Last weekend, we started a series called “THIS IS US.” Over the next few weeks, we will have a look at the “real” life of families. In family life, we experience our deepest source of satisfaction and meaning, as well as the source of our greatest worries and pain. Last week, we started with mothers. And by the way, it was fun to see you all enjoying the photo booth. If you would like a digital copy of your photo booth photos, you can email that request to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This weekend, we will turn our attention to our faith family. We will look at the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Timothy had a godly grandmother and mother who taught him the faith. But, Timothy also had Paul, who was a spiritual father. Paul poured his life into Timothy. Paul encouraged and taught and prayed for and invested in his spiritual son. To get ready for Sunday, think about the people in your own life who have been a part of your faith story. My guess is that many of you will have biological family but also faith family who have shaped you as a follower of Jesus.
Speaking of our faith family - on Sunday, at both services, we will receive the 2018 Confirmation Class. It was a real joy for the Session to meet with them this past Tuesday night. We heard their faith statements and their contagious enthusiasm for the faith and for our church. I can’t wait for you to see them profess their faith. Friends, our future is in good hands with these young, gifted believers.
GRACE CHURCH UPDATE
Moving forward, I am going to share a monthly update about our church life. I continue to be amazed at how God is at work. One of my favorite prayers of Paul in the New Testament is in Ephesians. Paul prays,
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20)
This past Tuesday, at our all-staff meeting, I read this verse and asked the team to share ways that we are seeing God do “immeasurably more” at our church. And we came up with a long list. I know you could add a host of ways to our list.
God’s faithfulness is evident in this strategic season in the life of our church. It is clear that the theological clarity and unity that came from our move to our new and growing ECO denomination as well as the leap of faith we took together in January has been catalytic. Each Sunday, there is so much energy and palpable joy. Each week there are new faces who are coming to see what is going on in our church. We have enjoyed having some special guests, including Mayor Robert Donchez and Police Chief, Mike Diluzio who have shared with us the needs of our city. Since January, we have had 2 new member classes and our confirmation class resulting in 38 new members joining so far in 2018. The next new member class is June 24.
1) BECA has been a wonderful host and partner in ministry. It is such a gift from God that we have this temporary worship space and it was available just when we needed it.
2) Having both the classic and the modern services in the same space, and sharing a common coffee hour, has been a spark for making new friendships.
3) Each week our choir and the modern worship band face different space scenarios (since BECA utilizes the space in different ways each week). I am grateful for the flexibility of both groups. Please join me in thanking them.
4) Portable Church Industries trained our team this past weekend. This company specialize in helping churches who “set up” each week sustain and simplify the weekly process. The equipment we purchased should reduce our set up hours and allow us to engage more people in volunteer teams. We have an amazing staff and volunteers who make worship happen every week. Our volunteers are real heroes – we are seeing now more than ever that it takes ALL of our congregation to help us live into the vision to which God is leading us. I hope you will consider joining a team if you are not already on a team. You can do that right now by emailing email@example.com. Someone will get right back to you.
LOCUST Street Campus Updates
1) It is truly a miracle that in 4 months from our move out of Center Street, the staff is moved into the Locust Street Building. It took generous gifts and loans from our congregation as well as countless hours and expertise from volunteers to get us in to the building.
2) Renovations continue and will be in progress through the month of June.
3) We are quickly filling up the building with many bible studies, student ministry events, meetings, and activities of our congregation. We anticipate a particularly full house for Vacation Bible School in June.
4) We already have 4 weddings scheduled for the new Sanctuary and are beginning to plan concerts and other events. We hope to purchase a concert piano for the Locust Street sanctuary that will allow Tom Goeman to play both organ and piano for concerts and events as well as at choir practices.
1) On Easter Sunday, we adopted our new name, Grace Church Bethlehem…An ECO Presbyterian Community. At the beginning of May, the name was approved for our corporate entity. All checks must now be made out to GRACE CHURCH BETHLEHEM. Mail should be sent to our Locust Street mid-week campus at 521 E. Locust Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018. This is especially important. Checks written out to any other name will not be accepted by our banking institution. Be sure that all checks, bank checks, IRA distributions, and all other charitable contributions be made payable to GRACE CHURCH BETHLEHEM.
2) If you have named our church in your will or charitable trust, please note that you will need to work with your attorney to amend your will or trust to clearly state your intentions of giving to GRACE CHURCH BETHLEHEM. Charitable contributions written out to any other named entity will not be directed to our church. For more information about this or for help, please contact our Planned Giving Officer, Andy Roman at firstname.lastname@example.org .
3) Watch the bulletin for dates for congregational updates, an Open House at the Locust Street Campus in July, and a dedication of the Locust Street building in September.
JOIN ME IN PRAYING FOR OUR CHURCH
1) Please pray with me that God will continue to do “immeasurably” more in and through our church.
2) Please continue to pray for our transition conversations with the PCUSA congregation. It has taken significant work to settle out expenses and resources between our two congregations. Please pray for the smooth and God-honoring conclusion of that important work all to the end that both congregations can thrive and move fully into their own ministries.
3) Please pray for our Session as they approve a master planning process. This process will result in a strategic long-term vision for Grace Church Bethlehem’s future growth, ministry and mission. There will be many opportunities for all groups in the congregation to be a part of this exciting process. More details will be coming soon.
God is at work in us and in you! --- Can’t wait to see you on Sunday.
Your pastor and friend,