he did not either.

“I will never forget that moment,” Maria said. “The look he gave me was one of desperation.”

She threw herself into the fight to pull her son through his illness.

“It’s like a cancer,” she said. “Their brain is lying to them. It’s real, physical, brain pain. I can’t tell you how awful it is to watch your child suffer.”

As Nick started his senior year the next fall, he seemed to have turned the corner. He was doing well academically, playing on the hockey and lacrosse teams, and planning a Spring Break trip with his friends.

Tragedy

But on Friday night, September 28, he went to a football game, then texted his mom to let her know that he would be getting home late. Maria, who normally would have texted back a quick “Thanks for letting me know. I love you!” was particularly tired that night and fell asleep without responding. A friend brought him home a few minutes later.

The next morning the Bales found Nick’s lifeless body.

“Nick was a really good kid,” Maria said. “Mindful and sweet, athletic, energetic, so full of life. He was kind to everyone, and they all loved him. He was as comfortable with adults as he was with his peers and would talk to everyone in the room. He always liked to make sure people were included.”

Grissom emphasized that the Bales’ grief journey did not end at the remembrance ceremony, and more than two years later continue to walk a difficult road. Yet he noted that the tragedy of suicide is not beyond God’s redemptive work.

“What happened at the remembrance ceremony was all about the things that Alpha is built around—prayer and dependency on the Holy Spirit,” Grissom said. “God is unfolding His plan and allowing us to be a part of it. Only He could write a story like this.”

He hopes that Alpha will continue to be a place where families like the Bales can ask honest questions and find hope in Christ.

“Jesus was asked 183 questions in the New Testament,” Grissom said, “And He only answered three directly. Even His way of ministering to people—especially those outside—was to ask questions and let people wrestle with the answer until they came to a place of receiving the truth.”

The Bales family now runs BTR as a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called the Nick Bales BTR Foundation. The Foundation continues to produce “Street Wear for a Cause” and supports teens suffering from mental health issues and aiding in the prevention of teen suicide.

“All the proceeds go to helping pay for therapies for those less fortunate,” Maria said. “We don’t ever want young adults to make a permanent decision because they could not afford therapy.”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons and those around them with support, information, and local resources.

“In All Things” podcast episode 19 welcomes Roy Yanke, Executive Director of PIR Ministries for discussion of pastoral transitions, health, coaching

 

Episode 19 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Roy Yanke, EPC Ruling Elder and Executive Director of PIR Ministries, a commended resource of the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee. This week, host Dean Weaver and Yanke discuss how he got involved with PIR, and the services the ministry provides to pastors, Presbyteries, and local churches.

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.

Colonial Presbyterian Church member Sandra Revelle weaves stories of reconciliation and hope

 

Colonial Presbyterian Church (Kansas City) member Sandra Revelle shared the stories behind her tapestry art on the four Sundays in February.

Simple stitches, ragged edges, and contrasting fabrics. Wrapped from start to finish in prayer.

That’s how Sandra Revelle—artist, storyteller, and member of Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City—brings the buried narratives of former slaves to life using machine- and hand-sewn panels vividly illustrated with scenes from the past.

“I see my characters as the lesser-known stars in the vast heavens of Black history,” said Revelle, who researches Depression-era archived interviews that Federal Writers’ Project journalists conducted with former slaves and turns them into historical fiction.

Revelle then takes those stories and stitches together fabrics, textures, and patterns to illustrate scenes from the lives of her characters.

Sandra Revelle with her 29″ x 25″ piece, “If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Could Ride.” When a much younger Sandra wished for a change requiring patience and insight she did not yet possess, this quote would roll from her mother’s tongue.

“These were ordinary people, just like you and me—people who endured unimaginable hardships but kept hoping and persevering in spite of the losses,” Revelle reflected. “That’s why it’s so important to tell their stories.”

During February, Revelle shared her art exhibit with Colonial’s two campuses as part of a “Kingdom Oneness” initiative that the congregation held in conjunction with Black History Month.

“I always try to insert a character in my stories who encourages from a Christian standpoint,” Revelle said. For example, in one of her stories a young man helps ferry escaping slaves across a river—risking his life to help others find freedom. “Although that young man is not particularly spiritual, the person who encourages him to take that step of faith is a believer.”

