The Lord is on the move in the Upstate…

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19:26

We see exciting movement across the upstate through His Spirit and his people in the South Carolina. This year we have seen the Lord making way for the expansion of God’s Kingdom as the churches live out their mission.

  • Christ the Redeemer, Clemson, SC mission is “To live out our values, we gather to worship God and care for one another, and scatter to serve God in the world” has purchased land with a residence that will be converted to a church
  • St. Pauls, Greenville, SC mission is “To know Jesus and make him known in Greenville, SC, the Upstate and the utter most parts of the world” purchased adjacent land with office building to make way for future Sanctuary
  • Village Church, Greenville, SC mission is “To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; To teach, baptize and nurture new believers; To respond to human need by loving service; To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; and To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth” purchased  former UMC sanctuary and property.for permanent worship space
  • Church of the Resurrection, Rock Hill, SC mssion is “to be a people who embody the beauty of the Gospel for the good of the City to the glory of God” moved into a Christian School to begin new church plant
  • The Gathering, Spartanburg, SC mission is to worship the Lord, experience the depth and richness of His love and goodness, share authentic life together daily, and proclaim the gospel in love and truth in our community” is launching for ADOCs newest church plant in diocese.

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Introducing Creative Worship, Balanced with the Liturgy

Have you ever thought about incorporating a creative moment in worship to help tell the story of God?  The Church Calendar (Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost, etc.) is our circadian rhythm, played out week to week in the liturgy. The arts can provide windows into the Holy Mysteries during worship. Shannon Sigler, Director of Fuller Seminary Worship and Arts says,  “The beauty of incorporating the arts into worship that follows the Christian year is that the liturgy is always present to balance and bolster our emotive experiences, thus drawing our congregation into an holistic encounter with our God.”

During Lent, Christ Church, Murrells Inlet is doing a creative series on Praying the Psalms. Each week the sermon focuses on a specific psalm and the congregation then has an extended time of response in which we pray that psalm in creative ways. Each week is different—some are quiet and meditative, some involve moving around the room to visit prayer stations, and some involve the artistic gifts of its members. Recently,  Pastor Michael Guernsey preached on Psalm 8. In the response time, worship team member Tracy Guernsey sang an original and partially spontaneous version of the psalm and invited the congregation to join in singing a repeated refrain. While the psalm was sung the congregation had the opportunity to watch a church member (Marybeth Johanson) paint a beautiful sunset over water inspired by the Lord through the psalm. The church also had the chance to see a marvelous work of calligraphy of the psalm done by another member (Sandy Burgio).  This exciting expression of the arts can provide windows into the Holy Mysteries during worship.

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Have You Ever Needed to be Rescued?

Bishop Steve Wood, Diocesan Bishop

Have you ever needed to be rescued?  Ever need someone to come to your defense?  Ever needed someone to be your advocate?

When I was growing up our neighborhood, like any other, had a bully – he was about four years older than me.  And for whatever reason the summer when I was nine he decided to make my life miserable.  It was really miserable.  Nothing worked.  My dad talked to his dad and it just got worse.  One day I was walking down to my friend Mike’s house – just three houses away – and the bully caught me.  By the time I made it to Mike’s I had a bloody nose and was pretty roughed up.  Mike’s older brother Louie came to the door.  Louie would become one of the best athletes our neighborhood had seen – a two sport star – football and wrestling – but this particular summer he was thirteen just like the bully.  “Stevie, what the heck happened to you?”  I told him the story – I told him about the whole summer of suffering.  Next thing I know Louie’s running out the door.  He comes back a little bit later and tells me the bully will never bother me again.  He told me if anyone ever bothered me to come tell him.  My first experience of a saviour was a kid named Louie Matteo.  He was the big brother I never had.  No one ever bothered me again.

The Bible tells us we have a Big Brother.  The Bible also tells us we have a powerful enemy.  But he is not all-powerful.  In fact, the Bible reveals to us that Satan is a defeated enemy.  The Apostle John says: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  Paul writes of Christ, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him.”

Jesus disarmed and destroyed Satan, taking away from him the power and fear of death by triumphing over him by His cross and resurrection and opening to you (and me) the gateway to eternal life.  Our stronger, older Brother is both deliverer and Saviour. So, the Apostle John will write, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1.12-13)

Friends, may your Lenten observation and Easter celebration lead you back to the One who has loved you and fought for you and saved you for Himself.

