Category Archives: Uncategorized

2021 Leadership Institute features Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, Rufus Smith, practical training workshops

 

Ligon Duncan, George Robertson, and Rufus Smith are the keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s sixth annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly, to be held June 22-25 at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Each of the plenary speakers will address a topic related to this year’s General Assembly theme, “God Will Restore.” The theme is based on God’s promise in Joel 2:25 that He “will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten … You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you … ”

Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss., will address “Combating Biblical Anemia: Scripture, Discipleship, Worship, and Preaching” on Tuesday, June 22. His presentation will be available via live stream on the EPC website.

On Wednesday morning, June 23, Robertson will discuss “Soul Care for Pastors.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, host church for the Assembly.

On Wednesday afternoon, Smith will speak about “Kindness that Leads to Reconciliation.” He serves as Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis. Both Wednesday sessions will be available via live stream and include time for Q-and-A.

Four ministry-specific leadership development gatherings will be available for in-person Assembly attendees.

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. Berry will lead sessions on “Why Religious Freedom Matters and What Our Nation’s Founders Intended” and “Threats to Religious Freedom and What We Can Do to Protect It.”
  • Creating Church Planting Networks and Partnerships, led by Tom Ricks, Lead Pastor of Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., and Chairman of the EPC Church Planting Team.
  • Transitional Pastor Training, led by Bob Stauffer, Church Development Coordinator for the Presbytery of the Alleghenies.
  • The Israel of God, a discussion of the identity of Israel in the biblical narrative—apart from contemporary political considerations—in which God’s purposes for His covenant people as revealed in Scripture will be examined, as well as thoughts on how Christ’s church should respond with compassion and justice to both Israelis and Arabs. The seminar will be led by Mike Kuhn, Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network.

Each of these workshops is open to anyone attending the 41st General Assembly in person.

See www.epc.org/ga2021leadershipinstitute for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

See www.epc.org/ga2021 for more information about the 41st General Assembly, including a full schedule, links to online registration, and more.

#epc2021ga

March 2021 EPC budget report: PMA support continues above projection

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through March 31 total $1,810,425. March PMA support was $400,603.

The total is $261,927 (16.9 percent) more than the $1,548,498 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

PMA support at the three-quarter mark of FY21 (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) is $51,856 (2.8 percent) behind the $1,862,281 contributed over the same period in FY20, and only 3 percent lower than the original FY21 PMA projection—which was later reduced by 17 percent and approved by the 40th General Assembly in September 2020 as the “Bare Bones Plus budget.”

“I think I’ve said this every month now, but I am very thankful for the PMA support that our churches provide,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I am especially grateful that God has blessed our churches in such a way that they can continue to contribute so generously to the EPC over the past year.”

Of the $1,810,425 received, $362,085 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $4,195,783 in designated gifts were received through March 31. This total was $272,555 (6.5 percent) lower than the $4,468,338 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20. Jeremiah noted that the difference can be attributed to more than $350,000 in donations to the Emergency Relief Fund in fall 2019 following Hurricane Dorian, and a December 2019 gift of $250,000 for church planting.

“Giving to specific projects outside of those two funds is up more than $360,000 this year over the previous year,” Jeremiah said. “I am grateful for this level of generosity in such extraordinary times.”

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $4,088,595 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $107,188 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk models Revelation 7:9 with local outreach efforts

 

A beacon of hope and light sits on the top of a hill in Nassau, Bahamas. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk is a church with a rich history and tradition. It was established in 1810 to bring the rites and traditions of the Church of Scotland to Scottish immigrants—some of whom were “loyalists” banished to the Bahamas following the American Revolution nearly 30 years earlier. But the picturesque, inviting structure houses a congregation that looks very different today than it once did.

“When I arrived at the church in 2010,” said Pastor Bryn MacPhail, “There were about 40 persons attending worship and only two or three children.” He added that the congregation was predominantly white in a country where 90 percent of the population is Black.

“I really believed our church should reflect the diversity of the community around us,” he noted. “I found an orphanage nearby called Ranfurly Home for Children and started volunteering there once a week so I could build a relationship with them.”

Bryn MacPhail

MacPhail also discovered that the church bordered the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhood in the city, known as Bain and Grant’s Town. He began volunteering in a local community center, the Urban Renewal Center, and soon was bringing others from the church with him to play sports, provide tutoring, and take kids to lunch.

