What kind of fisherman are you?

Bishop Steve Wood

One of the men who most influenced my young Christian life was a man named John Wimber.  Wimber, as you may remember, was the founder of the Vineyard Church and he had a soft spot for us Anglicans.  I did not know him but my then rector did and so I came into contact with both his preaching and his writings. The “tell” and “show” nature of his ministry was very attractive to me – and remains so.

One of Wimber’s greatest gifts was making the gospel understandable and then helping us ordinary, every-day kind of Christians (through his teachings, encouragement and model of ministry) believe that we really had a part to play in the ongoing unfolding of God’s kingdom.  I have in my files any number of his stories and illustrations.  One particular story he told about fishing and evangelism remains a favorite. Wimber wrote:

In 1990 Larry Shaw was trying out a new outboard propeller on Ohio’s West Branch Reservoir when he saw a huge muskie just below the surface.  Shaw motored over to it, and cast toward it several times with no luck before the fish disappeared.  About a half hour later Shaw returned to the cove where he had first spotted the big muskie.  And wouldn’t you know, it was back!  Shaw turned on the trolling motor and crept closer to the big fish.  Suddenly, the muskie started swimming toward the boat.

Shaw quickly put on a leather glove and stuck his arm into the water, grabbing the monster just behind the gills.  The muskie started splashing and fighting to escape but Shaw held on.  It was quite a fight, but with the help of a nearby fisherman he was able to get the fish into his boat.

The muskie weighed in just a bit over 53 pounds.  If Larry Shaw had caught the fish with a rod and reel, it would have broken the then record for the largest muskie ever caught in Ohio.  When reporters asked him about the fish, Shaw said, “I was in the right place at the right time, and I was fool enough to grab it.”

That’s a good description of evangelism: being in the right place at the right time, and being fool enough to share the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 4 (v.19) we read of Jesus’ call to his soon-to-be disciples; an invitation to be fishers of men and women.  When Jesus used metaphors like fishing his listeners heard what he was saying in a very different way than we do in our Western world.  For most of us fishing is a hobby – a recreational diversion from the business of our everyday lives. I am a casual fisherman.  And so when I come home empty-handed (more often than not) I am still content for having spent a day on the water.

Jesus issued that first invitation to join his fishing expedition to Peter, Andrew, James and John. Fishing was not a pastime for these men. If they failed to catch fish they did not eat.  Fishing was their livelihood.  Repeated failure was not an option.  As fishermen these men would have learned how to adapt their fishing technique to variety of situations.  Was it sunny or overcast?  Calm or windy?  What was the time of year?  What kind of fish were they fishing for?  Some fish are very quick to respond.  Some fish, especially the older, larger, ones had learned the fishermen’s tricks and were more wary and elusive.  When Jesus said to them that they would be fishers of men He spoke in a language they understood.

How does this apply to you? To your church?  Well, what are the trends in your community?  What kinds of people are moving into your neighborhood?  What are the challenges they face?  What are their aspirations?  We live in the South and in many of our communities there remains a strong residual of the Christian faith within our culture. But folks who live in Asheville, Raleigh and Charlotte face unique situations that those of us in the Outer Banks, midlands, lowcountry or upstate do not face (and vice-versa). Good fishermen know how to read their environment. They know what bait the fish are hitting on.  They are aware of their presentation.

Friends, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples.  Are you going where the “fish” are, or are you waiting for them to come to you?

All Saints Charlotte Dedicates New Building

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by Nancy Bryan

GOD IS FAITHFUL, ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME, GOD IS FAITHFUL. All Saints Church, Charlotte, NC opened its doors to over 400, including many distinguished visitors in attendance. Archbishop Foley Beach, Archbishop Daniel Sarfo (Primate of West Africa), Archbishop Justice Akrofi, (retired Primate of West Africa), Bishop Daniel (Ghana), Bishop David Bryan (ADOC), many clergy from representative churches and faithful parishioners were present to consecrate the new sanctuary. The international representation was typical because on any given Sunday All Saints has people from five continents worshipping in their new sanctuary.

