St. Andrews #BeautyfromAshes

by Greg Shore

At 4:25 am on April 22, Bishop Steve Wood received a phone call from a parishioner who lives across the street from St. Andrew’s Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “The Ministry Center is on fire.” He immediately went to the church to find the Ministry Center roof engulfed in flames. By 5:15 the congregation had been notified that there would be no services that day and by six o’clock, the local news outlets were reporting on the fire.

This was the largest fire that anybody in Mt Pleasant had ever seen. As units from neighboring cities sped across the Cooper and Wando Rivers, they could see the glow of the fire in the Old Village.

As Bishop Wood watched, he walked around the block to gain a different vantage point and to see the extent of the fire. Residents of Rose Lane, located behind the church, had been rousted from their beds by the noise and lights of the multiple fire engines. In the dark of early morning they recognized that Steve was the pastor of their neighborhood church. One family invited him to the second floor deck of their house so he had a better view. Later, somebody brought him a cup of coffee. As he made his way around the block and back out to the parking lot in front of the Ministry Center, some simply stood there with him in silence. The presence of the neighbors that day was a gift that will not soon be forgotten.

Throughout the morning, people gathered in the parking lot and stayed long after the flames were extinguished. Some arrived expecting to attend church that day. Some arrived in their pajamas. Members, neighbors, some who had just a fleeting association with St. Andrew’s came. And they began to tell the stories – stories of God’s goodness that had taken place within the four walls of the building. Families coming to church for the first time as a family when their child was enrolled in the Day School. People who had come to know Christ as a result of the Alpha course. Healings that had taken place. Marriages restored. Wayward sons and daughters returning home and returning to the Lord. Stories of weddings, baptisms, and funerals of much-loved saints.

Bishop Terrell Glenn, the rector of St. Andrew’s in 1996 when the Ministry Center was built, recounted a gathering the day before the building was consecrated. There had been an open house to give tours and give people the general layout of the building. After the open house, the vestry, staff, worship team, and prayer teams stayed behind and moved through the building and praying. Terrell said that at first the prayers were a bit vague. “Lord, please bless the people who attend church here.” As the evening went on the prayers became bolder and more specific. “Lord, will you heal people here? Please restore marriages here. Lord, bring people to know you here.” Those prayers spoken 22 years ago have been answered.

As word spread about the fire, word came back to St. Andrew’s that many congregations in Mt Pleasant and around the country, began their services with prayers for the church. Local pastors called and texted Steve Wood all day long. Immediately both members and non-members asked how they could help. The response to the fire has been a bit overwhelming for the rector, staff, and members. “We’re used to being on the giving end,” Steve said to his congregation. “I have to tell you. It’s a bit humbling to be on the receiving end.”

The church has continued to move forward. The staff had their regular staff meeting the morning after the fire, hosted by Whole Foods in their conference room. The third of three new members’ classes was hosted by one of the new members in their home the evening after the fire. Thursday Staff Bible study was held in the parking lot. The Historic Church hosted a wedding less than a week later. One week after the fire, St. Andrew’s had four services in the Historic Church and two services at Mt Pleasant Academy, a local public school. That evening, there was a New Members’ Service and a reception for the new members. The next day, the church hosted a two-part lecture by the Rev’d Dr. Ashley Null. The mission of the church – connecting people to the presence and power of Jesus Christ – continues on.

Mr. Greg Shore is the Communications Director at St. Andrews Church, Mt Pleasant, SC

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A Young & Growing Congregation – Redeemer Asheville

by The Reverend Gary Ball

As Bishop Bryan recently stood to lead the Eucharistic prayer at Redeemer, every child in our church simultaneously began to scream (only slightly exaggerating). I was a bit embarrassed and concerned for him having to talk over the commotion. As chaotic as it often feels in these situations, the sounds and shuffling of children is a blessing. I was asked to share about my experience thus far.

