Please Hold On…

Suffragan Bishop David Bryan

Face it, we hate to wait. We don’t like lines, waiting rooms or delays in our ‘instant’ society. There is an inherent impatience in the way our culture has shaped us in the western world.

Which is why Advent’s biblical emphasis on waiting is important for us to hear. We live in between the advents of Christ into our world. We are encouraged to allow our time waiting to do its sanctifying work in us. It has been wisely said that next to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity and genuine spirituality.

Advent reminds us of the centuries God’s people waited for the fulfillment of his promise to send a Savior. He came! Jesus, speaking of his return, said “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men waiting for their master to come home…” (Luke 12:35-36) Waiting, whether we like it or not, is an integral part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

But there is good news for those who embrace this call to wait as a matter of trust in God’s promise to us. Psalm 33:20-21 bears witness to this: “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” We wait because we trust that God, in his time, will fulfill his promise to us in his Son. We believe, with the prophets, that those “who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We fail in our waiting when we take things into our own hands…. when we decide to operate out of our own agenda and not God’s. We fail when we give up hope and cease to trust in God’s Word to us.

When we pray for a family member or friend to be touched by God’s grace and we don’t see results, we are tempted to give up. When we pray for a job or opportunity to open up and we don’t see it come to fruition, we are tempted to give up. Advent reminds us to press in, to actively wait for God to move, to break into our story, often in unexpected ways. He has proven in the incarnation of Jesus Christ that he is trustworthy.

I’m not sure what you are waiting for right now, but when, in your circumstances, you hear “please hold on…”, hear it as an invitation to hold on… to the promises of God!

A Fickle Storm and a Faithful God

by the Rev. Claudia Greggs

images     “Would he, or wouldn’t he?” That was the question on the minds of millions of residents in North and South Carolina in early October as Hurricane Matthew took aim at the coast of the southeastern United States. Matthew was officially declared a hurricane on September 28 and quickly intensified into a Category 5 storm, with winds of up to 160 mph. Six days later, Matthew slammed into Haiti and eastern Cuba and then crawled, ever so slowly, northward. While Matthew took his time, there was much debate among meteorologists about where he would go next – northwesterly, over Florida; northeasterly, up the coast of Georgia and into the Carolinas; or would a strong cold front, approaching from the west, push him eastward and far out to sea?

In the meantime, Bishop Steve Wood had a decision to make. The Diocese of the Carolinas was scheduled to hold its annual clergy retreat, followed by Diocesan Synod, at Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning Thursday, October 6. By Wednesday, it looked like the coast of South Carolina would be hardest hit, rendering it impossible for clergy and delegates from a good portion of the state to get to Raleigh. Bishop Wood wisely decided to postpone the retreat and Synod.

Finally, on October 8, the storm made landfall southeast of McClellanville, South Carolina, and broke apart over North Carolina, deluging both states, particularly along the coastline, with rain.  By this time, residents on the Outer Banks thought they had been spared the worst of the storm. Since landfall was 350 miles to the south, the storm surge from the ocean and sound was not likely to be as devastating as it has been in many other storms. The locals, at least, were not concerned. However, the deluge of rain caught everyone by surprise. The ground all along this stretch of land, from Corolla to Oracoke, was still saturated, due to a tropical storm that blew in over Labor Day weekend, so the rain from the remnants of Matthew quickly flooded roads and buildings, causing significant damage.

The Rev. Joey Fitzgerald, rector of Church of the Outer Banks, experienced the flooding first-hand. The first floor of his home, where he and his wife, Brandie, and their four children live, was filled with three inches of water – including the children’s bedrooms and the family room. Although most of their furniture was salvageable, the carpeting was ruined and all sheetrock and insulation below the water line would need to be cut out and replaced. And while the Fitzgerald’s had flood insurance, their claim was denied due to a discrepancy, of which they were unaware, between city building codes and insurance requirements. FEMA granted them a mere $250.