Jim West, Colonial’s Lead Pastor, believes it’s important for the church to hear these stories.

“God’s given Sandra a gift of being able to share a difficult history in a way that doesn’t shame anyone, but rather elevates our awe and respect and reverence for what people had to endure,” he said. “How they kept their faith in God amidst great suffering and injustice is a beautiful part of Black history that is not often told.”

Jim West

West acknowledges both the history of (and the current) racial tension in the United States. He says the church cannot ignore it.

“The redemption work of God has to start in the church,” he said. “I feel it happening slowly in our church and in other churches—particularly within the EPC.”

Through the Kingdom Oneness initiative, Colonial is intentionally seeking to hear and understand each other’s stories, champion diversity, and promote unity. Church leaders are building on efforts of a group called “the Bootstraps” that started organically within the congregation.

Rosie Bettis, a Colonial Ruling Elder and founding member of the Bootstraps group, said discussing issues of equality and racial differences “goes a long way” in promoting unity.

“We have Kingdom Oneness conversations every Wednesday, and that will continue past Black History Month,” she said. “We use a curriculum based on some of Tony Evans’ race relations material, which talks about how it’s not a ‘Black thing’ or a ‘white thing’—it’s a ‘Kingdom thing.’” The group is led each week by Greg Ealey, Campus Pastor for Colonial’s South Kansas City campus.

Bettis said Colonial also promoted specific events to acknowledge Black History Month. When a local theater put on a dance production telling the history and heroics of the Underground Railroad, the church purchased tickets and encouraged church members to attend. Bettis also went on a trip with five other women from the Bootstraps group to visit the Greenwood Rising and Cultural Museum in Tulsa, which tells the story of Black Wall Street and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. When they returned, they shared the story with the whole congregation.

Bettis says the trip was “uplifting,” “convicting,” “eye-opening,” but that the greatest benefit was the relationships forged among the women who participated. The experience had such an impact on the group that they have scheduled an overnight bus trip to the museum in April, and anyone in the church can attend.

A bumpy road

But the road to Kingdom Oneness at Colonial has not always been easy.

When Bootstraps originally launched, “Be the Bridge” groups were formed to bring people together to talk about race in light of the gospel. The meetings were so well-received that Colonial soon invited local African American congregations to join the conversation. Relationships were formed, groups grew rapidly, and the congregation seemed eager to truly “be the bridge” to racial reconciliation.

Then came the pandemic, followed by police incidents around the country that provoked racial tension. Suddenly the divide seemed wider than ever.

The rift impacted the church.

“It reached a point where you could not mention reconciliation without someone getting triggered,” West recalled. “It was so painful to my heart as a pastor.”

The 24″ x 18″ work “Sidney ‘Charity’ Still” portrays a runaway slave-mother who left two young sons in bondage. She persisted in prayer for years over her boys. Forty years later, one son came through the doors of her youngest child, William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Peter was reunited with his parents. A mother’s prayers were answered.

When Revelle joined the church and was willing to share her gifts with her new church family, it was like a breath of fresh air.

“When she starts out by saying ‘I joined Colonial in November of 2021’ it takes all of the political angst away from the conversation,” West noted. “She’s part of our family. She chose us. That’s our sister telling us about her gift and her passion and her heart for this, and it endears us to her immediately. So we hear it from a whole new perspective—from her perspective.”

Revelle says that she is still amazed at how her work has been received.

“When I first started writing and when God first impressed on me to make the themes for the panels, I started thinking, ‘Lord, who’s going to want to see this?’ But I just kept creating them. I wasn’t sure what people would think. It’s been completely from the Lord. I just stepped out in obedience.”

Her exhibit—originally planned for two Sundays in February—ended up showing on all four weekends. One participant left this comment: “Amazing doesn’t describe the gifts and talents that this Woman of God has. Thank you so much for blessing and sharing your beautiful journey with us!”

“So many people at both campuses loved her art and hearing her story and getting to know her as a person,” West said. “She’s a storyteller who captures the pain of the slaves and Black history, but she’s so full of grace. Her heart just comes out.”

