Category Archives: People

National Leadership Team welcomes new members, looks to future

 

NLT201908In its August meeting, the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) convened its 2019-2020 year by welcoming five new members, reviewing the EPC’s mission and vision, and looking to possible futures for the denomination. The meeting was held August 20-21 at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and is one of four in-person gatherings each year.

The 39th General Assembly approved an update to the composition and functions of the NLT, and much of the agenda for the meeting reflected the newly defined responsibilities:

  • Seek the mind of Christ for the EPC and to express this in a mission statement that states who God has called the EPC to be.
  • Development of vision and strategies that express what God is calling the EPC to do to carry out the mission statement.
  • Assess the execution of the mission, vision, and strategies on behalf of the General Assembly.
  • Encourage EPC presbyteries and local churches to participate in implementing the mission, vision, and strategies.

“With the Assembly’s action in June, the NLT is now formally charged with leadership and strategic ‘looking out to the horizon’ and how we could be prepared for that—both the opportunities and the potential challenges,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am thankful for the members of the committee and how seriously they take the collective responsibility to seek the mind of Christ for the EPC.”

The 39th General Assembly also approved increasing the roster of the NLT to twelve elected members. New to the committee are Gerry Arnold, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; Brian Evans, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Brett Garretson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Duke Lineberry, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; and Dave Strunk, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Southeast.

Other members are Tom Werner (Chairman), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America; Chris Danusiar, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Nancy Duff, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Phil Fanara, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Michael Gibson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Rosemary Lukens, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Case Thorp (Moderator of the 39th General Assembly), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Glenn Meyers (Moderator-elect), Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Jeremiah, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

The next meeting of the NLT is scheduled for November 5-6.

City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanks World Outreach Summer Mission Jam participants

 

SummerMissionJam2019HamtramckIn a July 11 post on its Facebook page, the City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanked EPC World Outreach for holding its Summer Mission Jam in the southeastern Michigan city.

“Thank you for making Hamtramck a destination again this year for your Team Summer Jam!,” the post reads. “We enjoy working with you on keeping our city ‘Klean’ and beautiful!”

Surrounded by the city of Detroit, Hamtramck has a significant Bangladeshi, Yemeni, and Bengali population. The city made national news in 2015 when residents elected the first Muslim-majority city council in the country.

“We are thankful for our relationships with the people and leaders of Hamtramck,” said Phil Linton, World Outreach Director. “Our Summer Mission Jam provides an opportunity for high school students to make Muslim friends and talk with them about Jesus without traveling halfway around the world. Hamtramck is a great setting for our students to ‘find somewhere different to love your neighbor,’ as we like to say.”

Students from three EPC churches took part in this year’s event, held July 8-13. Participants spent the afternoon each day serving Hamtramck residents by picking up trash, cleaning yards, and leading outreach games and activities in a local park. In the evenings, students and leaders gathered for worship services in which they were challenged to reimagine the cost of following Christ.

Will, a rising 11th grader from Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn., said his favorite part of the experience was “the opportunity to show God’s love to the people around us and just to be able to serve.”

The 2020 Summer Mission Jam is scheduled for July 20-25 in Fremont, Calif. For more information, see www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

Podcast features Revelation 7:9 Task Force members discussing diversity in the church

 

Four members of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force discussed diversity in the local church on the August 9 episode of The E.A.R. (Evangelical and Reformed) Podcast. Their discussion, “The Beauty of the Local Church through Diversity,” closed the E.A.R. Podcast’s second season, entitled “The Beauty of the Local Church.”

Click the play button to listen:

 

The podcast is hosted by Task Force member Brandon Queen, Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., in the Presbytery of the Gulf South. Appearing with Queen were Teaching Elders Soon Pak, Tim Russell, and Rufus Smith. Pak serves as Pastor of Discipleship for Ward Church in Northville, Mich.; Russell serves as Assistant Pastor to Middle Adults for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Smith is Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

The E.A.R. Podcast is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Podbean, RadioPublic, Spotify, and Stitcher.

EPC represented at World Reformed Fellowship 2019 General Assembly

 
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TE Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., opens the World Reformed Fellowship’s 2019 General Assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia, on August 10.   

Rob Norris, Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md., served as Moderator of the World Reformed Fellowship’s 2019 General Assembly. Todd Smedley, Senior Pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, served the event as Recording Clerk. Also in attendance were Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly.