All Saints Rector, The Rev. Filmore Strunk said “I had times in the recent past where I didn’t think this day was going to come and I’m so delighted to be here.” He went on to say “You could say that we are here to dedicate a building … Or you can say that we’re here to celebrate a community…  and to an extent you’d be right, we’re celebrating a community – Celebrating the faithfulness of that community. And you could say we are celebrating a movement, The Anglican Church of North America, that out of the ashes of the previous entity, God has raised up a true church. All of these things are true but they are grounded in something bigger. A larger truth and it is this – GOD IS FAITHFUL, ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME, GOD IS FAITHFUL.”

All Saints Church has laid it’s foundation in Word and Sacrament. “The Word of God stands forever, and we are believing that nothing… church tradition, human reason, nothing can stand up to the Scriptures.” By God’s grace they raised 2.8 million dollars. And the founding Rector went on to say: “Today it is really not about what we celebrate, it is about WHO we celebrate. We celebrate God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All knowing, all seeing, all compassionate, all powerful, the fountain of justice, the source of all truth, from everlasting to everlasting, perfect in love, perfect in grace, perfect in mercy, a friend of sinners, our savior, our healer, our redeemer, the Lion of Judah, the light of the world, the lamb of God, FAITHFUL, FAITHFUL, FAITHFUL!”

The people of All Saints will continue to affirm the Word of God, and serve the world through God’s grace and His joy in their new building and their community. For this we give thanks.

To learn more about All Saints in the Charlotte, NC area visit allsaintscharlotte.com

Sowing and Growing a Heart for the Home Team

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by Teresa Glenn

“Why do I have to go?”
“I won’t have anything to do…None of my friends will be there.”
“It’s so boring. Why are you making me go…I’m not gonna watch.”
“He doesn’t care if I’m there or not… He won’t even notice if I’m not there.”

These were our young children’s responses almost every time we communicated that we (all) were going to a sibling’s athletic, academic, or arts-related event. Their tone was generally some combination of whining, frustration, grumpiness, and resentment—and typically in the presence of the child who had the event.

I understood. The program or game didn’t interest them, and it was their sister or brother they’d be watching…why would they want to do that?! Sometimes they acted like I was torturing them with this requirement.  Funny, I felt tortured when I couldn’t enjoy watching one child perform, since I spent half the time responding to the other two—“It will be over soon . . . not much longer . . . stop that . . . comeback over here…”

Some outings were fine. They’d make a friend or see one there and occasionally watch some of the event. My strategy was much prayer for the children and for me, positive strokes, and pointing out any other family doing the same thing to disprove, “No one else makes their kids do this, Momma.”

My answer to the innumerable times they asked, “Whyyyy??” was consistent. “We are going to support him, to encourage him. We are his home team. I know you don’t want to go, but it’s what we’re doing.” This was one of many seeds that I sowed by word, reinforcement, and buckets of prayer. There is a high value in family learning how to support each other.

At the same time, I didn’t want them to become adults who attend their siblings’ occasions because “they should”. I wanted them to grow to desire to go because they want to support their sibling. Over and over again, I led, explained, and prayed. “Lord, help her grasp the blessing that this is to her brother. Help him experience the blessing of knowing she’s here.”  I depended on God to do the heart work in each child and to help me exercise His grace. We all had attitude struggles.

Early on, I was grateful if the children sitting with me simply behaved and didn’t complain. Then one day during the elementary years, as I dropped our son Terrell off early before his game, he looked at me and asked, “Are Ellison and Cecilia coming?”  When I replied yes, he smiled.  That moment made every trying moment worth it. Gradually, each child began to ask, “Who all’s coming?” Push back was subsiding. Each child began to enjoy being the recipient of the family audience. I didn’t see it happen, but God was growing the seeds’ roots, and now sprouts of growth were evident.

Eventually blossoms began to pop up. When Cecilia was in the 9th grade, I told her brothers (11th and 12th graders), “After your football practice, I want you to walk over to the gym for her volleyball match.”  Knowing they would be exhausted and hungry, I expected push back.  They both said, “Sure.”  I was stunned—no excuses or complaints.  “Thank you, boys. That means a lot to me and it will to Cecilia, too.”  When I left the room, I thanked God and cried. Sibling trials are hard, but when beautiful breakthroughs happen—wow.

