Some of your GRACE team spent the week at the ECO Presbyterian National Gathering in Dallas, Texas. It was a moving time of worship and connecting with ECO leaders (pastors and elders) and churches from around the country. We are a part of a growing denomination that connects us to other churches and continues to encourage and equip us to be a flourishing church.
During the gathering, we heard challenging words from speakers. We heard from Rich Villodas, a pastor in Queens, about the challenges at this moment for churches and leaders and he invited us to “the deeply formed life” – also the name of his book. He reminded us…”If your mind gets distracted 1,000 times in 10 minutes of silent prayer, it’s 1,000 opportunities to come back to the loving presence of Jesus.” Another highlight was hearing Dana Allin share the growth and vision for our ECO Presbyterian denomination, now 10 years old.
Our GRACE team also had the chance to meet with leaders from our peer churches for encouragement and for exchange of ideas and best practices. Doug Stewart met with the group of Executive Pastors. I met with the Lead/Senior Pastors of the other large ECO churches. Matt Llinas, our Creative Director, met with the production team of our host church, Highland Presbyterian Church. And Kyra Thomas and Taylor Shade, met with other ordination candidates.
Wherever we went, people were asking about God’s work in you. I got to share the GRACE story – and how God is at work in you! I want you to hear from others on our incredibly gifted GRACE team about their experience. See the end of my letter.
Sunday, we will continue in our “The Good Fight” series. Kyra Thomas will preach, “Get Dressed” looking at the first of the pieces of the armor of God. Doug Stewart, newly ordained, will lead you in Communion.
Finally, I wanted to give an update about your special offering giving. You gave just over $30,000 for our Christmas Eve offering for a new kitchen floor for Allentown Rescue Mission and for new dining furniture for New Bethany Ministries. In addition, you gave 17,000 for tornado disaster relief. What a privilege to be the hands and feet of Christ and to love the world in His name.
You are a generous church. If you have not made your commitment to the 2022 Mission and Ministry Budget, I hope you will prayerfully do that by CLICKING HERE. The Session will finish its budgeting for the year in the next few weeks.
Mark and I will be away on vacation this weekend, but we will be praying for you as you gather on Sunday. It continues to be a privilege to be
Dr. Marnie Crumpler
The impact of ECO and the National Gathering – from our GRACE team
Taylor Shade, Next Generation Director — The conference had some incredible thought leaders for the greater church especially in the areas of family ministry. It was thought-provoking, inspiring and challenging to hear and wrestle with how the church responds to the past two years and how we look into the future. Spending time with fellow church leaders as we walk through these challenges and opportunities brought a great deal of encouragement and many ideas that I bring back with me. This time was equally invaluable as a time for much of the GRACE staff and leaders to grow closer and dream about what God is doing in the Lehigh Valley.
Kyra Thomas, Pastoral Fellow and Young Adult Director — The ECO National Gathering this year was an extremely life-giving experience. Getting to hear from and learn from others in our denomination and worship together with one another was so good for my soul. Especially getting to meet my fellow ECO women leaders, pastors, and ordination candidates was very special and encouraging to me. It was moving to see how our denomination is passionately moving into the future with the goal of making more disciples of Jesus and not shying away from the issues our world and our congregants face but finding ways to come together and be the church.
Matt Llinas, Creative Director — It was my first time at an ECO conference and my first opportunity to see our denomination up close. It truly surpassed every expectation I came to Dallas with. Standing in the same room with global leaders and believers learning and growing as we fulfilled the call of scriptures “Iron Sharpens Iron” with a singular mission in mind to see our congregations flourish and the hope of Jesus to spread throughout our neighborhoods. Beyond the incredible moments of worship, the affirmation of mission, and the joy of community there were some key moments of spiritual and organizational insights that I was able to takeaway:
I made a quick connection with the Production Director of the ECO Conference and to my shock was allowed to shadow the entire production team. I observed and spoke with some incredibly talented individuals, sound engineers, live stream/broadcast facilitators, and technology integrators coming from large churches within the Dallas area serving at the conference. I was given the space to ask questions and even use their tools and offered my insights to their team from some of my learning experiences leading our team at GRACE. These newfound relationships will be an ongoing value add to our GRACE production team mission as we strive to create experiences where people meet Jesus and where believers are growing in their relationship with Him.
A spiritual insight that stuck with me came from Pastor Rich Villodas from New Life Fellowship Church in Queens NY….explaining that the times we are living in often feel as unpredictable as a winter blizzard. He went on to discuss that returning to key spiritual disciplines as our “anchors within the storm” would be key to our success and perseverance as believers.
Kelby Dixon, Worship Director — The most encouraging part of the conference for me was seeing how ECO is being intentional about rejoicing in God’s work inside of ECO as well as rejoicing in His work around the world. The gathering highlighted outside perspectives from Godly leaders all over the world which helped bring together a beautiful picture of how to partner with God and be excited about His kingdom.
Mark Crumpler, Teaching Pastor — The ECO Gathering was a good chance to learn from others. Specifically, I had the chance to do some informal networking about deacon ministry. I was challenged and re-energized by Dana Allin’s reminder to anchor ourselves in the Lord and in prayer. And I resonated with his call to a renewed commitment to discipleship and formation. Rich Villodas echoed these themes in both his keynote talk and breakout session with an emphasis on abiding: “If we will not abide deeply in God, we will not abide well with one another.” And I loved these words from Walter Kim: “When I came to faith in Jesus I knew what I was saved from (sin, judgment, eternal separation from God), but I didn’t know what I was saved for.” Forgiveness is just the beginning; the end or aim is restoration and re-creation. The nations are coming to us – will we see seize this missionary moment?