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Leaving Epiphany

by Sharon Pullen

Looking back to where we have been often helps us see the way forward and stay on course. We are well into our journey through Lent, but for just a moment, let’s take a look back at the season that recently came to a close.

Epiphany. Did you miss it?

Christmas rushes by in a blur and leaves us exhausted. We are so thankful for the lull between the holidays and Lent when we can rest and hunker down for the remainder of winter. Many of us miss Epiphany completely.

But Epiphany is where we live.

During Advent and Christmas, we remember the first coming of our Savior, and we prepare for His coming again. During Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, we recall His earthly ministry, His death, resurrection, and ascension, and finally, the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world to establish the Church and to empower us to live out the Great Commission as we await His second coming.

We remember, we prepare, and we wait. During most of the liturgical year, we think in terms of the past and the future.
Epiphany is experienced in the present tense. It is the chapter in God’s story in which we are the main characters, living out our lives in the time between the first and the second coming of Jesus.

At the opening to the season of Epiphany, we read about the Magi, those mystical sages who traveled westward in search of the long prophesied King of the Jews. For many of us, reading about the wise men signals the end of the Christmas season. That’s probably why we miss Epiphany. The coming of the Magi to worship Jesus actually marks the beginning of the season as well as the beginning of our part in God’s story.

Many legends are told about the Magi, but we really don’t know much about who they were, or where they came from, or even how many of them came. One thing we do know about them is that they were not Jewish. They were foreigners, gentiles, outsiders. And yet God beckoned them to come and meet Jesus. He invited them to be among the first to worship Jesus as King. We might also say they were the first missionary supporters, bringing valuable gifts that sustained the holy family during their exile in Egypt until the time when they could return to their hometown of Nazareth in preparation for a ministry that would change the world.

In our modern language, we use the word “epiphany” to mean a sudden insight or the realization of an important truth. When the Magi discovered Jesus and realized the truth about who He is, they bowed down and worshiped Him.

Epiphany is called the season of light, and the lectionary readings during Epiphany are all about discovering Jesus, the light of the world. The coming of the Magi to worship Jesus confirms Simeon’s proclamation that Jesus is a light to the gentiles and reveals God’s plan to draw people of all nations, tribes, and languages to Jesus. We are part of that plan.

Epiphany is where we live. We have moved on to the season of Lent in the church calendar year, but we never really leave Epiphany. 

~Sharon Pullen is a member of Church of the Holy Cross in North Raleigh.  

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Church Spotlight: St. Thomas Anglican embraces Arabic Online Ministry “The Way الطريق “

St. Thomas Church is a exciting mission minded growing church in the Charleston area. This congregation believes the Gospel changes everything and therefore St. Thomas Church exists to “raise up ambassadors of the Gospel where we live, work, play, and learn, and to extend Common Grace to our Community through authentic relationships, service, and beauty through the arts”. Worship takes place in an elementary school cafeteria. With well over 100 worshipers on Sunday, you will possibly find an ambassador of the Gospel who also happens to be a 47 year old Medical Doctor sitting humbly in the back.  This kind Doctor, Sherif Yacoub, reaches over a half million men and women with the love of Jesus in the Middle-East through his Facebook online ministry called “Altareiq” (Arabic word which means “The way”). St. Thomas desires to partner and support this exciting ministry.

Sherif was born and raised in Egypt until the age of 30 and has been walking with Jesus for as long as he can remember. Sherif had two spiritual encounters with Jesus that shaped his life and ultimately led him to ministry. The first encounter was in New York City, following the events of 9/11/2001, and the second was through a Holy Spirit revival occurring at St Michael’s Church in Charleston, SC, from 2005 to 2007.