The WRF’s quadrennial meeting was held at the headquarters of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia in Jakarta, August 8-12.

The general theme for the Assembly was “Storming Seas: Key Challenges Facing the Global Reformed Church Today.” For more information, see www.wrf.global.

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Case Thorp (left), Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, and Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, also attended the WRF’s quadrennial gathering.

Church, Pivot!

 

ThorpPivotArtby Case Thorp
Moderator of the 39th General Assembly

Michael Jordan, I am not. Yet my stocky frame came into its own during middle school basketball. While I wasn’t the one leading in the number of baskets scored, setting the standard in layups, or scoring on average more than four points a season (yes, a season, not a game), my pivot was something to behold. I could take the ball, swing my hips, and redirect the ball in a new direction with my mean pivot. All the skinny boys who weren’t slammed to the floor by my moves—and my hips—were in awe at such skill. I got a nickname from my feats of athletic prowess: The Enforcer.

I find this move, the pivot, an analogy for today’s church.

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Case Thorp

As Presbyterian Christians, we instinctively appreciate our past and recognize the movement that Reformed Christianity was in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. In theory—and from theological conviction—as Reformed Christians we seek to continue the reform begun in Christ’s Church in the glory days of Calvin and others.

Yet the danger of focusing upon our past is that we focus so much on where we’ve been that we can grow lethargic about our future as a church and where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

I see the church as needing to pivot as does a basketball player, who keeps one foot planted while being free to move the other as the situation in front of him or her unfolds. The church today needs to keep one foot firmly grounded in Scripture and our confession, and yet pivot in our methodologies in order to make the pass or attempt the shot. We must push harder on the work of reforming due to the cultural decay around us.

With a smart pivot, our shot toward the goal can result in flourishing Reformed churches for the 21st century that have a robust mission, a clear note of praise for the Father, and sightings of the Kingdom of God that abound.

Over my term serving the Evangelical Presbyterian Church as Moderator, my aim is to advance a conversation. This conversation occurs between us all: church planters, solo pastors, ruling elders, and stated clerks. It is the conversation that seeks honesty and realism about the state of today’s church, and likewise a focus on methodological changes that will lead to the future to which Christ calls us.

Besides traveling to be with many of you, I will be creating a series of blog posts and podcasts focused on issues of pivoting toward a rich and robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more. And so I begin this journey by sharing my opening remarks upon investiture as Moderator.

My intent with these remarks made at Cherry Creek in June was to present to the church and her leaders some past challenges to inspire us for present ministry threats, and then illustrate some of those headwinds. For cultural headwinds are nothing compared to the Spirit of God who fills our sails.

Remarks delivered on June 19, 2019, at the 39th General Assembly of the EPC held at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.:

In September of 1866, my great-great grandfather—the Reverend Charles Thorp—left Noke, Oxfordshire, England, to serve as a missionary, first in Canada, then in the frontiers of America. The challenges and obstacles during his ministry were great, yet the records indicate he never lost his zeal for the gospel or Christ’s church.

Charles lost the companionship of his beloved older brother, who took off to pursue the Australian gold rush of 1851—never to be heard from again. Charles found his oldest child and namesake, at the age of 3, dead in the home’s cistern, which someone tragically had left open. Years later, and four more children later, Charles lost his first wife to death.

Despite these dreadful setbacks, Charles raised a total of ten children, remarried a parishioner four months after conducting her father’s funeral, built three church buildings and a school on the wooded frontiers of Jacksonport, Wisc.; Tampa, Fla., and Mansfield, La. All this time, records show that his highest salary was $800 a year. He got two days of vacation after Christmas, and two Sundays away from his church for mission work. Described in letters as the “indefatigable missionary,” Charles never let a challenge get in the way of the gospel.

115 years later (and just 38 years ago), Bart Hess and Andy Jumper locked arms with Ed Davis, George Scotchmer, and Jim Van Dyke and launched out on their own journey. They dared to explore a frontier where Christ’s church could be both Reformed and evangelical.

They had to minster and creatively lead the church through the issues of their day:

The 20th century rise of evangelicalism;
The impact of the long awaited civil rights movement on society;
The explosion of the church in the global south;
Progressive theology undermining the authority of Scripture and uniqueness of the gospel; and
Social revolutions in America for women and human sexuality;

Our founding fathers, even some here in this room today, began this experiment in theology, polity, church culture, and missional effectiveness that we inherit.