A place to call home

Revelle said she knew from the first time she visited Colonial that she had found her home. Bettis had the same experience years earlier.

“I joined the church because I heard the word of God,” Bettis said. “Those beliefs are the same throughout. The word of God is final. The word of God is the benchmark.”

Both women hope the conversations around race will soon be embraced more readily.

“It’s difficult for some people to talk about,” Bettis acknowledged. “Like if we avoid the conversation, then the tension doesn’t exist. In Bootstraps we use the term Imago Dei—we are all made in the image of God. I don’t want to be defined by the color of my skin. I want my friends to say, ‘All I see is Rosie.’”

Revelle said that having her artwork on display has helped spark conversation.

“My first desire is Kingdom,” she said. “If we can all just learn to walk as Jesus walked and keep our hearts pure before the Lord, He’ll show us where we are diverging from the truth and bring us back into unity.”

For more about Revelle’s art, see www.remnantsarise.com.

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

Jerry Iamurri to assume missions agency leadership post

 

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, has been named the Chief Executive Officer of InFaith.org, effective April 4. InFaith is an evangelical, non-denominational ministry based in suburban Philadelphia. Iamurri said the organization serves some of the most “overlooked and underserved” people in the United States through nearly 200 U.S.-based missionaries.

“These missionaries serve in urban ministry, rural ministry, church planting, discipleship, children and youth ministries, chaplaincy, prison ministry, camps, and much more,” Iamurri said.

“I am deeply disappointed personally to not have opportunity to continue to serve with Jerry,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “However, I am thrilled for the opportunity he and his wife, Sandi, are stepping in to. I know God will use Jerry in mighty ways leading InFaith, just as He has used him in the EPC.”

Iamurri has served Assistant Stated Clerk since 2017. He previously served as Pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Havertown, Pa. Under his leadership, the congregation transitioned to the EPC in 2012. Iamurri previously served Presbyterian congregations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas. In addition to his ministry experience, Iamurri was an Assistant District Attorney for the Philadelphia (Pa.) District Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2003.

He also is a former chairman of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“I have been incredibly blessed to serve the EPC over the past five years,” Iamurri said. “It’s been a privilege, pleasure, and the greatest blessing of my life. With this new call from the Lord, I am looking forward to helping InFaith reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we do in the EPC.”

“In All Things” podcast episode 16 examines loving Muslims with Timothy Harris

 

Episode 16 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Timothy Harris, longtime EPC Teaching Elder. Host Dean Weaver and Harris discuss Harris’ life in ministry, including his recent book, Loving Your Muslim Neighbor: Stories of God using an Unlikely Couple to Love Muslim People, and How He Might Use You to Do the Same. The book is available at www.lovingyourmuslimneighbor.com.

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.

John Manon, former Presbytery of the Midwest Stated Clerk, dies at 87

 

John and Diane Manon

John Calvin Manon, Ruling Elder for St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Auburn, Ind., and longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Midwest, died on March 3 at his home in Auburn.

He was born in Auburn on February 18, 1935, to Walter Calvin Manon and Mary Kathryn (Owens) Manon. He graduated from Auburn High School in 1953 and attended Tri-State (now Trine) University in Angola, Ind., and Indiana University in Bloomington.

Manon served in the U.S. Army from 1957-1959, as an administrative clerk. He was assigned to the Eighth U.S. Army Headquarters, Chief of Staff Section, in Seoul, South Korea.

After discharge he managed two family-owned Texaco Service Stations in Auburn and worked briefly as an insurance agent before beginning work at Cooper Engineered Products in Auburn. He retired in 1992 following 30 years in Cooper’s sales department.

On February 27, 1971, he married the Rev. Diane Marie Davis in Auburn, who currently serves on the Session for St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.

In retirement he served as volunteer administrator of the Presbyterian Self-help Ministries in Auburn and an assistant soccer coach at Lakewood Park Christian School. He served on the first advisory board for DeKalb Area Schools at Home (D.A.S.H.). He also was a funeral attendant at Feller and Clark Funeral Homes in Auburn and Waterloo, Ind.

