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Every and All

Dear Church Family,
 
You’re receiving this email on Friday. However, it’s about 9AM on Thursday as I am writing it. We just finished Morning Prayer on Facebook Live a few moments ago, and the hymn that we heard this morning is one of my favorites, “Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast.” Penned by Charles Wesley (who along with his older brother John founded the Methodist movement), this hymn captures the truth that, in Jesus Christ, God has indeed come for ALL of us. Absolutely no exclusions. In fact, I want you to notice how many times the word “all” or “every” appear in these lyrics in reference to human beings.
 
 Come, sinners, to the gospel feast;
let EVERY soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
for God hath bid ALL humankind.
 
Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
the invitation is to ALL.
Come, ALL the world! Come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.
 
Come, ALL ye souls by sin oppressed,
ye restless wanderers after rest;
ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind,
in Christ a hearty welcome find.
 
My message as from God receive;
ye ALL may come to Christ and live.
O let his love your hearts constrain,
nor suffer him to die in vain.
 
This is the time, no more delay!
This is the Lord’s accepted day.
Come thou, this moment, at his call,
and live for him who died for ALL.
 
(Charles Wesley, “Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast,” 1747, emphasis mine)
 
Charles Wesley wrote these lyrics in large part because of a theology that was prevalent in his period (and is still prevalent in some churches even now today) called Calvinism, which held that God hasn’t come for all but only a select few, a group of people whom Calvinists call “the elect.” (I won’t get into all the differences between Calvinism and Wesleyanism in this email. However, if you’d like to learn more, check out this link: http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html.) Charles and his older brother didn’t hold back when speaking out against Calvinism. They maintained the Scriptural teaching that God hasn’t come for some or event most. Instead, God has come for ALL. Indeed, God’s heart beats for ALL human beings (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9).
 
So rest assured that no matter who you are or what you’ve done (or haven’t done) in life, God’s heart beats for you. In Jesus Christ, God has come for you. Yes, that includes you. You mean as much to God as the sending of his Son.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s. Please join us for online worship this weekend as we close out our series called “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.” We’ll be talking about the return of Jesus and New Creation this weekend, so don’t miss out!
 
p.p.s., Meet Me in the Lobby, our time of virtual gathering in between Sunday services, begins this Sunday (August 16) at 9:30AM. You’ll receive an email later today and again on Sunday with instructions on how to join. Hope to “see” you then.


The Church is the bridge

Dear Church Family,
 
Last night, we concluded the last session of our James study. I am so thankful to all of you who joined me for that online Bible study. Here are the main takeaways we gleaned from James.
  • As Christians, we rejoice in trials, not because trials are fun (they’re not) or we’re suckers for suffering (we’re not), but because God uses trials to reveal and strengthen faith. Additionally, God gives us wisdom to endure trials and learn from them.
  • We shouldn’t attribute temptation to God, because God doesn’t tempt us. Indeed, God’s only desire is to fill our lives with good things. Rather, temptations come from our own desires, which, if not properly handled, can lead us to sin.
  • Properly responding to God’s word includes both listening to God’s word and doing what it says.
  • Our faith in Christ should manifest itself in concrete action. Such action will include treating everybody equally and controlling our tongue (i.e., watching what we say, particularly about other people).
  • We should be led by God’s wisdom rather than the world’s wisdom. Further, when we’re led by God’s wisdom, we’ll be people who are pure, peace-loving, gentle, full of mercy. We’ll also be people who won’t insist on our own way.
  • We should include God in every area of our lives, including our plans for the future and how we manage our finances.
 
What remarkable, practical words we find in James! Again, thank you to all of you who were a part of this study. We’ll likely do another church-wide Bible study at some point in the near future. However, for now, we’ll take a break and enjoy other studies offered by our Live by Faith Banner (some of which you can read about below).
 
This weekend in worship we’ll of course be inspired by great music. Additionally, we’ll continue our journey through our message series titled “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.” In this 6-part series, we’re looking at the “BIG PICTURE” of Scripture.
 
Having talked about Creation, the Fall, Israel, and Jesus, we now come to the fifth part of this series – the Church. Next week, we’ll conclude these messages by looking at New Creation. Of course, this means the bridge between Jesus (when God came among us) and New Creation (when God comes among us again to wrap this whole thing up) is the Church. Given the importance of the Church, I hope you will join us for online worship and listen to (what I pray by God’s grace will be) a meaningful message.
 