Cecilia’s junior year of high school, Terrell surprised her and drove 4 hours round trip to listen to her perform. Her senior year, Ellison called me from college and said, “Mom, I want to surprise Cecilia and come to her play-off game tonight, but I’ll have to drive back right after the match.”  The next spring Terrell and Cecilia drove 6 hours round trip in one day to celebrate Ellison’s entry into an elite drill team at The Citadel.  In each instance, I said, “You do not need to come”, and they responded, “I want to.”

I want to. God does this.

We sow, toil, and pray without ceasing. God gives the growth. He opens a child’s heart and stretches ours. He grows the seeds we sow, waters our effort with love and grace, produces fruit in our family, and wells awe in our soul.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3.20–21)

Teresa Glenn speaks and writes to encourage and mentor women about partnering with God through the everyday circumstances of life. She is the author of Becoming A Peaceful Mom: Through Every Season of Raising Your Child She writes at celebratethefamily.org. For speaking requests contact Teresa at teresadglenn@gmail.com or complete the form on her website. She and her husband Terrell live in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Into the Darkness

kairosprisonministryby Dr. Sharon Pullen

A woman was seen late one night searching the sidewalk underneath a streetlamp. “Did you lose something here?” someone asked. “No,” answered the woman, pointing across the street to a dark alley. “I lost it over there, but the light is better here.”

Until recently I was like that woman, searching under the bright lights to find what I seemed to be missing. The Lord had worked a radical transformation in me after I surrendered my life to Him over 30 years ago, and I have always felt a deep desire to see Him perform this same miracle in the lives of other people who are far away from Him.

I had become immersed in Christian life and community where I certainly could see God at work among my fellow believers. But the world from where I had come still seemed very dark. Standing under the bright light of God’s presence in the body of believers surrounding me, I could not perceive the power of the Holy Spirit at work outside the church.

Then I went to prison.

I went in for the first time in March 2016, and since then I have been in and out of prison many times. I serve as a volunteer at North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women (NCCIW) in Raleigh through the ministry of Kairos Inside.[1] Volunteers from all around the state and from multiple Christian denominations come together twice a year to lead a four-day retreat inside the prison. The Kairos retreat model evolved from the Cursillo movement back in the 1960’s in which participants listen to and discuss a series of talks and meditations introducing them to the basics of the Christian faith. Once an inmate has completed her Kairos weekend, she is invited to join weekly prayer and accountability groups along with other Kairos graduates inside the prison and with volunteers from the outside.

I was well into the training for my first Kairos weekend as the season of Lent began. I was reading about the early ministry of Jesus when I noticed something new to me in the Gospel accounts of His baptism. I realized that my impressions had been shaped and influenced by traditional Christian art in which Jesus and John are often depicted standing alone in the clear, calm water as Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him.

As I read carefully the story of Jesus’ baptism, my mental image of the event began to change. Matthew tells us that people from Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region around the Jordan were going out to John, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And Jesus also came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John (Matt. 3:5-6, 13). Luke tells us that when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened as God proclaimed his great pleasure with His son, affirming the true identity of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22).

God revealed His Son in the presence of a crowd who were confessing their sins, asking forgiveness, and being baptized in a river churning with mud from all the people wading in and out. Those who knew they needed to be forgiven were granted the privilege of witnessing Jesus revealed as the Son of God. Meanwhile, the religious leaders of the time stood at a distance sneering and grumbling over the fact that Jesus regularly hung out with sinners (Mark 2:15-17).

I did not immediately understand how God was using my newfound understanding of this event to prepare me for prison ministry. But this image I now had of Jesus, clean and sinless, plunging into that dirty river with a crowd of people wanting forgiveness for their sins was crystal clear in my mind as I stepped into the prison for the first time.

And there He was.

Jesus is inside the prison. His light and His power are substantial and intense against a backdrop of darkness and oppression. I had to laugh at myself, thinking in those months leading up to the retreat that I was preparing to take Jesus into the prison.

He is already there.