“It took a while for people to warm up to us,” MacPhail recalled. “But we kept going, week after week. That went on for a couple of years. Eventually the director of the center told me that most of these kids did not go to church. She suggested that maybe we could find a way to get them there.”

So St. Andrew’s hired a bus and driver, which cost $60 a week. They began driving around the neighborhoods of the inner city, inviting kids to come to church. In the first year and a half, they averaged two to four kids per week on the bus.

Their persistence paid off—eventually the bus filled up with kids from the city, and a second bus was added to bring youth from the Ranfurly Home. On any given Sunday, as many as 50-60 children and youth came for Sunday worship.

MacPhail soon realized that the influx of young people was more than the church could handle, so he asked a local missionary, Bob Mastin, to become the church’s ministry partner. In addition, a St. Andrew’s deacon who had served as Assistant Commissioner of Police stepped in as the point person to help with logistics and to make local connections.

Luncheons for area residents are just one of many ways St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk blesses its neighbors in Nassau.

Mastin, who serves with Bahamas Youth Network, already had a strong rapport with the youth and ran a parallel ministry in Nassau. He had moved to the island in 2017 after several years of visiting on short-term mission trips. As a coach and teacher, his love for youth and passion for sports were natural connection points for helping him relate to inner-city kids.

“My heart is in working with underprivileged kids,” Mastin said. “When I arrived, I was the only white guy in my neighborhood. One day I was out canvassing the streets when the police pulled me over and asked for my ID. They thought I was lost and warned me that I was in a dangerous area. I told them that this is where God had called me and my wife, and we were here to stay because we wanted to help the community in whatever way we could.”

Mastin agreed to partner with St. Andrews while maintaining his commitment to Bahamas Youth Network—which keeps him busy visiting local high schools, coaching soccer, and teaching family life classes.

“We’re all doing this together, and it really is making a huge difference and having an impact,” Mastin noted. “I recently had lunch with two guys who I have built a relationship with. One of them is schizophrenic and has been in the mental hospital 12 times trying to kick a drug habit. He told me that since I came down and brought the gospel, he has found meaning and purpose for his life. I told him that it’s not me, it’s the Lord. And he said, ‘But you are the vessel God used in my life.’”

The partnership between Mastin and St. Andrew’s is bearing fruit in the form of a Thursday night discipleship group with eight boys between the ages of 12 and 18, which started in January.

“We’re studying a curriculum that invites them to talk about painful moments in their lives,” MacPhail said. “One 14-year-old boy shared about how on his sixth birthday he watched the police come and arrest his Dad and take him away. The stories we hear are horrific.”

St. Andrew’s has a long-standing partnership with McDonald’s to provide backpacks and school supplies to children in several neighborhoods near the church in downtown Nassau. The backpacks were filled with books, pens, pencils, and other supplies. Children who received the backpacks attend the St. Andrew’s Sunday School and Big Harvest Community Sunday School.

Mastin believes that growing up in a tough environment has made them more resilient.

“They really are great kids,” he said. “You can see that they are hungry for something different, and they are growing in their faith and seeking after the Lord.”

A few of the youth have chosen to be baptized, and some of them serve on St. Andrew’s audio/visual team.

“I can’t wait to watch their stories unfold,” MacPhail said. “We told them that we will invest in them every week, and our hope is that they will grow in their faith and become deacons and leaders in the church someday. We even promised them that if any one of them feels called to be a pastor we will help with their education.”

The group already has an inspiring role model who is one of their own—Jude Vilma.

“Jude was born in Nassau and grew up in a Haitian Creole community on the island of Abaco, about 100 miles north of here),” MacPhail said. “Through a variety of influences he graduated from high school, received a scholarship to work with Bahamas Youth Network, and started attending college.”

It was around that time that Vilma—who currently is studying at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando—met MacPhail and got connected with St. Andrew’s.

“God called me to full-time ministry, and I served as a Youth Coordinator with the Bahamas Youth Network and also a pastoral intern with St. Andrew’s Kirk,” Vilma noted. “This partnership enabled me to serve in the church and work with this community organization that is big on discipleship. I was also eager to take theology classes online because of my love for God’s Word and for learning.”

Jude Vilma

MacPhail said his dream is that Vilma will one day return to the Bahamas and become the Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s.

