Archives » 2016

It’s Coming!

It’s coming! We are entering into the season of “Advent” in the church calendar, the time of year when we as Christians hold our breath, count the days and pray fervently because “it’s coming.” That’s what “Advent” means. Advent is a Latin word that means “coming.”

And there’s a lot that’s coming on our horizon at Covenant Presbyterian.

First – and most importantly – this is the season when we focus on the coming of Jesus Christ to earth. This is the most important event in human history. It is the reason why our calendars “count down” backwards to the year of his birth (approximately 0 BC), and “count up” forwards away from his birth. Every time we write “2016” on a check or a document we are bearing witness to the fact that two thousand and sixteen years ago, Christ came. A little boy lived among us who was fully human and fully God.  And that little boy would grow to show us how to live, how to die and how to rise again, all through his own sacrifice for us on the cross.

Secondly, this is the season when we look forward to the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. When we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s prayer, we pray that God’s Kingdom would “come” on earth as it is heaven. And here’s the exciting part: Jesus wants us to help him make that prayer a reality. What would it look like for Jesus to be King of Huntsville? King of your job? King of your family? King of your life?

But thirdly, 2017 is coming! A fresh opportunity is coming! In the new year, we have a new chance to tell Jesus “here I am Lord, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  I believe very strongly that 2017 will be a powerful year for our church family. I can hear Jesus calling us to tell our neighbors about him. I can see a congregation ready to serve. I can feel the energy of the Holy Spirit nudging us forward and building us up. It won’t be easy but it will be exciting.

Jesus is coming! His kingdom is coming! It’s time for us to prepare the way. We’re ready, let’s get set in 2017, because it’s time to grow!

Pastor David

 

Grateful

I often return to Paul’s sense of gratitude in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel….., 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 1:2-6)

This Fall I have relished the partnership we have in the good news of Jesus Christ, a deposit that has been handed down to us for 2000 years. What a joy it has been to witness God’s sovereign hand in you. I have seen God’s work in you as we:

  • Reach out to our community and world.
  • Grow in our knowledge, understanding and application of God’s Word.
  • Worship God in joy and gladness.
  • Honor our Super Senior Members. Thank you for your faithful witness.
  • Maintain our Covenant facility so that it can continue to be used for our community, to advance God’s glory.

The weekend of November 13 was very special. Thank you to all who contributed to rich and passionate worship as we ordained and installed David as our new Associate Pastor. David, thank you for offering a good Word from God as we consider God’s sovereign hand among us. Bryan Fraser, Alison’s father, provided a welcomed twist in playing the bagpipes, a reminder of Presbyterianism’s Scottish roots. We appreciated the presence of representatives from other churches in our presbytery and the warm support of David and Alison’s families and friends who came from near and far. Several of you commented that you appreciated being part of an ordination service.

As we venture into Advent, preparing ourselves for Christmas, may we continue to be alert to God’s sovereign presence among us. May we grow in our awareness of God’s presence and power at work in the church and the world. And may we look forward to a new year, trusting daily that we live in the palm of God’s hands.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!!!AMEN!!!” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

 

 

 

 

Dear Covenant Family and Friends,

People I meet in Huntsville often ask me “What brought you here?” My response is always the same:

“The best job in the whole country.”

I really mean that. Thank you all for being such a welcoming church home to Alison, George and myself. What else makes this place the best job in the whole country?

Alison and I interviewed at a number of churches all across the country. We were looking for two things.

First, we wanted to find a Senior Pastor and a Pastor’s Wife who would mentor us and teach us how to be better pastors. Unsurprisingly, Hal and Jean were the most amazing couple we met. It has been a privilege and an honor to learn from Hal and Jean during our first three months.

Second, we were looking for was a congregation that was ready for “the future.” We believe that Jesus wants to invite new people – folks who don’t yet feel close to God – into our churches to come into a relationship with Him. But are we ready to welcome Jesus’ guests? Are we ready for this future?

Believe it or not, I learned that Covenant is ready for “the future” when I looked at our financial reports.

What did I see? I saw a church that took out a BIG loan – almost five million dollars. But I also saw a church that had built a building to welcome Jesus’s guests: a building for “the future.”