It is not uncommon to see headlines and statistics regarding decreasing church attendance, aging congregations and the epidemic regarding youth leaving the church. So occasionally we will pause to appreciate the sound of children ringing throughout our congregation—we thank God for these interruptions and acknowledge these moments as a gift. Recently we had a three year old dancing down the aisle as her family came forward for communion. It was angelic and we paused for a moment to catch this earthly glimpse into the heavenlies. On another occasion we had a two year belting out the liturgy just slightly behind everyone else—we stopped and laughed. We were encouraged by the participation by this young worshipper, and reminded that he was lending his voice to the choir of angels and archangels.

Perhaps these brief examples capture a few of the reasons young families are making their way to Redeemer. Asheville is a unique place where people coming to church either have no preconceived ideas of what church should be, or have in some way been put off by what church has become. In our context, traditional programming for children is not as much a priority for parents as it is to have their children loved, prayed for and blessed. It is important that our kids are recognized as full participants in the life of the church…screaming, dancing and clumsy liturgy included. This communicates something to our families, and reorients our thinking about such commotion—moving us from regarding them as a distraction, to receiving it with heartfelt gratitude.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to reach a culture for Christ you must capture their imagination. This is especially true for the younger generation and especially in Asheville (a location with an artistic identity). Our goal is not to lead worshippers to something imaginary, but to come to see things as they truly are. While many find the tradition of the church to be an obstacle, we embrace it as an opportunity—inviting questions, while igniting mystery, curiosity and anticipation. I believe this appeal to imagination will be key as we all seek to reach the next generation for Christ.

The Rev. Gary Ball is Rector of Redeemer Anglican Church in Asheville, NC

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Making the Most of Meanwhile

by Teresa D. Glenn

Don’t you love to hear a good story unfold? You know, the kind that has phrases like:

“and she had no idea that 2 weeks ago he…”
“no one knew that all along her boss had quietly initiated…”
“to everyone’s surprise, he had been planning this …”
“that single experience was the quiet catalyst that would eventually…”

In the beginning and middle of the story, ordinary circumstances unfold and conversations transpire. Then somewhere along the way segments that seemed to stand alone connect and an unpredictable story takes shape—to which we say, I did not see that coming!

Old Testament stories are like this, as they vividly reveal God’s sovereign plans played out over time. A while back I studied 1 and 2 Chronicles, and one word in a story held my focus:

MEANWHILE

In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat learns that a tremendous army is coming to attack his kingdom, and he’s afraid. He “set his face to seek the LORD” and prayed, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v.12)  King Jehoshaphat also called his people to seek the Lord: “Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came…”

The rest of the story amazes. The sovereignty of God – who knows all the moving parts, the condition of every heart, the impact of all words and circumstances, every decision that’s in process, and the timing of everything—powerfully displayed.

I don’t know how long this season was, but I can imagine their fear. Desperate, they grew dependent. Desperate, they grew faithful. In the “meanwhile” of their circumstance, they prayed—men, women, children, and moms “with their little ones”.

I thought about my life and each member of our family’s life.  I can never know all the moving parts—the condition of each heart, the impact of words or circumstance, every decision that’s in process, the timing of most things, or what any outcome will be.  Oh, but I have certainly tried! We analyze and re-analyze, and then perhaps invite someone to analyze with us.

Do you ever feel powerless? Overwhelmed? Uncertain?
Does your child?

Make the most of every MEANWHILE.  Pray.

Ask others to pray, to intercede to God on your behalf. No matter your child’s age, lead them toward prayer. Pray over them, gently and briefly. Offer to pray with them. Silently, pray for them. Encourage them to pray for others and their circumstance. Pray as a family. Pray aloud, so that your children hear and see how spontaneous, simple, and significant talking to God can be. Pray that your children will pray.

We have a lot of “meanwhiles” in life—waiting seasons, challenging relationships, difficult decisions, hard circumstances—and our children will, too. Our “meanwhiles” and our child’s “meanwhiles” can bear testimony to the faithfulness of God and how intimately He yearns for us to participate with Him in His larger-than-what-we-can-see plan.

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.

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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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