“God’s been gracious to me and has blessed this ministry, but a white foreigner can only do so much,” said MacPhail, who hails from Canada. “Most of our inner-city kids are from a Haitian background, and many of the adults do not even speak English. I believe the church would absolutely explode in size if Jude took over. He can speak to them in a way that I can’t.”

Vilma said that he plans to return to the Bahamas once he has completed his education and as the Lord leads.

“My hope for the church in the Bahamas,” he said, “is that there would be more pastors and leaders who proclaim sound doctrine, that there would be unity among believers, and that Christianity would be seen as a lifestyle—not just a religion or something you do on a Sunday.”

Until Vilma’s hope is realized, MacPhail said St. Andrew’s will continue to faithfully serve their neighbors in Bain and Grant’s Town, even though the pandemic has not made it easy. He said they have been unable to visit the orphanage in 13 months, and they started operating a food pantry out of MacPhail’s office just to try and meet all the needs. He reported that in the past year alone they distributed more than $50,000 worth of food.

“People occasionally ask me what the secret is, and how we have been able to succeed in the face of adversity,” MacPhail said. “I tell them one thing: Just keep showing up.”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

Jeff Jeremiah: Easter means living hope

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade!” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

This great passage declares a number of significant and life-changing truths that we celebrate each day, but especially on Easter Sunday. One of the most prominent and precious is the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.

Can there be a greater contrast between the world’s view of hope and the Christian’s hope? The world’s view can be summed up well in the little boy’s statement, “Hope is wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen.” You can hope for something to happen in the future, but it’s ultimately futile because you can’t control what happens in the future. Hoping is no more than wishful thinking. The testimony of God’s Word is that hope isn’t wishing. Hope is a certainty, a fact that God has promised and will fulfill. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday is the event in human history—the certain, factual basis of our hope as Christians.

Here’s another distinctive about our hope. It’s alive. What does that mean? The opposite of living hope would be dead hope, and that calls to mind a similar phrase: dead faith. In James 2:26, the Apostle writes “faith without works is dead.” Dead faith has no effect, no power, no influence. Living faith—and, by analogy, living hope—has power and influence. In short, it impacts your life. This living hope makes a difference in our lives today in at least three ways.

First, hope that lives gives you courage to face the challenges and trials of life. We’ve certainly faced enough of them in the past year! You need not cower in fear, for you know at the end Jesus is victorious over the greatest enemy to life. In Him, you will be too. If He’s solved the problem of death, you can be sure He’s taken care of all the other problems, difficulties, and trials we face. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!”

Second, hope that lives gives you confidence because you know who’s in control. The resurrected Christ is not only alive at this moment—He’s alive in power and glory! The sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords is in control of creation, in control of human history, and yes, in control of your life. Because of what He did for you on the Cross, in love—giving His life for you—you can know that He’s personally, positively, and passionately committed to you. You can be confident because you know His purpose for you is good, for He declares, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Third, hope that lives in your life gives you comfort in the face of death. You’re freed from the fear of death, because you know that as Jesus conquered death, so too shall you. And that victory will usher us into an eternal life that is glorious, where in the presence of God Himself you’ll enjoy praise and peace, love and joy. There will be no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death. This is the living hope that can be yours because the tomb is empty, because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead!

There is a reason why hope is described in Hebrews 6:19 as “an anchor for the soul…both sure and steadfast.” Because Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, ours is a hope that is certain, ours is a hope that is alive, ours is a hope that is a difference-maker as we live as followers of Jesus Christ.

Jeff Jeremiah has served as Stated Clerk of the EPC since 2006.

March Jeremiah Journal outlines 2021 Leadership Institute adjustments

 

In the March 2021 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah describes some additional scheduling changes for the upcoming 41st General Assembly since last month’s edition in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Assembly is scheduled for June 22-25, 2021, at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Two Minute Topics video series continues with IRS non-profit organization group exemption changes

 

In the latest installment of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri discusses two steps EPC churches must take in order to comply with recent changes to the Internal Revenue Service’s non-profit organization group exemption.

“Two Minute Topics” are short, informative videos that address questions that the Office of the General Assembly frequently receives.

 

January 2021 EPC budget report: PMA support 6 percent above projection, slightly behind 2019 pace

 

Contributions to Per Member Asking (PMA) received by the Office of the General Assembly in fiscal year 2021 (FY21) through January 31 total $1,409,822.