Take care, and we’ll “see” you this weekend!   
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s. Please join me in keeping the people of Beirut in our prayers this week after the devastating explosion they experienced. We lift them up as they mourn their losses following such a tragedy.


Jesus brings us home to God

Dear Church Family,
 
In 1986, five-year-old Saroo Munshi Khan and his 14-year-old brother were roaming the streets of their home city of Berhampur, India. Searching for spare change, they eventually went to a train station. Saroo’s older brother Guddu wandered beyond the station. Meanwhile Saroo fell asleep in one of the cars while waiting for his brother to return. A few hours later, Saroo woke up more than 900 miles away in Calcutta, with no way of knowing how to return to home. He survived on the streets for weeks, was taken into an orphanage, and was adopted by an Australian family and grew up in Hobart, Tasmania. More than two and a half decades later, Saroo found his way back to his hometown with the help of Google Earth.
 
An article explains Saroo’s journey back home:
 
In 2011, using vague memories and Google Earth imagery, Saroo identified his home town. Using the ruler feature in Google Earth, he mapped out a search radius by making an educated guess about how far he traveled by train. After countless hours of scouring this area of Google Earth imagery, he came upon a proverbial needle in a haystack. Saroo spotted one vague landmark that led him to the next, helping him unlock a five-year-old child’s memories. He eventually spotted a neighborhood, street, and tin roof that looked familiar.
 
In 2012, Saroo embarked on a trip from Australia back to India. Once he arrived, he shared his story with local residents, who in turn helped him find his way back to his mother and surviving brother and sister. Twenty-six years later, Saroo finally found his way home.
 
That’s a pretty cool story, isn’t it? I can only imagine the joy that was present in Saroo’s family, particularly his mother, when they finally received him. This long-lost son and brother had at last come home.
 
This weekend in worship will be a coming home of sorts. The reason is we now – in our 6-part series looking at the major movements of Scripture – turn our attention to Jesus, who came to bring all of us – each and every one of us – home with God. There is not a person for whom Jesus did not come.
 
Be sure to join us for online worship either on Saturday night (6:30PM) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM). My hunch is you’ll be glad you did.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s. In addition to bringing us home with God, Jesus came to bring us home with each other. I know how meaningful relationships are to us. I also know those relationships have been affected by this hard (but very necessary) time of physical distancing. This weekend in worship you’ll hear about a new opportunity we have as a church family to connect and actually share conversations. You can read some of the info in the email below, but I’ll also explain more during the announcements.


Grateful for Julia and the rest of the Worship Team and COF Staff

Dear Church Family,
 
The other night, Julia Nicholas, our Director of Worship Arts, led us in a time of live worship music on our Facebook page. If you missed it, I encourage you to check out the video here:Click. I continue to be grateful for all our Community of Faith staff who have stepped up to the plate in this weird, challenging, and interesting season and found new and creative ways for us to engage with God and each other. And I know you are grateful, too!
 
This weekend we continue in our preaching series called “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.” In the first two messages, we focused on Genesis 1-3, the opening three chapters of the Bible, in which we read about the creation of the universe – which God originally made good – and then the fall of humanity from the sin of Adam and Eve. Well, the message this weekend is going to cover a bit more content. We’re going to look at the story of Israel, which spans most of the Old Testament from Genesis 12 to Malachi 4. That’s 918 chapters by the way! Don’t worry. I won’t preach from all 918 chapters. (You can breathe a big sigh of relief!) We’re just going to look for the “big picture” of Israel’s story, which (as we’ll see in the message) mirrors our story. As always, we invite you to worship with us on Saturday night (6:30PM) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM). You can join us on our website (www.communityoffaith.org/livestream-services) or on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cofumc/).
 
Even as we deal with all our current challenges, I pray that you are still finding ways this summer to rest, relax, and spend time with God. As we say at Community of Faith, God loves you – PERIOD. May you bask in that love today as you embrace your true identity as God’s beloved child.
 
Blessings,
Chris
 


Where have you seen God moving at Community of Faith?