Several families in the church fared even worse. The water swelled to four feet inside the Surfin Spoon, a popular frozen yogurt restaurant owned and run by Jesse Hines, a former professional surfer, and his wife, Whitney. Because Matthew struck before the tourist season was over, the damage to the Surfin Spoon was particularly costly. Insurance would cover part of the cost of repairs, but there was no compensation for the loss of business. As with any endeavor catering to tourists, the Hines’ rely upon the profits they earn from April to Thanksgiving to get them through the entire year, due to a sharp decline in the number of visitors to the Outer Banks during the winter months.

Another couple in the church awoke on the morning of October 8, unware of the flooding that had occurred in their first-floor apartment during the night, and immediately noticed their child’s Pack n’ Play floating in over six inches of water. Most of their furniture could not be salvaged, and because they lacked renter’s insurance, their loss was significant.

The Rev. Colin Cooper, a retired minister serving in a non-stipendiary role at the Church of the Outer Banks, and his wife, Christine, office administrator, also suffered water damage to the first floor of their home, and because they lacked flood insurance, the cost of repair and replacement was theirs alone to bear.

However, assistance, both practical and financial, from fellow Christians, near and far, was soon forthcoming. Throughout the storm and for some time afterward, Bishop Wood was in touch with rectors of congregations in the affected areas. When he learned of the Fitzgerald’s loss and that of others at the church, he made arrangements for them to receive financial assistance through the Anglican Relief and Development Fund. The ADRF is continuing to raise and disperse funds to those who suffered loss, in the United States and the Caribbean, as a result of Hurricane Matthew.

Soon, additional aid began to pour in. A Christian ministry supplied a replacement car to a church member whose car had been flooded. Friends and family members sent contributions to help with the Fitzgerald’s expenses. An apartment was provided for the couple who were renting and church members who own a furniture store donated furniture. Loyal customers of the Surfin Spoon, from up and down the east coast, sent money when they learned of the need. In turn, the owners made a tithe to the church of the money given to them. And members of the local community, who work in the construction and building industry, donated time and materials to help cover the cost of repairs throughout the area.

Thankfully, the church office, which suffered extensive flood damage after Hurricane Irene hit three years ago, was not damaged this time, although water did come up to the front door. The YMCA where the congregation worships on Sunday mornings was not damaged either, nor was church equipment stored in a trailer in the parking lot.

However, in order to keep costs down, Joey and Brandie are doing all the repairs to their home themselves, with help from sons, Sam, 16; Jack, 13; and Luke, 9. (Daughter Lila, age 2, gets a pass.) They’ve managed to replace the sheet rock and insulation, and have grouted tile in the downstairs bathroom. However, there is still much to do before all the work is done. The old carpeting, which covered the entire first floor of the house, needs to be replaced by tile. That project will take up until Christmas to finish. Understandably, the family is weary from dealing with the destruction from the storm and the work of repair, as well as the frustration of living in a home, for weeks on end, where nothing is in its usual place. Prayers for the Fitzgerald family as they deal with this last phase of repair would be greatly appreciated.

Still, Joey, a published author, knows from past experience that the Lord will supply all their need and redeem this time of hardship. Before going to seminary, Joey worked as a high school art teacher for ten years, and for a while, served on the staff of Young Life. Leaving behind full-time employment to attend Asbury Seminary in Kentucky meant that he and Brandie would have to trust in the Lord to meet all their family’s living expenses. And that is just what God did, through Christian friends and members of his sponsoring church.

As he reflects on the hardships he and his family have encountered over the past two months, Joey feels blessed to serve under a bishop who has a servant’s heart and to be the recipient of the love and support of the larger Christian community. And he looks forward to sharing what is becoming yet another testimony, in his life, and in the life of his family, of God’s faithfulness.

 

The Rev. Claudia Greggs is the Clergy Associate for Christian Formation at Holy Trinity Church in Raleigh, NC.

Stress

joanne-slide-mobile-208x300by Joanne Ellison

Everyone has stress. The definition of stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstance. 