The total is $190,581 (15.6 percent) more than the $1,219,241 FY21 PMA support projection to fund the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

PMA support in the first seven months of FY21 (which runs from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) is $61,312 (4 percent) behind the $1,471,134 contributed over the same period in FY20, and roughly the same percentage lower than the original FY21 PMA projection—which was reduced by 17 percent and approved by the 40th General Assembly in September 2020 as the “Bare Bones Plus budget.” In addition, January PMA support of $174,936 lowers the 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions to $195,210—approximately 3 percent less than the rolling average as of January 31, 2020.

“I am very grateful that as we turned the calendar from 2020 to 2021 our churches continue their commitment to the EPC through Per Member Asking,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “God gets the glory that PMA contributions have remained strong. At the same time, we made some drastic cuts to this year’s budget that are not sustainable for the long-term. So even though we are ahead of our projections, I hope our churches continue to commit to PMA.”

Of the $1,409,822 received, $281,964 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,386,153 in designated gifts were received through January 31. This total was $235,107 (6.5 percent) lower than the $3,621,260 in designated gifts received in the same period in FY20.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $3,314,830 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $71,323 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Leadership development the topic of February 24 installment of Church Revitalization Workshop

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, February 24, with a discussion of how to develop a leadership pipeline for the church officer nomination and training process.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

Puerto Rico churches gather for virtual prayer summit

 

On January 21, the Sessions of the EPC’s three churches in Puerto Rico gathered virtually for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. Nearly 30 individuals participated in the video conference.

The congregations are Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (Westminster Presbyterian Church) in Bayamón, Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez (Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Mayagüez), and Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica en Añasco (Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Añasco). All are members of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The group, which included pastors Juan Rivera (Bayamón), Abraham Montes (Añasco), and Ariel Toro (Mayagüez) convened the prayer time to give thanks for the blessings received during 2020, and pray in the same spirit for the church, its projects, the sick, Puerto Rico, and the United States. Enid Flores, Ruling Elder for Westminster Presbyterian Church and current Moderator of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean also participated.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to pray together, using the best tool that we have in our hands to entrust our life, our projects, and serve the island of Puerto Rico,” Enid said. “To God and God alone be the glory!

________________________

Comenzando el año 2021 las tres iglesias del Presbiterio de la Florida y el Caribe de la EPC ubicadas en Puerto Rico que son la Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster (IPW), la Iglesia Presbiteriana en Mayaguez (IPEM) y la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Añasco (IPEA) se unieron, en un solo espíritu, en un tiempo de oración para la gloria de nuestro Señor.

Los tres Consistorios, con sus pastores, Pastor Juan Rivera, Pastor Abraham Montes y Pastor Ariel Toro lideraron el tiempo de oración con el fin de dar gracias por las bendiciones recibidas durante el 2020 y orar juntos en un mismo espíritu, por la iglesia, sus proyectos, los enfermos, Puerto Rico y los Estados Unidos en los momentos que estamos viviendo.  Los acompañó como invitada la Moderadora del Presbiterio de Florida y el Caribe, la Anc. Enid D. Flores.

Damos gracias por la oportunidad de orar juntos, utilizando la mejor herramienta que tenemos en nuestras manos para encomendar nuestra vida, nuestros proyectos, y con ello servirle a la isla. ¡A Dios y solo a Dios sea la gloria!

Session 3 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of “The Revitalization of the Session,” session 3 of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop, is now available. The workshop is being held via video conference on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registrations for future installments is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcasts of each workshop session are available on the EPC podcast channel and iTunes.

World Outreach prayer directory available for pre-order

 

Orders are now being accepted for the EPC World Outreach prayer directory.

Commitment to global movement through missions is one of four strategic priorities for the EPC. One way each of our congregations can engage in this is by supporting our global workers financially and through prayer. The spiral-bound directory is designed for desktop display and includes a comprehensive list of all EPC global workers and their prayer needs. The directory offers opportunity to get to know the EPC’s global workers and their ministries, region of service, and ways you can pray for them.

To pre-order, go to www.epcwo.org/prayerdirectory. The deadline to order is February 3, 2021.

41st General Assembly planning continues

 

The GA Core Team from the Office of the General Assembly met with leaders of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., on January 26 to continue planning for the 41st General Assembly. Second Presbyterian Church is hosting the Assembly June 22-25.

Members of the GA Core Team are Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk; Dean Weaver, Stated Clerk-elect; Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk; Marti Brenner, Events Coordinator; and Brian Smith, Director of Communications. George Robertson is the Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church.