He has plunged into the dirty prison just as He plunged into the muddy Jordan River to be with people who know they need to be forgiven. And like the people watching on the day Jesus was baptized, the women in prison get to be witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit as He reveals Jesus as the Son of God.

The presence of Jesus in the prison is so undeniable, there is no need for tiresome apologetics to convince these women that He exists. They can see Him clearly for themselves. But many of them do not understand the boundlessness of His grace, love, and forgiveness. They need to be told that He is there because He loves them, because there is nothing they have done that He is not willing to forgive if they come to Him, and because He wants to be with them forever. I am awestruck at seeing the miracle that happens when these women realize the truth about Jesus and what He is offering them. At the close of the retreat on Sunday, some of the participants are barely recognizable as the same women who came in on Thursday afternoon. Imagine the impact of those visible transformations on the rest of the prison population.

I discovered that Jesus is not waiting at my church for me to take Him out into the darkness of the world. He is already at work there and has been from the beginning. My purpose is not to choose some great work out in the world to do for God. My purpose is to find the place He has appointed for me to join Him in His ongoing work. I have found that place inside a prison.

When we have lost something, we can often find it by going back to the last place we remember seeing it. I was looking under the light, trying to find the power that had transformed my life all those years ago, when I realized that Jesus had first appeared to me in the darkness of my own heart. He was beautiful and brilliant standing there in the middle of my messed up life, and there was nothing for me to do but follow Him.

When I go into the prison, I can see Jesus there in the middle of all those messed up lives, beautiful and brilliant, lighting up the darkness and offering life and freedom to the prisoners. Furthermore, I don’t have to go very far to find Jesus at work in the darkness. He is hanging out with the sinners inside the prison and with us sinners outside the prison as well. There is still darkness inside of me, and if I am brave enough to look, I can find Jesus there waiting for me to join Him in the work of bringing light into my own dark places.

We don’t all have to go to prison. There is plenty of darkness out there in the world beyond the light of our churches where Jesus is waiting for us to join Him in His work of bringing light. The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 used to make me feel uncomfortable, because it sounded to me as though Jesus is saying He will not be pleased with me if I do not do enough to help ease suffering in the world. That may be true, but I have discovered that He is saying so much more than that. Jesus says that when we feed the hungry, care for the sick, and visit those in prison, we are doing it for Him. I always assumed He means it is as if we are doing it for Him. But I have discovered that we truly do it for Him, because He is there.

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

[1] Kairos Inside is a program under Kairos Prison Ministry, an international organization dedicated to sharing the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, along with their families, and to help them become loving and productive citizens of their communities. Kairos Prison Ministry serves around 500 prisons and communities in 35 states and nine other countries. Kairos Inside actively serves in 25 men’s and women’s prisons across North and South Carolina.

http://www.kairosprisonministry.org/

http://www.kairosnc.org/

http://www.kairosofsouthcarolina.org/

For more information about becoming involved in Kairos, please contact the author smpullen@gmail.com.

Gracious Engagement. A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood.

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One of the most amazing attributes Jesus demonstrated was his ability to engage people from every strata of society.  Matthew the tax man who became a disciple; Peter the fisherman who became a fisher of men; Nicodemus the scholar and teacher of the law; the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears; the untouchable lepers who found a healing touch; the little children who climbed on His lap; Jairus whose daughter died.

His open-hearted accessibility and love of others, even for His enemies, would become the ethic by which the early church thrived.  So much so that the non-Christian world commenting on the life of the church said of them, “See how they love each other” (Justin).  Throughout church history, Christians have, with varying degrees of success, taken seriously the truth expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians: “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (5.19). The consequence?  No other religion has crossed as many sociological and religious barriers as Christianity.

It is this attitude of gracious engagement that springs from our recognition that we are all equally in need of salvation and share a common bond as the objects of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that is the distinguishing characteristic of every effective disciple-making congregation.