If you were present 38 years ago at the first General Assembly of the EPC, would you please now stand.

Friends, we have our challenges.

The Greatest Generation increasingly join the great General Assembly in glory. Baby Boomers retire at the rate of 10,000 a day, and corporations are preparing for three out of four top executives and management leaders to be gone in the next five to seven years. Gen-Xers and Millennials find themselves taking the reigns of leadership presented with both missional challenges and evangelistic opportunity. Such as:

Adult conversions have bottomed out for us, and we recognize the paltry discipleship we’ve offered our people the past 50 years;
Post-modernism has redefined the meaning of a man, a woman, a child, even the in-utero child, such that a Christian anthropology seems like a foreign, political threat to our neighbors;
Many churches in America today give us Presbyterians a run for our money reaching the masses while perpetuating the false gospel of prosperity, starry-eyed pastors seeking fame, and worship-tainment dislocated from her historic moorings; and
We are only beginning to taste and see the impact of technology and a connected world on our own politics, economics, interpersonal relations, and ministry.

The challenges are great; the horizon darkens.

And yet, we are here. We are here.

We are here because we know our God is sovereign. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know the gospel of Jesus Christ works, brings salvation, change, and restoration. Amen? Amen.

We are here because we know that the Bible tells our story, the story of our God, and the story of God’s mission to the world!

We are here because we know the words of our confession to be true: “The primary and highest purpose of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy Him completely forever.”

We are here because we know our mission as Reformed, Evangelical, Missional, and Presbyterian is the best expression of church as illustrated in Scripture.

Oh, we have challenges, but if we didn’t we’d already be in the New Jerusalem beholding the beatific vision.

As Moderator, I stand with you; here. I pledge to serve you well and with humility. I pledge to face the horizons ahead of us arm in arm because with the Holy Spirit as the wind in your sails, Christ’s church will shine.

Case Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

Richard Alberta dies at 71

 
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Richard Alberta, 1947-2019

Richard Jeffrey Alberta, longtime pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brighton, Mich., died July 29 following a heart attack. He was 71.

Alberta was Pastor of Cornerstone EPC from 1992 until his retirement in December 2018. He also served as chaplain at the Woodland Village assisted living community in Brighton, where he provided comfort and companionship to its residents.

Under Alberta’s leadership, Cornerstone grew from about 350 members to more than 2,000, and hosted the 23rd (2003) and 29th (2009) EPC General Assemblies. He previously served as Associate Pastor for Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Mich., from 1988 to 1992. He also served churches in Oklahoma, New York, and Massachusetts during his 40-year ministry career.

Born in Passaic, N.J., he was the fourth of five children to Frank Alberta, a Sicilian immigrant and restauranteur, and Betty Tillack. While playing football for Mahwah High School in Mahwah, N.J., he met a spunky cheerleader named Donna Pastor.

Following an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps, Alberta studied finance, pre-law, and political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He and Donna, who was also attending Rutgers, married in 1969 and graduated in 1970. Yet he was an avowed atheist, having abandoned Christianity in the 1960s in response to Vietnam War and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

By 1977, he was enjoying a successful career, a happy marriage, and their first son (born that year). In a 2018 interview, Alberta said that at the time, he was struggling with depression and anxiety, but agreed to attend a church service with his niece where he found unexpected comfort in the gospel message.

Both he and Donna accepted Christ in the succeeding months, and he sensed a call to become a minister to strengthen and support the faith of others. They soon moved to Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pa.

He is survived by his wife, Donna; son Christopher; son and daughter-in-law Jonathan and Kristi; son and daughter-in-law Brian and Stephanie; son and daughter-in-law Tim and Sweta; 11 grandchildren; a sister, Betty Lynn; and three brothers: Frank, Ted, and Jack.

A memorial service will be held on August 2 at Cornerstone EPC in Brighton. At the family’s request, memorial donations can be made to the Livingston County Right to Life or the Pregnancy Help Clinic in Brighton.

Click here for a full memorial notice.

 

Case Thorp elected Moderator of 39th General Assembly

 
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Former EPC General Assembly Moderators lay hands on Case Thorp, newly installed Moderator of the 39th General Assembly, as Thorp’s father, Chuck, (left) offers the prayer.

Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, was elected Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly on June 19 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo. Thorp serves as Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.

In his opening remarks, Thorp acknowledged that believers—and the Church—will face adversity.