The theme of the Assembly is “God Will Restore,” referencing Joel 2:25-27. Online registration opens on April 1. For more information, see www.epc.org/ga2021.

January Jeremiah Journal describes changes at the Office of the General Assembly

 

In the January 2021 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah Jeff discusses some major transitions taking place at the Office of the General Assembly.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Committee announces updates to World Outreach Executive Director search

 

The World Outreach Executive Director Search Committee has extended the deadline for applications to February 28. In addition, the requirement that the next Executive Director of World Outreach live in Orlando has been relaxed.

“We want to allow as much time as possible for interested individuals to complete the application materials,” said Rob Liddon, chairman of the nine-member search committee. “Also, the committee recognizes—and the National Leadership Team affirms—that while local residency to the office is strongly preferred, a leader with the experience and qualifications we are seeking for the role may well have strategic contacts, networks, and other relationships that a relocation may weaken. In short, by making these two adjustments to the search process we believe we are removing two potential stumbling blocks that may prevent us hearing from the best—and God’s preferred—candidate for this critical position.”

World Outreach is the international missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

Through World Outreach, the EPC and its more than 630 Christ-centered congregations seek to extend God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations by commissioning and sending workers, as well as partnering with like-minded mission organizations around the world. The Executive Director of World Outreach will be on the forefront of building on a strong tradition of global partnerships, as well as leading change and guiding mission impact.

For more information, including application materials and the position description, see www.epc.org/woexecutivedirectorsearch.

EPC Chaplain Endorser leverages Christmas lights display for local food bank

 

For the seventh consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has used his home Christmas lights display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

On December 2, Fox21News in Colorado Springs publicized the effort with a “Cans for Christmas” feature.

Ingles’ efforts to help local families has grown significantly—in his first year of collecting non-perishable food in 2014, 165 pounds were dropped off. By 2018, the haul was nearly 1,650 pounds and last year he collected 2,200 pounds.

 

December Jeremiah Journal offers message of hope for Christmas

 

In the December 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah brings a brief message of hope for Christmas and for the coming year.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Indiana pastors brave 30-degree chill to serve drive-through communion

 

With assistance from Ruling Elder Ruth Wood (right), Joyce Harris (left), Lead Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Chuch in Kokomo, Ind., served the Lord’s Supper to church members Dick and Myra Sanburn.

The adage “cold hands, warm heart” rings true for Joyce Harris, Lead Pastor of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kokomo, Ind. On December 6, Harris and Associate Pastor Jerry Van Auken weathered 30-degree temperatures to serve an outdoor, drive-in Lord’s Supper members of the central Indiana congregation.

“Our gloves were not the warm type—bummer—but they were health approved,” Harris quipped.

She said that those who viewed the 9:30 a.m. worship service online were invited to drive to the church campus for the communion service. For 30 minutes “non-stop,” she and Van Auken served the elements and prayed with each car.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be so encouraged in ministry by doing drive-by communion,” Harris said. “Members were warm in their cars, and we were masked and gloved. After a brief acknowledgement of the sermon content and partaking of the elements, we prayed with each one.”

Harris said it was “a highlight of my day” for so many people to come.

“At one point we had four cars waiting. We took our time with each one because this is their time to connect with their pastors. They are the ones who feel isolated and vulnerable, and this is a way they are willing to come to us to share in the table.”

Jane Roes, wife of 28th Moderator Allen Roes, dies at 76

 

Jane and Allen Roes

Jane Choplin Roes, wife of 28th General Assembly Moderator Allen Roes, died on November 24. She was 76.

The Roes lived in Huntersville, N.C., where they are longtime members of Lake Forest Church.

Survivors include her husband, Allen; daughter, Gina Roes of Huntersville; son and daughter-in-law; Courtney and Krista Roes of Kandern, Germany; grandson, Alex; sister, Sara Brady; and sister-in-law, Bonnie Choplin.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 p.m., at Lake Forest Church. To watch the live stream, send condolences, or make a memorial gift, see www.roesgarden.com/JaneRoes.

Church Revitalization Workshop session 2 scheduled for November 25

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, November 25, with the topic, “Revitalization of the Pastor.” The discussion will focus on areas specific to the spiritual revitalization of the pastor and will include such topics as humility, repentance, preaching the gospel to yourself, sustaining revitalization over the long haul, and where to go when you need help.