Manon served as the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Midwest from 2001 until 2018. He was a founding member and the first Clerk of Session of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church and served the congregation from its inception in 1993 as Ruling Elder, Trustee, and Deacon. He also served nine years as the Church Administrator. He had served as Clerk of Session, Elder, and Deacon for his previous church, Auburn Presbyterian Church. At both churches he was a worship leader, a teacher of new church members, an officer-training instructor, a Sunday school teacher, and served as Sunday School Superintendent for many years. In 1982, Manon received a certificate as a Lay Preacher from the Lay Preacher’s Institute of his former denomination’s Presbytery of Wabash Valley.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Diane; daughter and son-in-law Angie and David May of Columbus, Ind.; daughter Molly Manon of Auburn; son and daughter-in-law John and Amber Manon of Auburn; son and daughter-in-law Justin and Joni Manon of Fort Collins, Colo.; granddaughters Katrina Ann May, Cassidy Marie May, and Lynlie Rae Manon; and grandsons Liam John Manon, Jonah Calvin Manon, and Judah Kelso Manon.

Memorials can be sent to St. Andrew Evangelical Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 6041, Auburn, IN 46706.

“In All Things” podcast episode 15 explores church planting in the EPC with Tom Ricks

 

Episode 15 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Tom Ricks, leader of the EPC’s Church Planting Team. This week, host Dean Weaver and Ricks discuss why church planting is a strategic priority in the denomination. Ricks also shares poignant memories of Kirk Adkisson, planting pastor of All Souls Church in Nashville, Tenn., who died on February 19.

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.

Death of church planter Kirk Adkisson

 

Kirk and Deb Adkisson

Dear sisters and brothers of the EPC,

It is with great sadness that I share the news that our church planter in the Presbytery of the Central South, Kirk Adkisson, has fought the good fight and is now fully with his Savior. Please join me in prayer for his bride, Deb, and the congregation of All Souls Church in Nashville, Tenn., which they planted in 2017.

Deb set up a Caring Bridge page, www.caringbridge.org/visit/kirkadkisson where you can share your love and support. As she posted late last night, “I take comfort that our separation is only temporary.” I praise our Lord that we all can cling to that promise.

Coram deo,

Dean Weaver
EPC Stated Clerk

Collaboration Team seeks to grow inter-department discussion, ministry efforts

 

Led by Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaboration Officer, representatives from a variety of EPC ministries and committees met via video conference on February 10 to cultivate and enhance ministry efforts. The goal of the monthly meetings is to enhance alignment between the Office of the General Assembly, EPC World Outreach, the Next Generation Ministries Council, the Revelation 7:9 Task Force, and other permanent and interim committees of the denomination.

“God has always made sure that we had a redemptive plan, not just for the here-and-now, but for the generations to come,” Davis said. “In our mission, vision, and every component in which we do our ministry, it’s not just to think about what we are doing now but how it will affect generations down the road.”

He emphasized that the next generation of leaders in the EPC—whether they serve in the local church, on the mission field, or in denominational staff roles—are affected “by what we do now. We are not just seeking to be effective and efficient in aligning the strategic priorities for strategy’s sake. We want to align so we look like a puzzle that’s all together and not separated into our parts.”

Davis also noted the strategic priorities of Multiplication (church planting), Transformation (church health), Global Movement, and Effective Biblical Leadership “are not just a good idea. We are setting the landscape and the trajectory to teach our children, and hopefully their children’s children, how to effectively win people for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The group discussed ways to identify and enhance alignment, as well as some tactics for collaborating across the various committees and ministry areas.

Joining Davis were Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach; Jason Dunn, Associate Director of World Outreach; Greg Aydt, Chairman of the Next Generation Ministries Council; Andrew Smith, Co-Chairman of the Revelation 7:9 Task Force; Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk; Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk; Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies; and Vanessa Mullendore, Strategic Priorities Administrative Assistant.

“In All Things” podcast episode 9 features EPC inner-city church planter Brian Evans

 

Episode 9 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Brian Evans, Pastor of 5point7 Community Church in Detroit, Mich., and member of the EPC National Leadership Team. This week, host Dean Weaver and Evans discuss the importance of the local church in effective inner-city ministry, as well as Evans’ background growing up in the same underserved neighborhood he now serves.

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 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