When I was interviewing, I looked at all the financial reports for all of the churches. I visited one church the same size and age as Covenant. They had done a big building project and had already paid off all of their debt. But when I visited, I saw that they had built the wrong building! They had built for “the past” rather than “the future.” Moreover, while this church gave much of their money away to missions, they spent very little on maintaining their building. It now looked rather shabby. They were not ready to welcome Christ’s guests. Their church had saved money, true, but they were not ready for “the future.”

In contrast, when I visited Covenant I saw a church that had spent five million dollars EXACTLY right. Every corner of our building impressed me – not too fancy, not too cheap. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, Covenant’s building was just right. Moreover, I was astonished to find that the building was eight years old and that much of the structure was from the 1960’s. BUT everything looked BRAND NEW. I now know that we budget very carefully and our trustees work very hard to keep everything in our building repaired and ready for Jesus’ guests.

When I worked on Wall Street, my specialty was working with companies that also had BIG loans. What did these companies have in common? They each had extraordinary discipline to focus on growing their businesses for “the future.”  Like those companies I think our loan keeps us disciplined on growing for “the future.

Those companies took out BIG loans because they had SMART plans.

I think Covenant has taken out a BIG loan because we have FAITH-ful plans.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that FAITH means having confidence in “the future” even though we can’t see it yet. That’s what I saw when I read Covenant’s financial statements. I saw a Church that had the FAITH to invest in “the future” – even though we can’t see it yet. We had the FAITH to build a facility for guests we haven’t even met yet. It’s the same kind of faith that Jesus Christ “the author and the pioneer” of our faith had when he went to the cross to die for people not yet born (Heb. 12:2).

Are we there yet? Not yet. It will take some training. It will take some discipline. Important things often do. And together, we have the opportunity to do the most important thing: welcoming Jesus’s guests into His Kingdom. May God be with us on the road of FAITH as we run together into “His future.”

Yours in Christ,

David

 

 

God in Action…

When the Apostle Paul attempts to describe how the Church operates, he says this in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth: “There’s a lot of different activities – but it is the same God who activates all in all” (1 Cor. 12:6).

Do you notice how the words I put in bold look very similar? That’s because they are! Paul uses the noun form (activities) for humans and the verb form (activates) for God. But it’s the same word. Human beings and God are engaged in the same task on the same team. We provide God our stuff. But God provides His power.

I’m so excited when I think about this verse as I complete my second month at Covenant. I have already worked with so many amazing teams here: Special Ops, Finance Team, Adult Discipleship, Session, Deacons, Trustees, Youth and Family … and the list goes on! There’s a lot of wonderful activity at Covenant!

But as I pray for our congregation, I have been feeling something even deeper than activity. I feel Jesus ACTIVATING this congregation through the Holy Spirit! Jesus is preparing to release the Spirit’s energy in our midst in fresh and new ways. Jesus is our coach – but we’re on His team! I feel like I have a front row seat at the most exciting bowl game of the season.

And what’s our team’s goal? Paul tells us in the next verse: to bless the world! Come Holy Spirit Come! Empower us to bless our neighbors in Jesus’ name!

Warmly,

Pastor David

 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

In the Fall of 2013, our Session approved the undertaking of a plan to celebrate Covenant’s strong heritage and strengthen Covenant for the future. We set out a three year plan with three phases, with specific goals for each phase. Sheila Cloud graciously accepted the call to lead this effort, and she has done an outstanding job. The current make-up of the team (Special Ops)is: Sheila Cloud, chair, Ray Rowley, Kerry Rowley, Debbie Hester, Tom Coon, and Roland Walker. Numerous others have worked on specific tasks over the past two and one half years. This team has worked diligently under the authority of our Session through our Administration Team. What has this group accomplished? Let’s take a look.

Phase 1

The first thing we realized we needed was a Covenant Operations Manual. We had all this institutional information inside peoples’ heads, but it was not recorded anywhere; it was not accessible. So the team set out to develop a comprehensive manual providing details of the history, policy, organization and governance of Covenant. We interviewed hundreds of people to determine the many ways different people are serving within Covenant. We have documented most, if not all, of them. We documented position descriptions for staff and volunteers, so that if someone accepts a new volunteer position, they have access to the description of that volunteer job. They realized that maintaining such a Manual would be ongoing, so attention has been given to how best to manage the process. Not only do we have this Manual in print (four large volumes), in addition they developed the Covenant Wiki. It is now online so anyone can access this information. This has been immensely helpful to David Kling as he began as our Associate Pastor.