Facilitators include Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop. Those who registered prior to session 1 do not need to register for each month’s session.

November Jeremiah Journal highlights EPC church planting

 

In the November 2020 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah offers some Thanksgiving thoughts and describes this year’s EPC Thanksgiving offering for church planting.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

October 2020 EPC budget report: PMA contributions behind FY 2020, above 2021 budget projection

 

As of October 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly during the first four months of fiscal year 2021 (FY21) total $780,906. The amount received is $2,242 less than the $783,148 received during the same period in fiscal year 2020. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

While PMA is slightly below last year’s pace, year-to-date contributions are 20.3 percent ($132,090) above the YTD $648,816 “Bare Bones Plus” budget approved by the 40th General Assembly to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“We reduced the budget by 17 percent in light of what we expected to be difficult economic conditions for our churches,” said Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah. “Yet our congregations continue to show how much they value the connectionalism so central to who we are. I am so grateful for their generosity. And because of the continued strong support, the National Leadership Team is beginning to discuss increasing some strategic line items in the budget as the Assembly authorized them to do should giving exceed expectations.”

The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is now $199,278—approximately 1 percent less than the rolling average as of October 31, 2020. PMA support in October 2020 was $219,640.

Of the $780,906 received, $156,181 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $1,788,430 in designated gifts were received through October 31. This total was $85,640 (4.5 percent) lower than the $1,874,070 in designated gifts received in the same period in fiscal year 2020. Jeremiah noted that if more than $276,000 donated to the Emergency Relief Fund following 2019’s Hurricane Dorian is not considered, giving to designated funds is up more than $187,000 (11.7 percent).

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $1,768,514 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $19,916 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Ministry paths converge in Orlando for Bahamas, Pennsylvania ordination candidates

 

FROM THERE; GOING THERE: Carrie and Barrett Hendrickson (left) greeted Jude and Keitra Vilma after a recent worship service at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Jude grew up in Marsh Harbor and now serves as a pastoral resident at FPCO. The Hendricksons arrived in Marsh Harbor on November 4 to serve with the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines under the auspices of the Caribbean Youth Network.

What do Pittsburgh, Orlando, and Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas have in common? For two EPC ordination candidates and their families, Orlando is the middle link in a chain that stretches more than 1,000 miles across two countries.

On September 3, Jude and Keitra Vilma arrived in Orlando from Nassau, where he had served as a pastoral intern for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk. He grew up in a Haitian Creole community in Marsh Harbor, has been a youth worker with the Bahamas Youth Network, and now is a pastoral resident at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando while pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Barrett Hendrickson was in the process of transferring his status as Candidate Under Care from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. A May 2020 RTS graduate, he and his wife, Carrie, had joined the Caribbean Youth Network (CYN) to serve with EPC Teaching Elder Gabe Swing at the Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas. The church is a mission of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

The Hendricksons staged in Florida for several months while they waited for pandemic-related restrictions in the Bahamas to be lifted. On November 4, they arrived in Marsh Harbor, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“We are extremely excited to welcome the Hendrickson family to Abaco,” Swing said. “They will provide needed support for relief efforts and help us re-engage the community through outreach and worship opportunities.”

Hendrickson said that when he was young, one of the ways his youth pastor mentored him was through preforming manual labor, such as mowing the lawns of older church members.

“I wanted to be able to do that here,” he said. “Of course sharing Jesus and discipling people, but also by providing tangible, physical needs.”

Swing said conditions in Marsh Harbor continue to be “very difficult” for residents, with many still without adequate housing, electricity, and running water.

“The reconstruction moves at a snail’s pace, and many residents have to acquire drinking water from Water Mission distribution sites,” he said. “The pandemic has frustrated recovery efforts, and food security has become a major problem. Thousands of people are relying on free food distribution from the government and NGOs.”

In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, approximately $175,000 has been disbursed to Kirk of the Pines from the EPC Emergency Relief Fund.

Swing noted that “regular giving has all but vanished” since so many church members have been displaced to other islands in the Bahamas, as well as the U.S. He said the Emergency Relief Fund donations have been used to purchase a truck to distribute relief supplies; provide food and housing for several displaced families; assist with living expenses for he and his wife, Jan; and fund pastoral visits to members of the congregation.