Dear Church Family,
 
When I was growing up, my pastor would often ask those in the church he led this question: “Where have you seen God moving at Christ Church?” I’ve always loved that question. I know, I know. Local churches get a lot of things wrong. (History shows that.) But by God’s grace, we also get a lot of things right, and for the past two thousand years, God has moved in local churches and used them as a force of good in the world. So, with that said, where have you seen God moving at Community of Faith? I’ve seen God moving in a variety of ways.
  • I’ve seen God moving in th74 KIDS we have registered this week for online Vacation Bible School. (Thanks, Kathy Beuttenmuller!)
  • I’ve seen God moving in congregants who, knowing that others wouldn’t be able to give as much money as they had planned for the year (because of being furloughed or laid off from work), INCREASED their giving to the church to make up the difference.
  • I’ve seen God moving in the countless folks who have called or emailed me to ask how to donate to our needy fund. (By the way the answer is to make a donation out to Community of Faith and then to earmark it for “Voice of Hope.”)
  • I’ve seen God moving in people who just a few months ago had never heard of Community of Faith, much less worshiped with us. However, they’ve stumbled upon our church’s online ministry and have been blessed by it.
  • I’ve seen God moving in those of you who have admitted that while you miss being in the building, you understand why our building is closed. What’s more, you are committed to doing whatever it takes to keep our community safe.
  • I’ve seen God moving in our Youth Director, David Stump, who just this last week visited the homes of our students and planted signs in their yards saying that the church misses them.
  • I’ve seen God moving in our staff and volunteers who have found new and creative ways to be the church in this weird season.
  • I’ve seen God moving in our Learning Center staff who have worked so hard to keep our Learning Center students and their families safe.
Yes, I’ve seen God moving in countless ways, only a few of which are mentioned above.
 
In Philippians 1:3, the apostle Paul writes, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (NLT). I give thanks to God for all of you and for the ways in which God continues to use you to minister to this world. You inspire me, and I’m grateful to be your pastor. My question remains, where have you seen God moving at Community of Faith?
 
Blessings,
Chris
 
p.s. Join us for online worship this weekend as we continue in our new series that we’re calling “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.” This weekend we’ll be talking about the fall of humanity from the sin of Adam and Eve. Join us on Saturday night (6:30PM) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM) as we unpack this story together.


The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation

Dear Church Family,
 
So far over the course of 2020 our sermon topics have been fairly diverse.
 
We’ve explored the relationship between faith and doubt. We’ve examined the 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John (I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the good shepherd, etc.). We’ve studied the various articles of the Apostles’ Creed (I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, etc.). And, just more recently, we’ve seen how some of our favorite Marvel superheroes mirror the truths of Scripture.
 
Well, in our next series for 2020, we’re going to focus on – wait for it – the Bible. The whole Bible. From beginning to end. We’re calling the new series “The Short of It: The Entire Story of the Bible from Creation to New Creation.”
 
My experience as a pastor has taught me that far too many of us find the Bible baffling, confusing, and intimidating. Often the reason is we pull out various passages without a larger framework in which to put these passages. For example, we wonder how the story of Israel fits with the story of Creation. Or we wonder how the story of Jesus fits with his second coming in the future. Our hope with this new series is to give us a BIG PICTURE view of the Bible, which will in turn make Scripture more accessible and easier to read.
 
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the Bible is meant to be read. My prayer is that this series will help all of us feel comfortable with picking up and reading Scripture.
 
In addition to being pumped about our new series, I’m excited that Vacation Bible School (VBS) begins this coming Monday (July 13). I’m incredibly grateful to Kathy Beuttenmuller for all her hard work in getting us set up for virtual VBS. If you have a child or know of a child anywhere in the world who would like to attend, please reach out to Kathy and let her know (kbeuttenmuller@communityoffaith.org). And please pray for VBS, that these kids will have a fun experience, and that God will use this program to change their lives.
 
Thanks for the privilege of serving as your pastor, and I look forward to “seeing” you online for weekend worship.
 
Blessings,
Chris


4th of July weekend – SuperHero Summer concludes

Dear Church Family,
 
I want to start by thanking all of you who joined us last night for our online study of James. We had a great time exploring the background (authorship, date of composition, etc.) and the first twelve verses of this remarkable biblical letter. As a reminder, our James study will continue each and every Thursday for at least the next month and a half. (I’m seeing how much material we get through each week.) To join, simply go to www.facebook.com/cofumc/live/ every Thursday at 6:30PM (EST). My prayer is that these online Bible studies are giving you a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, God’s Word.
 