In 2013, he started a Facebook Page to share some insights about the Bible. The page was originally in English and in Arabic, yet, to his amazement, it seemed that only the Arabic posts received attention. Initially, Sherif had 20 followers, but the numbers quickly increased. There was an intense interest from Muslims across the Middle-East. By the end of 2013, there were more than 20,000 followers. As the workload increased, Sherif hired a Christian refugee from Iraq, who had fled ISIS reign of terror to Jordan, and subsequently to the US, and, also an Iraqi Christian living currently in Lebanon. The number of followers kept increasing exponentially, reaching 200,000 by 2015. Through the page, the Gospel was preached and introduced men and women across the Middle-East to the love of Jesus. Several accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior over the Internet or over the telephone. Others had already been secret converts for a while, yet had no mentorship or discipleship. Altareiq worked with a ministry partner, Endure International, to get the converts locally discipled and baptized, yet the hunger for the Word could not be satisfied by the scarce resources on the ground. In 2015, Sherif’s ministry started a group on Whatsapp to disciple the converts. They have strict criteria to choose who joins that group. So far, they have mentored more than 100 converts, several of whom now have their own Christian ministry. Today, Altareiq’s ministry has over a half million followers on Facebook from 45 countries. The page reaches 100,000 people every month with the message of the Gospel. Check it out for yourself at  www.facebook.com/altareiq

In 2015, following the events of the Charleston Church shooting, Sherif felt the call to reach the Western, English-speaking world with the same message of the Gospel that he saw transform the Middle- East. He started a Facebook page which now has 25,000 followers. Here is the link www.facebook.com/1h4jc

Sherif says “It has been amazing to get to watch the Lord transform our world, one person at a time. To see Him do it through us goes beyond what words can express.” If the Lord calls you to partner with “The Way” ministry through prayer or financial support or if you want to know more about the ministry you may contact Sherif by Emailing him at szyacoub@gmail.com or St. Thomas Anglican.

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Getting to Know Jacqui Wood…

In what ways do you support your husband in his MINISTRY, and in what ways, if any, are you involved in the life of the church?  Supporting Steve in ministry has many different dimensions for me. It begins with the fact that I believe God brought us together to minister to a specific community as a couple. Keeping our relationship strong is the foundation that enables each of us to do our part. Clearly we each have different roles, so my support of Steve in his role involves
•    Being present – attend Sunday service, participate in a small group together, visiting diocesan parishes together.
•    Being involved in areas where I feel called – I currently volunteer at the Christian medical clinic held within the church.
•    Praying and listening with him to discern direction for the church/Diocese – commitment to praying for the church and it’s ministries on a regular basis, being a safe place for him to talk through ideas or concerns.
•    Available to help – a willingness to step in when needed.
•    Encourage him in his work – giving him the time and space to accomplish tasks, while trusting him to respect family/’Us Time’ boundaries.

What are TWO OR THREE OF your primary passions, callings or gifts… whether or not they overlap with the ministry of the diocese?  Passion, calling or gifts, hmmm…..I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, registered nurse. I enjoy serving the Lord in and through these different rolls.

What is ONE rewarding part of ministry life for you?  What ONE OR TWO PARTS do you find challenging?   I really enjoy going on parish visits with Steve, It’s fun seeing the different ministries that are taking place around the diocese and witnessing the passion and calling these churches have for their community.   Time is always a challenge to doing the things we love to do. Having help and the friendship of three other Bishop’s and their wives has been a real blessing!

What ONE OR TWO causes THAT ESPECIALLY have your heart, (AND PERHAPS your pocketbook)? PUT ANOTHER WAY, what ministries do you wish we all knew about? I could tell you about thousands of different and equally important ministries that are out there. Some ministries at St. Andrew’s that we have come to love are ‘One World Health’ for those needing help with medical care, an outreach ministry to active military members, we also support an elementary and junior school in Liberia – J. Dawlu Kimber, and Water Missions International to name a few. I think what is most important is finding a ministry that you feel passionate about and then supporting it with your time, talent and money. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

IS THERE ANY BOOK OR OTHER RESOURCE THAT HAVE HELPED YOU KEEP AFLOAT?   We all have to take care of ourselves and nurture our spiritual journey. We can get so caught up in ‘doing’ that we forget the ‘being’ in the presence of God. Right now I am reading a book called ‘Sacred Rhythm’s – Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation’ by Ruth Haley Barton. Deepening your relationship with God is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for those around you. This is not a book that will make you feel guilty or bog you down with a list of things you have to do to feel worthy. I highly recommend!

Jacqui is married to Bishop Steve Wood, who is also the Rector of St. Andrews, Mt. Pleasant, SC. Jacqui and Steve raised four boys and they have two grandchildren.

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