‘Raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders’

While Orlando was a stopping point in the Hendrickson’s journey to the Bahamas, the Vilmas are adjusting to life at FPCO and RTS. He is the recipient of the Andrew Jumper Scholarship, which is named for one of the EPC’s founders and awarded by RTS to a full-time MDiv student who demonstrates “exemplary Christian character and potential for ministry.”

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, said the Vilmas are “settling into the FPCO family beautifully” as the congregation has resumed in-person worship.

“Our commitment is to take an active role in raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders with a special eye towards greater diversity,” he said. “The Vilmas are the perfect fit for a mutually beneficial partnership. Jude is already leading in worship and will be meeting with each member of the pastoral team on a regular basis as the meat of his pastoral residency program. He will be exposed to every dimension of church life, including finance and administration, with the goal of helping him be ready theologically and practically for a fruitful future pastorate.”

Vilma said that he did not expect to be awarded the Jumper Scholarship, and when he received the news he knew he and his wife would be moving to Florida.

“I knew I was coming to Orlando,” Vilma said. “First Pres was very generous to us coming here with their love and support, so it’s really great for us. I hope to continue to grow under David Swanson, Case Thorp, and the other pastors here, and eventually to serve within the EPC itself.”

FPCO has partnered with the EPC congregations in the Bahamas “in extremely meaningful ways,” said Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Kirk. “No individual congregation has contributed more to the health and progress of St. Andrew’s and Kirk of the Pines than First Pres Orlando.”

Hendrickson said Vilma is “our great success story” from CYN.

“When we came down last August before Hurricane Dorian hit to see the opportunity with Gabe and CYN, Jude walked us through Marsh Harbor and the Haitian neighborhood where he grew up,” he said. “So to connect with him and Keitra in Orlando was wonderful. To recognize how God raised him up here—and now bringing us to Abaco—it was like God was saying to us, ‘there is opportunity to raise up more.’ That’s our long-term goal: to raise Bahamian pastors.”

 

Church Revitalization Workshop recording available

 

On October 28, a panel of EPC pastors experienced in church revitalization kicked off the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop. The series of interactive videoconference workshops will continue on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021 (except December). The recording of the first session is now available.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registrations for future installments is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcasts of each workshop session are available on the EPC podcast channel and iTunes.

When will you come back to worship?

 

by Peter Larson
Senior Pastor, Lebanon Presbyterian Church (Lebanon, Ohio)

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).

When will you come back to worship?

Some of you are back already. Some are waiting for a vaccine. Some will not come back unless masks are required. Some will not come back until COVID-19 has ended completely.

When will you come back to worship? As your pastor, I can’t make that decision for you. It depends on your age, health, and personal level of safety and caution. If you are live-streaming worship that is okay—you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

However, my real concern is that some people may not come back at all. In general, if people are out of the church for a long time, they don’t come back. After six months, the “habit” of worship begins to fade. People feel disconnected and disengaged. In the wake of COVID-19, many experts predict a long-term shift in church attendance.

I am extremely grateful that our church has been able to live-stream worship. In many ways, it has helped us to stay connected with the Lord and with each other. I hear this especially from our homebound members. For all of us, the livestreaming technology has been a lifeline and a blessing.

The danger, however, is that technology will take the place of live worship. If I can worship in the comfort of my own home, why bother going to church? If I can get the same content on my tablet or television, isn’t that more efficient and convenient?

For many people, digital church is no different than working remotely or shopping online.

However, the church is the family of God. Worship is more than just content or a convenience—it is something we do together. At the heart of worship is our love for God and for each other. There are many things we can do remotely, but love is not one of them!

Imagine if I said to my wife, “Beth, instead of going on a date with you, we will connect on Zoom!” If I said that to Beth, she would begin to doubt my love for her. Why? Because if you love someone, you want to see and be with them. A Zoom call doesn’t cut it.

Right now, we are missing each other, and that is a good thing. If we stop missing each other, it means our love for God and for each other is growing cold. If we love each other, we long to be together.

When will you come back to worship? It may be weeks or months. In the meantime, I pray that technology will not take the place of relationships.

Your servant in Christ,

Peter

Originally published in the October 2020 “Chronicle” newsletter of Lebanon Presbyterian Church. Reprinted by permission.