Tomorrow (Saturday) is 4th of July! Despite the pandemic, I hope you enjoy the holiday and that your celebration is a safe and healthy one. We truly are fortunate to live in the USA. What’s more, we’re grateful to those who serve and protect our country.
 
As always, worship this weekend will include electrifying and inspiring music. In addition, we’ll conclude our “Superhero Summer” sermon series. While this has been a fun and interesting series, all good things must come to an end. The superhero we’ll be exploring is Black Panther, who was the first black superhero in mainstream American comic books. Some of you may have seen the movie Black Panther, which came out two years ago. It was the highest-grossing movie of 2018 (grossed just over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide), so clearly this superhero resonates with a number of people (if not you, then somebody you know). In the message, I’ll share at least three scriptural truths we can pull out of Black Panther’s story. I hope you’ll make weekend worship a priority, and that you’ll join us online either on Saturday night (6:30PM) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM).
 
I began this note with a word of thanks. Let me end it with one, too. I want to personally thank all of you (which was more than 150 of you) who gave your feedback on our congregational-wide survey. As you may remember, this survey concerned both our online ministry and our eventual return to in-person worship. Kimi Lloyd, our Known by Love Banner Leader, posted a 5-minute video on our Facebook page summarizing the results.  You can watch it here in case you missed it: Click here. Please know our Administrative Council takes your feedback seriously and will continue to prayerfully go over what you shared as we continue to lead Community of Faith through this unique season.
 
Have a great 4th of July, and I’ll “see” you online for weekend worship!
 
Blessings,
Chris


Transformation and Redemption

Dear Church Family,
 
I hope you enjoyed a great weekend last Saturday and Sunday. I want to thank you for the time you allowed Amanda, the twins, and me to get away and be with family. We spent last Thursday at her mom’s house in Melbourne, and then drove down to Fort Lauderdale on Friday to be with my dad for Father’s Day weekend. During our visit there, we also got to see my younger brother, Ryan, and his family, and meet my niece, Annabelle, for the first time. (She was born 6 months ago.) All in all, it was a great trip. However, we’re glad to be back! If you missed Bishop Ken Carter’s meditation on Matthew 6:25-34, which was part of our online service last weekend, you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/431510993.
 
This weekend, we return to our preaching series on Marvel superheroes with a look at Black Widow. While you may not recognize her name as easily as you do Spider-Man or The Hulk, she’s definitely become more famous over the last few years because of the success of The Avengers movies, which were some of the highest grossing films of the last decade. When it comes down to it, Black Widow’s story is one of transformation and redemption, which are important biblical and theological themes! We’ll be sure to unpack those themes in the message this weekend. I look forward to worshiping with you online on Saturday night (6:30PM) or Sunday morning (8:30AM, 10:30AM). As always, you can watch the prerecorded service on Community of Faith’s website (www.communityoffaith.org/livestream-services) or on the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/cofumc/live/). I know Julia will also have powerful music prepared for us.
 
I want to take a moment to thank you (seriously THANK YOU!) for your faith-filled giving to Community of Faith, particularly during these unique days when we haven’t been able to gather in our building. Now that we’re coming to the end of June, we’ll give you a midyear update in a couple of weeks as to how our church is doing financially. In the meantime, please know that God is using your giving each and every day to change human lives and help us fulfill our mission, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who Live by Faith, are Known by Love, and become a Voice of Hope to the world. In case you’re not already aware, you can give online (www.communityoffaith.org/giving/), or you can mail in your offering to our physical address (9120 Teacher Lane Davenport, FL 33897).
 
In the rest of the email, you can read information about other things that are taking place in the life of our church. These include an online Bible study I’ll be leading on the New Testament Book of James starting this Thursday, as well as information about Vacation Bible School (VBS). A closed building has not stopped our church from actively engaging the community and sharing, as best we can, God’s love for the world in Jesus. THANK YOU for all that you are doing to help us toward this end.
 
“See” you this weekend!
 
Blessings,
Chris
 


Florida UMC Cabinet combined Worship Service this weekend

Dear Church Family,

Happy Friday! I am going to try to keep this note brief.

