Apart from my immense gratitude to the Lord, I can’t fully express how thankful I am for my wife, Ashley, who has been an incredible strength, a source of wisdom and a champion for needful rest. When we moved to Greenville, we left our church and community of 8 years to start over completely, and she has been so amazing. Thank you to Bishop Steve, John+ & Kathy Hall and this diocese for believing in us to come and try a relaunch of Village Church. Thanks also to +David and +Thad for serving me and the Village so well since you came on board. Thanks to Chip+ and everyone in my Simeon Cohort for expanding my imagination for ministry as an Anglican and for the much needed fellowship during the rigors of planting. Lastly, we are so deeply indebted to the first brave 18 people, some of whom are here today, who could see this church before we even began.
I want to tell you just a little about the congregation and community I am so blessed to serve and you’re receiving today. After 5 months meeting in our home and 2 years in a mustard yellow elementary school cafeteria with a funky smell, we were able to buy the 100-year old Bethel United Methodist. The timing and the price were nothing short of a miracle. 2 years after moving, we’re now a congregation of over 160 adults and 95 children, half of whom are under the age of 5. It’s always an adventure!
I’m often asked about our name, which is admittedly not very Anglican-sounding. The westside of downtown Greenville is made up of 7 contiguous mill villages. So, we stuck with the name to convey our commitment to being engaged in these villages and especially in our own, Sans Souci.
One of our earliest village-facing efforts started with two of our members repairing or finding used bikes for their low-income neighbors. That eventually became Village Wrench, which now has a standalone repair shop, a full-time director (who is also our youth coordinator) and serves hundreds of people in our city through 5 city-wide repair events on the first Saturday of every month. People of all ages can earn a bike by serving their own neighbors. In 2016, Village Wrench launched 6-Cycle, a six-week teen program of bicycle and character building teaching traits such as grit, self-control, gratitude, and curiosity. The kids take home the bike they build, plus a helmet and lock. It’s been an opportunity for Gospel relationships and for encouraging growth and dignity in teens who come from very discouraging and limiting home and parental situations. Village Wrench has also become a great intersection for unbelievers to join in our mission and work alongside believers who live out the Gospel in friendship and partnership.
In terms of our worship, a significant majority of our congregation don’t come from a liturgical background. We’ve been worshipping with the ACNA Ancient Text for nearly 2 years, which you probably know is the 1662 with modern language, and have welcomed people from so many backgrounds. I say that to encourage church planters and existing churches alike. We have a really good and life-giving thing in our worship tradition, so be encouraged to live into that distinctive unapologetically. I really do believe the ancient way is the way forward.
Since we began, liturgy and sacramental worship have been real instruments of the Spirit’s work of renewal. I’d even say it has been a healing balm for many of our folks, who were unchurched, dechurched or nominal in their faith. Many have come to us sojourning for a long time after leaving fundamentalism and have found a home in a fellowship of grace. They’ve recovered their works as rooted in reciprocal love, not law.
Please pray for us – That we will be faithful and wise in days ahead. We’re hiring new staff and clergy this summer and we’re constantly renovating our building, having spent over $80,000 bringing the beautiful, but quirky old lady up to our needs. A church with a lot of young families is high vision, but low margin – and there is much to do. An important area of discipleship for these younger generations is rejecting financial scarcity and growing in Gospel generosity.
Also pray for us in our partnership with Greenville County Schools to become a summer feeding site for 42 children in the apartments directly next to us who otherwise do not eat well during the summer. Lastly, pray for us as that the work of mending hearts and lives through the Gospel will remain our priority and we’ll be undeterred by the fiery darts of our Enemy, who stands condemned.
We love being a part of this broader fellowship. You are on our hearts and on our lips as we pray through the cycle of prayer for this diocese each Sunday. The Lord bless you. We love you. We look forward to being a resource to you as you have been to us. Thank you for helping us these 5 years to become what we are today and for receiving us as a parish.