“Oh, we have challenges,” he said. “If we didn’t, we’d already be in the New Jerusalem. But these challenges, friends, are opportunities. So I am honored to serve you, to stand here arm-in-arm with you, and to face the horizons knowing we have the Holy Spirit in our sails and Jesus calling us forward.”

GA2019CaseThorpInvestiture

Thorp receives the the traditional stole and Moderator’s cross from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly.

In his role in Orlando, Thorp combines his passion for teaching with his interest in the confluence of faith and work. He founded and leads The Collaborative for Cultural and Economic Renewal (a faith, work, economics outreach in Orlando), and also serves as a city network leader for the Made to Flourish Network (a faith and work network for pastors). He also helped found IDignity, a social enterprise that assists the underprivileged obtain essential government identification.

He serves as adjunct faculty for Palm Beach Atlantic University and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and has preached in Madagascar, Tajikistan, and Brazil. In addition, his writings have been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Green Room Blog and the Orlando Sentinel.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Thorp is a graduate of Oxford College, Emory University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary (from which he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Missional Ecclesiology).

He and his wife, Jodi, have three children: Alexandra, 13; Charles, 11; and Brooks, 6.

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Chris Piehl: Ephesians 3:14-19 is a prayer for today’s church

 

GA2019Worship-PiehlIn the Wednesday afternoon worship service of the 39th General Assembly, Chris Piehl noted three components of the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus as recorded in Ephesians 3:14-19. Piehl serves as Pastor of Students and Families for Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., the host church for the Assembly.

“Paul prays for God’s power for them, for Christ to dwell in their hearts, and for them to experience God’s fullness,” Piehl said.

Regarding the prayer for God’s power for the church, Piehl said that it was not physical strength that Paul was praying for them, but rather it was for their spiritual being.

“They needed the strength of someone who could step into the brokenness and aloneness they were experiencing in their lives,” he said. “My question for you is this: Are you struggling with loneliness? Uncertainty? Doubt? Fatigue? Then this prayer is for you.”

Concerning the prayer for Christ to “dwell in their hearts,” Piehl said the word Paul uses is “that Christ would dwell deeply in their lives—that Christ would be the master of their house with full and complete control of them,” he said. “Do you desire that Christ might dwell deeply in your heart? Do you desire to chase after him with everything you have?”

Finally, Piehl explained the portion of the prayer in which Paul prayer for the Ephesian church to experience God’s fullness.

“Paul is saying that to be full of the fullness of God is to understand this vast, unmeasured, deep, deep love of Jesus,” he said. “That is what Paul is praying for his church. My question for you is: If you are honest, would you say your love has grown cold or maybe callous? Do you long to comprehend the love of Christ for you and those you serve? Do you desire to be filled with this love?”

Piehl also noted that Paul’s prayer is based on the work that Christ has already accomplished. “So Paul can pray this prayer with confidence, knowing that it will be fulfilled because it has already been fulfilled in Christ,” he concluded.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities

 

GA2019LI9-SessionsIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Turning Sessions into Spiritual Communities, Doug Resler discussed a variety of spiritual practices designed to help Ruling Elders grow in Christ so that they can accomplish their task of being the mind of Christ for the local church.

“We’ve got to look beyond the sermon time in our worship service. That’s not the only time we preach.”

Resler’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Leadership” track. He serves as Senior Pastor for Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.

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2019 Leadership Institute: Leading as a Shepherd

 

GA2019LI6-ShepherdDudleyAs a portion of his 2019 Leadership Institute seminar Leading as a Shepherd, Bill Dudley provided guidance on how Teaching Elders can shepherd the members of a church Nominating Committee tasked with recommending a slate of Ruling Elders for the congregation.

“It’s the holy wisdom that Jethro had and Moses had that a Nominating Committee also needs to understand as they recommend church members for leadership roles. It’s not that they have a just list of names, but that they recommend people who are gifted and called. These people will be serving and facilitating for mission and outreach, and not just preservation of the past.”

Dudley’s session was part of the Leadership Institute “Leadership” track. He serves as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Southeast and was the Moderator of the 33rd General Assembly.

#epc2019ga

2019 Leadership Institute: The Church and Its Common Doctrine

 

GA2019LI5-WestminsterHopkinsIn the 2019 Leadership Institute seminar The Church and Its Common Doctrine, Zach Hopkins discussed some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Reformed tradition.