As you consider the manner of your life, the people and the places that you devote your time, and energy (check your daily planner), and your money (check your bank statement and budget), is it clear that your life – your church – demonstrates that same love for others?  Are you creating an atmosphere in your life, your home, your church, that reflects the love of God for all people – from every nation, tribe, language and people? (Revelation 7.9)

Do you remember the first time you went to church?  Can you remember the anxiety of “standing out?”  Remember the uncertainty of not knowing what to do, where to go or where to sit?  I certainly do.  Over the years I regularly meet folks desperately searching for meaning, truly searching after God, feeling these things upon entering the doors of a church. We have the privilege of joining Christ in our community – building bridges between God and His people.  Engaging and serving them as Christ would – and did.

For His Kingdom,

+Steve

A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood

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“Go”
“Wait”

Two simple words which cause us so much trouble!

Go
Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Lk 10. 2-3

Wait
Jesus gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4-5

Why is it so hard to do what Jesus commands us to do?  Why do we think we know better?  Part of the “going” and “waiting”, for Jesus, involved teaching (presuming we’ve first learned ourselves) others to obey (Mt 28.20).  Another word we don’t like!  But there it is, 4 times from the lips of the Lord in ten short verses (Jn. 14.15-24) culminating with: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

Going and waiting are hard.  Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.  Jonah wanted Judgment.

Peter found himself in slightly different circumstances.

Speaking to a confused church, which apparently wanted God to get on with the judging and were frustrated with waiting, the Apostle penned these words: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3.9)

God does not view time and circumstance as we do. He calls us to go to a broken world (from which we want to run) and to wait in the midst of the sadness and ugliness and pain of human brokenness.  This waiting, though, is not a passive waiting.  It’s a waiting that brings with it the power of the Spirit which empowers our proclamation and demonstration that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that the only appropriate response to the presence of God’s Kingdom is repentance and believe (Mk. 1.15).  The Lord’s seeming delay in bringing about the consummation of all things is not a result of His indifference but of His patience – a waiting for all who will come to repentance.

How utterly unlike Him I am.

It is uncomfortable to live in a sinful world.

And the truth is, I’d rather be comfortable.

I wonder how you’re doing in regard to going and waiting?  I wonder to whom the Lord has said for you to “go” but you’re waiting?  I wonder how many circumstances you find your patience being tried because you are so ready to go – and yet the Lord seems to have said, “wait”?

Do you have a heart that is content with going and waiting as the Lord leads?

Jesus never intended for the faith to be lived out in the imaginary realm of supposition and make believe.  Instead you and I are called to fully live in the present, sometimes hard pressed, sometimes perplexed, sometimes knocked down, but never crushed or abandoned – always carrying within our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed. Always accompanied by and filled with the Spirit

Go.
Wait.

Two very difficult words.

A Diocesan Vision for Church Planting

A Diocesan Vision for Church Planting
by the Rev. Dr. Winfield Bevins

 

North America is the new mission field.  In the United States alone there are over 130 million unchurched people, making it the largest mission field in the Western hemisphere and the fifth largest mission field on earth. With over 337 languages, the US has become the most multicultural and multilingual nation on earth. How will we reach the unchurched with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Dr. C. Peter Wagner said, “Church planting is the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven.”