This Sunday (June 21) is Father’s Day, a time when our nation comes together to celebrate all the dads and dad-like figures in our lives. Amanda and I are going to steal away with the twins for a few days to go see my dad in Fort Lauderdale. We’re leaving Friday (today) and will be back Sunday afternoon/evening. We look forward to our time with him and other family.

Julia and I are going to change things up for weekend worship. Bishop Carter and his cabinet have graciously put together a worship service for United Methodist congregations in the Florida Conference to use. More than 300 churches took advantage of this option last weekend, and we’re going to take advantage of it this weekend. So instead of continuing in our “Superhero Summer” series (which we’ll come back to next weekend), we’ll enjoy this service instead. You’ll still see my face and hear my voice for the welcome, announcements, Communion, and giving, but other than those elements, the rest of the service will be entirely led by others. I’m grateful to our Bishop and cabinet for putting this service together. It gives a nice break to all those who have been leading online worship during the pandemic. Additionally, it allows churches to receive the gifts of those currently leading us on the conference level.

Please take a look at the rest of this email for a sense of what’s happening at Community of Faith. If you scroll down, you’ll see information about things taking place, including an upcoming Bible study I’m leading on the Book of Revelation.

Have a great weekend!

Blessings,
Chris


Where Do We Go from Here? Next Steps

Dear Church Family,

By the time you receive this email our “Where Do We Go from Here?” dialogue will be over. I hope you had the chance to listen to the session. If not, you should be able to find it in the archived section of our Facebook page. Just go to this link (www.facebook.com/cofumc/videos/), scroll down to the part of the site that reads “All Videos,” and click on the video titled “Where Do We Go from Here?” There you’ll find my conversation with Pastors Frank Adams, Arlinda Burks, and Kevin James, as well as with Certified Lay Minister Beverly Patrick. In the dialogue, the five of us discuss the current state of race relations in our country – particularly with regards to the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – and what we, as Christians, can do to create a world where persons of color are treated with the same equality, dignity, and respect as their white counterparts.

In addition to the dialogue, there’s a list of “Next Steps” we handed out. Here it is!

We’ll likely have another discussion at some point in the near future. In the meantime, thank you for your willingness, as a congregation, to be a part of this kingdom-work.

I’m looking forward to our worship service this weekend. We’ll continue in our “Superhero Summer” series with a look at the strongest and meanest Marvel superhero of them all – The Hulk. As you most likely know, The Hulk’s strength is fueled by his anger. Indeed, his level of strength is directly proportional to his level of anger. So, we’ll be talking about anger in the message. Anger is not a one-dimensional thing but can be expressed in a variety of ways. We’ll explore some different forms of anger as well as what the Bible has to say about each one of them. Don’t miss out on the service!

Thank you for the privilege of being your pastor. “See” you this weekend!

Blessings,
Chris



The Church Honors our 2020 Graduates

Dear Church Family,

We’re now halfway through our current series called “Credo.” In this series, we’re using the Apostles’ Creed, an ancient statement of faith put together by the early Christians, to better understand our beliefs – our beliefs about God primarily but also our beliefs about ourselves, because what we believe about God impacts how we live.

So far in the series we’ve talked about each of the 3 persons of the Godhead – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Now we turn our attention to the line in the creed that talks about the church. The line goes like this:
 
The holy catholic church, the communion of saints

I’m going to let the cat out of the bag and reveal the main question that’s going to drive the entirety of the message: If you’re a Christian, do you have to be part of the church?

I don’t think it’s any secret that church involvement in Europe and America isn’t what it was a few generations ago. More and more people are opting not to be part of the church. Here I’m reminded of something Galadriel, the elf queen, says in The Fellowship of The Ring, which is the first of The Lord of the Rings movies: “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.” The reality is the world has changed when it comes to church. There are many Christians out there who see church as more of a luxury or an accessory to faith than a necessity. So, this weekend we’re going to discover what sort of role the church should play in our lives as Christ-followers. I pray that by God’s grace this message will inspire you get to more involved in church – which, by the way, can still happen even in these days when we’re not having in-person gatherings!