“We are a confessional people. But what does that mean to be ‘confessional?’ As Presbyterians, we adhere to a “good faith subscription” to the Westminster Confession of Faith; what (EPC Stated Clerk) Jeff Jeremiah describes as an ‘open and honest’ subscription.”

Acknowledging the well-known saying that “Doctrine divides,” Hopkins noted that in the EPC, “our doctrinal unity is the foundation upon which our fraternal unity exists. We are united in our doctrinal convictions.”

Hopkins’ session was part of the Leadership Institute track on Reformed Theology. He serves as pastor of Edgington Presbyterian Church in Edgington, Illinois.

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39th General Assembly check-in underway

 

GA2019CheckInUnderwayThe check-in disk at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo., is a busy place as commissioners and guests arrive for the 39th General Assembly. Among those checking in on June 18 are (from right) Lisa and Gary O’Keefe from Fellowship Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Lyon, Mich., where he serves as a Ruling Elder, and (left) Dean Weaver, Moderator of the 37th General Assembly and current Chairman of the National Leadership Team.

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39th General Assembly in final preparation stage

 

GAFinalPrepIn an annual tradition, it’s “all hands on deck” for the staff of the Office of the General Assembly (and a few volunteers) assembling registration packets for the 39th General Assembly. From left, Samantha Fisher, Caroline Swanson, Marti Brenner, Rebeca Santana, Lisa Francescone, Wosene Scott, Holly Francescone, Vanessa Seda, Janet Linton, and Becky VanValkenburg ensure that each Commissioner’s lanyard receives the proper credentials, meal tickets, and more.

The 39th General Assembly will be held June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

Click here for complete GA information, including schedule, worship speakers, business session documents, and more.

#epc2019ga

EPC Chaplain Graham Baily awarded USAF Global Strike Command ‘outstanding officer chaplain’

 

GrahamBailyCapt. Graham Baily, an EPC-ordained chaplain assigned to the U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., has received the annual Edwin R. Chess Award as the outstanding Company Grade Officer Chaplain within the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

The award is not the first for Baily and his ministry team. Past recognition includes the Charles R. Meier Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an Air Force Chaplain Assistant, and an Outstanding Religious Support Team award.

“Graham is a tremendous example of a chaplain who goes far above and beyond in his ministry to the Airmen and many others he supports at Whiteman,” said Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. “A few months ago I went to Whiteman to visit Graham and experience his ministry firsthand. He was the project officer for the National Prayer Luncheon, and was hosting the Air Force Chief of Chaplains as their guest speaker. The event received rave reviews from all corners—including the Chief. That is just another example of the impact Graham is having.”

Baily and his religious support team provide and accommodate for the first amendment right of the Airmen and families of Whiteman AFB to freely exercise their faith and receive pastoral care. Baily said that that is their official mission, but he has a second variation in mind as well.

“The way it works itself out in my life and in my work is that we are here to love Airmen,” he said. “Coming alongside them in good times and bad to partner with them in their own perseverance as they strive to become the best versions of themselves.”

After separating from the Air Force as a Senior Airman in 2000, Baily attended college and then graduate school. He then became a pastor. While working on a sermon in 2006, he paused to reflect on some of the difficulties in his own life as a young pastor, husband, and father.

“I just sat and talked with God for a while,” Baily said. “I asked Him, ‘Where is this journey of ministry taking me and my family? Is this the right place for me to continue serving?’”

While reaching into a desk drawer to retrieve a notebook, he found an Air Force coin that had been given to him by a chaplain before he left the Air Force.

“Holding it in my hand, there was just this moment of clarity,” Baily recalled. “When it became very clear to me that this community—the community of people in the United States Air Force—was the community that I wanted to serve in some way.”

He said he did not know what that service would look like at first, but that it eventually began to take shape.

Baily earned a Master of Divinity degree and began to serve as an USAF Reserve chaplain in 2009. He also continued to work as a civilian pastor in local congregations. In 2012, he rejoined the active-duty Air Force to serve Airmen and their families.

Since joining team Whiteman, Baily has made a lasting impact in the areas of leadership, base and community involvement, and in his strides to continually self-improve.

In the last year alone, he piloted a $135,000 renovation to the base ministry center. He also volunteered more than 220 hours within the community as an athletic coach/mentor and academic lead for resilience outreach at Gordon College.