The Diocese of the Carolinas is committed to do its part through church planting! In many ways, the diocese of the Carolinas is a picture of a church-planting diocese in the Anglican Church in North America. What does it look like to be a diocese that is committed to church planting?
The Bishop’s Priority
Church planting has to be a priority for the diocesan bishop if it is going to be the priority of the diocese. In 2012, Bishop Steve Wood called a strategic meeting to discuss developing a church planting strategy for the diocese. At that time we developed a diocesan strategy to start Kardia Church Planting Initiative with the vision to to plant healthy gospel-centered churches in the Anglican tradition. Since church planting was a major priority of our bishop, therefore it became a priority of the entire diocese. Kardia Church Planting Initiative focus on four key areas of mission:
  1. Plant: We seek to plant healthy gospel-centered churches in the Anglican tradition.
  2. Remission: We seek to help churches discover and live their mission by providing coaching, consulting, church health assessments, and training events for church leaders and local congregations.
  3. Resource: We seek to provide essential practitioner tested tools and resources to help plant and remission Anglican churches in North America.
  4. Partner: We seek to build strategic partnerships with likeminded dioceses, churches, and clergy in North America.
A Diocesan Priority
Church planting has been a priority from the early foundations of our diocese. In an 2012 article on the formation of the Diocese of the Carolinas a few key clergy shared their hopes for the diocese to become a church planting diocese.  The Rev. Filmore Strunk, Rector of All Saints Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, who was instrumental in the formation of the diocese says, “We are a Great Commission diocese focused on seeking worshippers, making disciples and providing for a diversity of worship styles. We see church planting as the main vehicle for that.” In a similar way, The Rev. Dr. John W. Yates, III, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, describes the diocesan vision for church planting. “As our bishop, Steve has made that priority clear, and I believe we are going to have a robust vocation for planting new churches.”[i]Vision has become a reality in the Diocese of the Carolinas. Since 2012, the Diocese has helped plant 10 new churches in addition to resourcing dozens of new and existing churches. To accomplish this we have developed strategic resources to help assess, train, and support church planters. First, we developed a church planting assessment manual that has helped assess more than a dozen church planters in the Carolinas and is the being used by the Always Forward Provincial Church Planting Team.Secondly, our diocese gives a major portion of our annual budget to church planting. In the words of Bishop Steve Wood, “we have put our resources behind the vision, and so a substantial portion of our budget is earmarked for mission and church planting. Resources and structures should be designed to facilitate mission and church planting.”

Thirdly, the diocese is set up to help coach and support the church planters. There is a regional lead team that helps support the work of church planting across the Carolinas by coaching church planters. Gary Ball, who recently planted Redeemer Anglican Church in Ashville, North Carolina reveals that “church planting can be lonely and discouraging. It’s so helpful to have someone to walk alongside us.” Mentoring and coaching is vital to vision for church planting in the Diocese of the Carolinas.

Get Involved with Church Planting
The call to plant new churches is bigger than any one diocese, church, or individual. Everyone has a part to play in God’s mission through church planting. It will take us all working together to make this God-sized dream a reality. We can do it if we all share in the responsibility of impacting our nation for Christ through planting new churches across the Carolinas and beyond. If you would like more information about Kardia Church Planting Initiative visit www.kardiaanglican.com.

BIO:  The Rev. Dr. Winfield Bevins is the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative and Canon for Church Planting for the Diocese of the Carolinas
[i] See Building Gospel Churches: Diocese of the Carolinas Commits to Mission Through Church Planting by Cynthia Brust, The Apostle, November, 2012, 11.

Diocesan Clergy Retreat and Synod 2017

Synod2017A Re-cap of the
Diocesan Clergy Retreat and Synod

by Dr. Sharon Pullen

Even in the mild and temperate climate of the Carolinas, more than one synod has been threatened by extreme weather events from ice storms to hurricanes. But fair weather prevailed all around the diocese in March as clergy and delegates representing 27 churches gathered in Raleigh, N.C. for the Fifth Annual Synod of The Diocese of the Carolinas.

The four previous synods were hosted by St. Andrews in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. This year, however, Holy Trinity Church in downtown Raleigh provided a respite for St. Andrews by graciously welcoming and accommodating those attending the retreat and synod.

Prior to the synod, 47 clergy along with 21 spouses gathered for the annual clergy retreat. At a relaxed but elegant dinner on Thursday evening, clergy from around the diocese were able to catch up and share news from their respective parishes.

At a workshop on Friday, the Rev. John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church Anglican near Washington, D.C., and his wife, author and speaker Susan Yates, spent the morning encouraging the group of clergy and spouses in their ministries and in their marriages. Drawing upon the experience and wisdom gained from nearly 50 years of marriage, parenting, and ministry, John and Susan emphasized the importance of open communication, forgiveness, praying and reading the Bible together, keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest, setting aside time as a couple as well as time as a family, and finding mature friends and family who will commit to ongoing prayer support.