St. Louis church plant celebrates local church status with installation of pastor, elders

 

Members of the Church Development Committee from the Presbytery of Mid-America pray over Central West End Church’s newly installed Ruling Elders, Pete Brown (kneeling, left) and Kerry Cheung on October 11. (photos courtesy of Central West End Church)

In 2016, Central West End Church (CWE) in St. Louis, Mo., planted itself at a literal dividing line in the city: one block south of Del Mar Boulevard. The Del Mar Divide, as it is known, is a dividing line of wealth, prosperity, race, and perspective. Pastor Eric Stiller views this stark contrast as an opportunity to see the city made new spiritually, socially, and culturally by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

CWE marked its own new beginning on October 11 as it celebrated “local church” status with Stiller’s installation as Pastor and the ordination of Kerry Cheung and Pete Brown as elders. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the service was live-streamed.

The Central West End neighborhood was identified in 2008 as a potential site for a church plant and is an eclectic area with a vibrant art, food, and cultural scene. This dynamic is what drew Stiller to St. Louis from New York City in 2005, when he entered Covenant Theological Seminary.

Eric Stiller

“I came to St. Louis with the passion to do whatever ministry I was going to do in a city,” he said.

Tom Ricks, who leads the EPC’s Church Planting Team, said the committee considers the needs of an area when deciding where to plant a church. He noted that the residents of Central West End are primarily unchurched, and most would consider themselves secular progressives. Ricks estimated that more than 90 percent never attend religious events.

“Why we got excited at the national level is that there just isn’t much of a Christian community in the Central West End, period—much less a Reformed Christian one that matches up with our EPC foundation and worldview,” he said.

When Stiller heard that the area was being considered, he became excited and began to earnestly pray about it. As this seed of excitement and passion continued to grow, he began to fall more and more in love with the location.

“God didn’t really call me to church planting. He called me to a neighborhood,” Stiller said. “It’s the place I feel most passionate about.”

He added that he loves that Central West End is such a secular place.

“I have always had an interest in apologetics and reaching out to people who at best would be indifferent to faith and at worst hostile to faith.”

Stiller understands this indifference firsthand. He describes himself as “not being concerned about God” for the first 30 years of his life and wrestling with the same doubts and “allergies” that people have today. In addition, he recalled noticing the “glaring” racial segregation in the city when he first arrived. Having been a jazz musician for many years, he had always been surrounded by African-Americans and their music and culture.

“When I prepare my sermons or have conversations with people, I am always imagining the inner skeptic asking questions,” he explained.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, Central West End Church held their worship services in the historic Mahler Ballroom.

CWE’s worship services are currently live-stream only, but in-person services have been held at the Mahler Ballroom, a local event space originally built as a dance studio in 1907. In addition to their worship service, the church offers community groups focused on “building friendships and community, growing faith, learning how to follow Jesus in every area of life, and supporting each other through prayer,” Stiller said.

The church hosts Alpha, a course designed for those who are curious about God. Alpha conversations delve into topics of spirituality from a biblical perspective, with no pressure to believe and no obligation to join the church. Stiller hopes that they can develop more resources for people interested in the integration of faith and work while reaching out to secular neighbors who might be interested in faith and spirituality.

Ricks believes that Stiller is the right guy for that spot.

“The EPC wants to apply the gospel to every area of life, and Eric just exudes this,” Ricks said. “God doesn’t make mistakes in his personnel choices.”

Church members helped renovate a gardening classroom at Washington Montessori Elementary School in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

As CWE began rooting itself in the community, Stiller and his team began a partnership with a local Montessori school as a means of engaging with their neighbors. Church members helped convert an outdoor space into a classroom with raised gardening beds, began tutoring students in math and reading, and renovated a teachers’ lounge. As the coronavirus pandemic struck a financial blow in the community, CWE raised more than $18,000 to help people associated with the school with rent, food, and supplies.

More than just physical assistance, however, Stiller said CWE seeks to fulfill the social aspect of their mission by seeking intentional and ongoing relationships with the school, the students, and their families. He emphasized that their mission is “a holistic one, not a false dichotomy that embraces spiritual work and evangelizing as opposed to social action and deeds of mercy and justice. God’s mission comprises all of this.”

For their part as Ruling Elders, Cheung and Brown see themselves as “shepherds and advocates” whom God has gifted in the areas of leadership and administration. Both are just as passionate as Stiller about the mission of the church to be a part of the renewing of the city spiritually, socially, and culturally.

Above all, CWE wants to follow Jesus as He makes all things new—especially across the dividing line.

by Kelli Lambert Gilbreath
EPConnection correspondent