August 2019 is almost a wrap. Where has the time gone? My favorite August commercial is one that shows a dad skipping down the aisles of a store picking out school supplies while singing the Christmas tune: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  The young and the young at heart might not agree. Summer is such a hard thing to let go of. It’s the time when we seem to have all the time in the world.
This weekend, we will hang onto Summer and wrap up our series, We Will… Manuela Kauer will preach We Will…Trust.
As we get ready to wrap up Summer, I thought it would be fun to recap all the ways God has been at work at GRACE Church Bethlehem this Summer.
We have gotten out of our seats and into the streets to serve our city and our world together in Jesus’ name. You have generously given and served at:
Feed Bethlehem –  some estimate that 19.2% of Lehigh Valley residents are experiencing food hardship.. During Summer, the need is even more serious. Children who rely on school lunches will need food, and families will turn more to food banks for help. Through our Feed Bethlehem initiative, you have helped address this important need.  Since late July, through our partnerships with America’s Grow-A-Row, we served hundreds of families at our Free Farmer’s Market and we have collected hundreds of bags of groceries through our Brown Bag Initiative all for the people in the Lehigh Valley.
Musikfest – we took our worship to Bethlehem. It was an impressive sight to see all the volunteer teams rally together. The energy of our band was electric. I loved every minute of it. And, we have already had people come to worship with us after seeing Musikfest as their first GRACE Church Bethlehem experience.
Mission trips – We sent a middle school team of 32 student and volunteers and a high school/college team of 49 students and volunteers to Greeneville, Tennessee to love the world in Jesus name. We grow as we go and spend time serving. So grateful for our students leading and serving. In addition, we received a team from Costa Rica representing our two partner churches.
Neighborhood Picnic – this year our picnic had a very outwardly focused-feel. We had many guests including teachers and families from our newest partner, Freemansburg Elementary School. I had a wonderful visit with their principal and his family. They are so excited about the partnership between GRACE and Freemansburg. I got word today that the students are loving the backpacks that our VBS kids and Summer Women’s Bible study raised money to purchase. GRACE provided a backpack and some basic school supplies for every student.
We have also grown together and had significant moments for our church family this summer:
Master Plan and our new church campus – All summer, teams have been working on GRACE’s future and our new campus. Soon, we will be closing on our new property on Hecktown road, and we will have a church-wide capital campaign in the Fall with the goal of 100% participation of all of us. It will take all of us to live into our vision of a church home to shine the light of Jesus to Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley now and for generations. I’m very excited to be your pastor at this defining moment in the life of our church.
Worship Enhancements – I have heard from many of you how much you are appreciating the livestream so you can stay in touch while on vacation. I am so proud of Paul Ney and his teams of people who make that happen. The broadcast continues to get better. It’s also a great way for people to experience us before they come to be with us.
Vacation Bible School and Next Gen Activities– 150 children and leaders came together for worship, drama, recreation and crafts to learn about the deep love of God in Jesus Christ. It was tons of fun to have the kids all over our church building. It’s always my favorite week of the year to see our youngest growing in their relationship with God and each other. We had a blast at 4 different pool parties at our house (our Wedgewood campus). I am always encouraged by our churches commitment to tell the next generation the good news of JESUS CHRIST.
Summer Fellows- I am so proud and grateful for Ali Wycherley (our College and Young Adult Fellow), Katia Faroun (our Next Generation Fellow) and Evan Penner (our Technology Fellow). Each of these gifted young adults made an incredible impact on our mission and ministry. Be in prayer for them – Ali is beginning a new teaching position, Katia is off to a semester abroad in Spain and Evan heads back to school in Wales. It is so energizing to invest in the next generation of leaders and see their gifts shine.
Bible Studies and Small Groups – The Women’s Summer Bible Study (in the morning and in the evening) kept many women engaged in the scripture over the summer. Mark’s Study with Dads on “The Blessing” kept our basement hopping. And many of your groups kept the Bible open and community growing.
God has been at work all Summer. Reminds me of the way Paul prayed for the Philippian Church
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.         Philippians 1:4-6
I can’t wait to see God’s work continue in us this Fall — there are exciting things in store!  Over the next few weeks, our bulletin and this GRACE THIS WEEK Friday e-newsletter will be packed with ways for you to take your next faith steps. I can’t encourage you enough to jump into a place to study God’s word.
Before you light up the Labor Day grills, I can’t wait to worship with you on Sunday.
Dr. Marnie Crumpler, Senior Pastor