Speaking of getting involved, have you written your encouraging note to our 7 graduating seniors? If not, what are you waiting for? Seriously, what are you waiting for? We have 7 (yes, 7!) students finishing high school this year. We’ll be celebrating these graduates on Sunday, June 7 during our virtual services, but in the meantime, we need your help. Would you please drop a note to Diana Petras (dpetras@communityoffaith.org) with a congratulatory word for these students? You can address each student individually or you can write a more general note to all of them. If at all, please send your note by next week. The students are as follows:

Eduardo Velazquez
Angel Cintron
Rachel Link
Destiny Trammel
Hannah Weber
Clayton Pollard
Abigail Thomas

The last thing I want to say is that when it comes to reopening our building, our leadership has wisely discerned that we’re not in a place where we’re ready to give out any dates. (Sorry!) As I mentioned last week, our first step is to reopen our Learning Center and then, only after we’ve worked out all the kinks, begin the process of reopening the rest of our facilities in phases. I’m sorry I don’t have more details right now, but we’ll update you as those details become available.

You may remember that last year our church did a congregation-wide study on the 3 rules that John Wesley instituted for the early Methodists. The first of those rules is: Do no harm. Physical distancing (I prefer that term to social distancing since we’re trying to stay social through virtual connections) is the way we’re not causing harm during this season. None of us want to put our community at risk. All that said, thank you for your flexibility, patience, and willingness to adapt. By God’s grace, this congregation truly is the hands and feet of Jesus in this world!

“See” you this weekend!
  
Blessings,
Chris



Mothers day and the Holy Spirit

Dear Church Family,

So far in our “Credo” sermon series, in which we are exploring the Apostles’ Creed, we’ve talked about the first 2 persons of the Trinity – the Father and the Son. Now we come to the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. The line in the creed goes like this:

 
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
 
Not very much to work with, huh? The article in the creed about the God the Father has 12 words, the article about Jesus Christ the Son has a whopping 65 words. However, the article about the Holy Spirit only has 6 words, which is somewhere between 5 and 6 percent of the entire Apostles’ Creed. So less than 6 percent of the entire Apostles’ Creed is devoted specifically to the Holy Spirit, whom we believe is coequal and coeternal with the other 2 persons of the Godhead. As a quintessential middle child, I can’t help but ask the question, “What gives?” But as we’re going to discover, the Holy Spirit is OK with this. The Holy Spirit is OK with not getting nearly as much attention as the other 2 persons of the Trinity, particularly the Jesus Christ the Son. In the message this weekend, we’ll talk about the Holy Spirit’s role within the Godhead as well as within our lives and the broader church. I can’t wait to worship with you online on Saturday at 6:30PM or Sunday morning at 8:30AM or 10:30AM. 
I’m so thankful to our Community of Faith youth who, along with Kathy Beuttenmuller, David Stump, and some adult volunteers, have spent the last couple of weeks gleaning produce from local farms to help supply our local foodbanks.  As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to a health crisis, has had devastating economic effects, which in turn has created a number of hungry individuals and families. It’s inspiring to see our youth and their leaders step up to respond to the needs that are out there.  They are the hands and feet of Jesus!
 
Speaking of youth, we have 7 of our students graduating from high school this year, and we want to properly honor them. You’ll hear more information about how you can honor our graduates in the announcements this weekend. In worship, we’ll also be honoring moms and mom-like figures for Mother’s Day.
 
Some of you have asked about plans for reopening the building. Our resident Bishop, Ken Carter, has recently advised that we suspend in-person gatherings now until at least June 15. However, before we reopen our building to the general public (including for worship services), we first want to make sure our Learning Center is squared away and able to function, especially given that there are state and government requirements by which the Learning Center must abide. That said, the plan is to first open the Learning Center for probably a month or so to work out all the kinks. Then we’ll open the building for other services (worship, Bible studies, prayer groups, etc.). Even then, however, we’ll still comply with CDC guidelines, whatever those guidelines might be at that point. It’s important to note that all this is fluid right now. However, we’ll continue to update you as we learn more. In the meantime, Diana Petras (Director of Operations) and Sarah Dodson (Learning Center Director) are doing much of the leg work when it comes to preparing us for eventual reopening. For their hard work, we’re grateful! 
 
This has been a weird season, but we’re powering through by the grace and power of God. Thanks for hanging in there with us, and we look forward to worshipping God with you online this weekend!
 
Blessings,
Chris