Celeste Minns was one of the clergy spouses who attended the retreat. She and her husband, the Rev. Jon Minns, rector of Church of the Holy Cross in North Raleigh, have four children and have been in full-time ministry for seven years. Celeste said she laughed with relief to hear some of the funny stories from the Yates’ early years and is reassured to know she is not alone in the typical struggles of ministry family life. “John and Susan are a living testimony that couples can not only survive but thrive after decades of marriage, ministry, and raising a family.”

The Diocesan Synod convened on Friday evening with a Service of Holy Communion. The Rev. John Yates III, rector of Holy Trinity Church, shared a message on persecution and deception in the last days. Christians in the West suffer “soft” persecution, which often takes the form of accusations of intolerance and discrimination. Our suffering is minor in comparison to that of our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world, but it is nonetheless real and makes us susceptible to false teaching. We are called to stand firm and stay on course by daily turning to God’s Word.

Following the opening worship, dinner was served in the courtyard at Holy Trinity. In true North Carolina spirit, a meal featuring southern fried chicken and barbeque was enjoyed by all while thoughtfully placed projection screens allowed basketball fans to linger at the dinner tables and enjoy fellowship without fear of missing the ACC tournament.

The first Saturday session opened with an informal address by Bishop Steve Wood reviewing the highlights of this past year in our diocese. He introduced Suffragan Bishop David Bryan and Assisting Bishop Thaddeus Barnum and expressed his deep gratitude to both men for their humility and willingness to work through the challenges of shared leadership while remaining fully committed to moving the church forward. Bishop Wood also expressed joy over being part of a diocese in which the leaders pray for each other and cheer each other on. “This is what I imagined as the church, not what I was ordained into as a deacon.”

Diocesan Administrator Maddy Donaldson presented an overview of the current financial report.

Bishop Thaddeus Barnum, in an inspiring teaching on the Person of the Holy Spirit, challenged his audience to consider why it is that we as a diocese are stuck when it comes to mission. One explanation could be our single-minded focus on how to bring people into the church, though Jesus calls us to take the Gospel out to the world. Another cause of our stagnation may the distinction we make between clergy and laity. Whereas a few are ordained into the clergy, we all belong to the priesthood of believers. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to all believers – men, women, and children — to empower them and equip them to take the Gospel out. Please take time to listen to Bishop Barnum’s teaching on the Diocese of the Carolinas website.

The Rev. Winfield Bevins, canon for church planting for the diocese, opened the second session of the synod with a report on Kardia church planting and remissioning initiative. For a detailed update on Kardia, see Winfield’s article in this edition of Carolinas Currently.

Luke Rasmussen and his team from Christ the Redeemer gave an update on their church in the Clemson University area. They expressed their excitement about seeing the fruit of God’s hand on their growing ministry. They are in the process of purchasing 23 acres in Pendleton, S.C., giving them the opportunity to have a permanent presence in the community. For more information about Christ the Redeemer and their land campaign, please visit the church website

Bishop David Bryan brought the synod to a close as he urged clergy and lay leaders not to lose sight of the beauty that surrounds us every day in the people of God who make up our church communities. We can see evidence of the Spirit of God working among His people, building the Kingdom right in our midst, and empowering us to live according to His will. Bishop Bryan’s affirming message can be found on the Diocese of the Carolinas website.

The annual clergy retreat and diocesan synod are excellent opportunities for refreshment, encouragement, and networking with other leaders in our diocese. For the next few years, these events will be held in March, usually a safe month for weather in the Carolinas.

Mark your calendars and make plans to attend.

2018    March 1-3       All Saints Church, Charlotte, N.C.

2019    March 14-16   Cathedral Church of the Apostles, Columbia, S.C.

2020    March 5-7       All Saints Church, Pawleys Island, S.C.

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

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Developing Healthy Congregations

15541267_786901648114635_2912949989732689445_nA Note from Bishop Steve Wood

 

Dear Friends,

As our diocese continues to develop our common life Nancy Bryan has helpfully begun a regular e-newsletter of sorts to ensure we stay connected one to another. Included in these e-newsletters will be a brief article from me.  Being our first such newsletter I thought I’d write you about that which is closest to my heart; developing healthy missional congregations.