Baily became only the second Air Force Chaplain to be admitted to the Clinical Pastoral Education program, through which he learned to respond as a minister to traumatic emergencies and engage in spiritual triage in a hospital setting. He recalled the first trauma he responded to—a severe burn victim who had survived a house fire.

“I’ll tell you,” he said. “The time spent at the hospital has really transformed the way that I engage with people.”

He described his approach now as trauma-informed ministry.

“When I engage with people now, I am far more mindful of what they’ve been through and what they might be going through,” he said. “I have a better sense of how to help them recover from traumatic events.”

He described how that knowledge applies to his work as a chaplain within the Air Force.

“More people than we realize have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives and they carry that around with them. Sometimes they experience that before they join the military and bring all of that with them.”

As examples, Baily cited abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, car accidents, and natural disasters. Since completing the CPE program, he has invested more than 200 hours responding to Team Whiteman during various traumatic crises.

“People who have experienced trauma need to feel safe,” he said. “They need to be able to mourn and they need to be able to reconnect in ways that are meaningful. Being mindful of that process toward recovery is important.”

Baily said the Chess Award, while a great honor, pales in comparison to the reward he takes from his work helping the people around him heal.

“There’s no way to briefly sum up what it’s like to journey with an Airman as they become their best selves,” he said. “As I guide them, I am also becoming my best self. I have been refined by the community that I care so deeply for.”

Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean celebrates ‘firsts’ at spring meeting

 
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Juan Rivera, Pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, leads the 87th stated meeting of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean in prayer.

The EPC’s Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean held its first-ever meeting in Puerto Rico May 17-18, 2019. The 87th stated meeting of the presbytery was held at Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, a suburb of San Juan.

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Carlos Sierra Pou (right) was received by the Presbytery of Florida and Caribbean as the first Candidate Under Care from an EPC congregation in Puerto Rico.

In addition to being the first EPC presbytery meeting held in Puerto Rico, attendees celebrated another first. The presbytery received Carlos Sierra Pou as the first Candidate Under Care from one of the EPC’s three Puerto Rican congregations. A member of Westminster Bayamón and a Master of Divinity student at Seminario Teológico de Puerto Rico, he is pursuing ordination as a Teaching Elder.

“Our three EPC congregations on the island poured out rich and sincere Puerto Rican hospitality,” said Case Thorp, EPC Moderator-Elect. “We toured Westminster’s recently acquired property that will one day be their new home, and had a prayer of dedication. What a great weekend!”

Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, and serves as Senior Associate Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

Attendees also heard reports from Presbytery Stated Clerk Bob Garment, Ministerial Chair Rick Gerhardt, Treasurer Don Mason, and Church Development Chair Greg Gunn. EPC Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri presented a report on church planting efforts in the presbytery.

In addition, Marc de Jeu, a member of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force, provided an update on the group’s work. The Task Force will make a full report on the first year of their work at the 39th General Assembly, June 18-21 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver, Colo.

Phil VanValkenburg announces retirement from Office of the General Assembly

 
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Phil VanValkenburg

Phil VanValkenburg will retire from his role as Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the EPC Office of the General Assembly on June 30. He and his wife, Becky, will return to St. Louis, Mo., where their two adult children and four grandchildren live. Prior to accepting the then-new position of COO in 2012, VanValkenburg served as Executive Administrator for Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Prior to taking that responsibility in 2004, he spent many years in business, parachurch ministries, and lay church leadership, including serving as a deacon and elder in two other St. Louis EPC churches.

“Phil’s contributions to the EPC have been immense,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “He led nearly every major project involving the operations of the Office of the General Assembly over the past six years. Among these were the relocation of the office from Detroit to Orlando, including taking the lead in hiring our current administrative staff. He also oversaw a revamp of our Annual Church Report process, and guided us through a legal entity restructure in which World Outreach and Benefit Resources, Inc., are now in essence wholly-owned subsidiaries of the EPC. That was no small task, and the result is a significantly reduced exposure to risk.”

Jeremiah noted that VanValkenburg also led a conversion of the EPC’s communications and technology infrastructure systems.

“God has been very present and merciful through immense organizational change, and I deeply appreciate His calling me to serve Him with the EPC,” Phil told the National Leadership Team at their April meeting. “Please pray as Becky and I spend more time with each other and our family, unite and serve with the right church, and reconnect with many friends. Pray that God will open opportunities for me to use the gifts and time He’s given me to advance His kingdom—and keep me busy!”