How many of you can relate to mental or emotional strain…. or tension or adverse demanding circumstances?  We all can. Stress is a part of our lives however as Christians do we handle it differently than those who are not Christ followers? Honestly for me it depends. Most days I do fairly well. And then there are days when I feel as though I am drowning.  I spend most days with women who feel the same way.

Recently I met with a young woman who felt as though she was in a pressure cooker. Her marriage and her kids had sucked the life out of her. However as we talked, I saw peace…. supernatural peace. She shared with me the extreme difficulties in her family life and how she made a decision to press deep into Jesus. So today I want to share with you what she told me because what she describes is a picture of abiding in Christ.

She told me that she awakens very very early (not everyone can do this particularly if you are a night owl:) And she seeks the Lord– praying, listening, reading the Word. She plays worship music recognizing that God inhabits the praises of His people.

And… here is the real key… She begins to thank God for anything and everything. She looks for God in all circumstances. Don’t get me wrong she is not thanking God for what is going on (although she has said it is drawing her closer to Him). She is remembering and thanking Him for the gift of life, friends, a roof over her head, a country where she can worship freely, etc. And then she described to me– unspeakable joy– unnatural joy that welled up as she praised and thanked Him.

Friends, life can be stressful. But God!! He is the reason we live and have hope. He is the One who captures our heart and mends our heart and binds up our wounds. Stress is a part of life. But how we handle it makes all the difference.

Postnote: I am not minimizing what you are going through, nor what my friend is going through. I am simply offering Jesus as the answer. He is always the answer.

Whatever is true, whatever is notable whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

Joanne Ellison is a graduate of the College of Charleston and an active member of Saint Andrew’s Church, Mount Pleasant, SC.   200 attend her weekly bible study at Saint Andrews and free live streaming allows people around the world to tune in. Connect with her at http://joanneellison.com/

A Tangible Intersection between the Church and the City

14202730_515773715284787_8195654201047096928_nPlanting a church is an exciting and rewarding experience. Most who have done it will tell you it is the hardest thing they have done, but also THE BEST. Church planting is not for everyone—it takes time, perseverance, and boldness. At the same time church planting has proven to be one of the most effective tools of evangelism available.

The Trinity Anglican team, led by their Rector, Ryan Streett, have expanded their church planting ministry with a coffee shop in downtown Newberry called ‘Trinity on the Square’. The church offers free coffee and a place for conversation, fellowship and reading.  This new outpost is a tangible intersection between Trinity Anglican Church and the community of Newberry. Throughout the week Trinity hosts various bible and book studies as well as Morning and Evening Prayer right in the center of the Newberry business district.

Sunday Worship is held at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, located at 928 Boundary Street. Trinity Anglican has recently purchased land and plans are underway for their new worship facility.

Church of the Apostles donates $100,000 to help Rwanda reach sustainability

walk-with-rwanda-presentaionby Carol Moskel

The Church of the Apostles in Columbia, SC raised $1,000,000 in one month as a result of their “Give as If…” capital campaign. Driven by a need for more space, the church launched their campaign to achieve several goals: 1) allow more space for children by building new offices and adult education space, taking those programs out of the existing children’s space; 2) reduce their existing mortgage principal; and, 3) give significantly to two causes: their church plant in Newberry, SC and the Walk with Rwanda Campaign.

The campaign was a success, and on Sunday November 13, The Rev. Brandon Walsh, Chaplain to Archbishop Rwaje of the Church of Rwanda, visited Church of the Apostles and was gifted with a giant (22×48″ to be exact) check. The check wasn’t giant in size only; the parish of 400 on a Sunday pledged $100,000 to Walk With Rwanda.

“We owe a debt to Rwanda” said Dean Chip Edgar, “We couldn’t pay down our own financial debt without acknowledging in a tangible way the spiritual debt we owe the Church of Rwanda for the critical role they played in the formation of the ACNA.”

Dean Edgar would like to challenge other churches in the ACNA to give generously to the Church of Rwanda in their Walk With RwandaEdgar says, “Rwanda helped give us a secure church. Now let’s help them secure theirs.