Over the course of my ordained life I have continually observed that when a congregation goes flat it is usually because one aspect of their life is out of balance.   As Anglicans entrusted with the great treasure of a rich liturgical life, we tend to do worship well. And, as I’ve traveled from parish to parish across our diocese we tend to love one another well. Most commonly it is the missional focus that has been lost.

So, how can you – and your parish – develop a heart that will grow an outwardly minded (mission minded) church?  Here are five suggestions:

 

  1. Adopt the “apostolic” attitude found in Romans 1.5-6: “Through Him (Jesus) and for His name’s sake, we (you) received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles (unreached people) to the obedience that comes from faith.”  Paul says that each one of us who has received grace for salvation has also received apostleship – meaning we have all been sent into the world as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5.20).
  2. Find neutral ground to reach out to the community.  The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.  In the Diocese of the Carolinas the Village Church in West Greenville, SC partners with other community volunteers to serve their neighborhood by offering free bicycle maintenance, bike learning (and bike earning) opportunities and community development.  Called the Village Wrench they set up in a neighborhood of West Greenville on the first Saturday of every month. It is a tremendous bridge into the community giving pre-Christian people an opportunity to rub shoulders with Christians in a non-threatening atmosphere.
  3. Cultivate an evangelistic mindset.  Think person-to-person, friend-to-friend, neighbor-to-neighbor, colleague-to-colleague.  This, in fact, is much more important than any program or event your parish could implement. Twenty years ago George Hunter, the author of How to Reach Secular People, suggested that in our secular climate it takes twenty contacts(!) to build a bridge between your friend and Christ. The point is, stay engaged.  Folks will want to see your faith lived out and that takes time.
  4. Spice up your evangelistic life with a little variety.  Again, the evangelistic opportunities are endless.  For example, if you hear a single mom has a sick child you could: bring her dinner, mow her lawn, bring in the mail, visit the child and pray for him/her, share how your faith helped you in a hard time, invite her to church – or a home group, be a friend, have coffee – build a bridge.
  5. Meet people where they are.  Increasingly, the bankruptcy of our secular/pluralistic culture (materialism, atheism, skepticism) is being made clear.  Our society has moved from pluralism (many truths) to relativism (no truth is more true than others) to post-post-modernism (what is truth?).  Many in the church panic and become ashamed of the Gospel, feeling that the Bible is irrelevant to our modern world.  NOTHING could be further from the truth.  In fact, this kind of thinking reflects more clearly a worldly analysis than a biblical one.  The Bible is still living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword – able to penetrate soul and spirit and judge the thoughts and attitudes of people’s hearts (Heb. 4.11).

 

In Christ,

Steve

A Real God

RETREATwith Real Women, Real Life, Real Men & Real Courage
February began with God calling 84 women from St. Paul’s Greenville to Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC for SPC’s Second Annual women’s overnight retreat.  Our time together consisted of prayer, diving into the Word of God, small group discussion, praise and worship, meals together, social time, and fellowship.

The excellent teaching was led by Van Weston of Pawley’s Island, SC. This was her second year leading the retreat, and the women agreed that though they thought it impossible to top year one, God did. Her teaching focused on Jesus encountering the Samaritan woman at the well. Throughout our time together, Van reminded us that Jesus loves us, Jesus is for us, and Jesus is with us. She encouraged each of us to embrace our relationship with Jesus and embrace the “life benefits” that Jesus has for us. Each woman left renewed, praising God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our time together was indeed life changing.  All praise to Jesus.The Men held their 4th Annual Men’s Retreat the following weekend. With 66 men in attendance, it was a wonderful time of joy and fellowship as well as a time of worship and hearing from God’s Word. Bishop Thad Barnum spoke to the men on Friday night and Saturday about real courage from the life of Jacob. Together they dealt with fear, anxiety, and the need to let go of control and let Jesus work in our lives.

The retreat closed with a prayer service, where the men from St. Paul’s were encouraged to lift up their hands, let go of their control, and receive the Father’s work in their life. Finally, they gathered around the communion table in the chapel for Eucharist and a final blessing. The Holy Spirit was at work in a mighty way and men have come away refreshed and excited about what God is doing in them as individuals and as a group at St. Paul’s Church. All praise to God!