Phase 2

Our Special Ops Team supported the Session in reviving our Associate Pastor Search Team (APST), realizing the importance of filling this position at this time. Our APST restarted their work last December and worked diligently toward calling David Kling as our new Associate Pastor. With David joining new staff members, Steven Herriott, Matt Carey and Lana Stapler, we are well positioned to move into the future with superior leadership.

In addition, our Special Ops Team began the process of helping us through a self –assessment. They identified a tool, CHURCH HEALTH ASSESSMENT TOOL (CHAT). In May 2015 approximately 200 of you participated in this process, taking the in-depth survey. Thank you for helping with this. Following the survey, Special Ops spent months evaluating the assessment, determining our strengths and weaknesses as a church. From that they developed a visioning process, involving about fifty people who participated in a visioning workshop. Further, we received almost 150 “ideas” from you. All of these were considered as they adopted a new Covenant Vision:

Covenant’s vision is to be a Christ-centered church where our love for God is evident in all that we do.  Our vision is to be a growing church, living as exemplary followers of Jesus Christ, viewing the world biblically, making disciples intentionally, and serving the Church faithfully in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our vision is to be a church known in the community for open doors, acts of grace, God-centered worship and growing leaders. This family of faith envisions each of us loving and ministering to all people whom God brings into his or her presence.

PHASE 3

Our Special Ops Team is currently working with David Kling to develop a new strategic plan for our ministry going forward. This new plan will guide us into the next five years. This Fall they will be engaging our Session and a small group of leaders and then plan to engage the whole congregation in 2017. You will be hearing more about this.

This is one of the most exciting times to be a follower of Jesus within Covenant. God has been faithful to us in providing strong, sound leadership. God has been faithful in lifting up so many – 200 to 300- to serve in a variety of ways. Each of us seeking to glorify and enjoy God through our service. This is God’s vision for us- “from (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”(Ephesians 4:16)

Thank you for the privilege of sharing this journey with you.

Hal

A Healthy Church

A Healthy Church

What makes for a healthy church? or a healthy family? If someone were to ask you to answer these two questions, what would you say? (QUICK, JOT DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS BEFORE YOU READ FURTHER.) Since the church is a kind of family, it seems to me that churches and families might become healthy by sharing the same traits. What might those traits be? Below I will reflect upon traits that reflect a healthy church and family. An assumption I make is that we can choose to shape and mold our families and the church as well. There are always obstacles. The largest obstacle is our own inertia, our tendency to keep moving in the same direction and resisting change. It’s hard to change the way we have always done things; but it’s not impossible. Another obstacle is the inertia of others. If you have ever tried to change others, or effect change in others, you know what I mean. It’s not easy. In this instance I think it is most helpful to concentrate on changes within ourselves. So, let’s begin to think together about what makes a healthy church and family.

First, a healthy church is committed to glorifying God.  The Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism begins with this question: What is the chief end of humanity? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. In I Corinthians 10:31, we are enjoined ,”Whatever you do , do all to the glory of God.” If this is God’s purpose for us, then it makes sense that churches and families who seek to glorify God in thought, word and deed, are living as we are created to live. If we were to ask ourselves before we speak or act within the church or our families, will what I am about to say or do glorify God, can you imagine how we might be healthier in our relationships? We would also be committed to worshiping God on the Sabbath and throughout the week. How might this affect the larger church body and your personal family?

Second, a healthy church and family would seek to balance Biblical instruction with personal application of the Scriptures. What if you were absolutely committed to growing in your knowledge, understanding and application of God’s Word? Acts 2:42 says the early Christian church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”, much of which became our New Testament. Growing in God’s Word does at least three good things for us: it matures and stabilizes our faith in times of testing; it increases our ability to detect and confront error; it gives us wisdom(which, in Hebrew tradition, was the ability to see life and the world as God sees it). Chuck Swindoll once said that biblical teaching that remains theoretical can breed indifference or arrogance. It does not change lives. Preaching that fails to balance instruction with love and grace may reflect intolerance. And when biblical knowledge becomes an end in itself, it comes dangerously close to idolatry—worshiping the Bible above God. These principles build up a family, whether the one in your home or the larger church family.

Third, a healthy church and family exudes warmth and care for one another. Acts 2:42 also says the early church, meeting in homes at that time, “devoted themselves to fellowship.” They truly cared for one another. They took time to know each other, to see each others’ needs. This is important within our homes and within the larger church. How do you take time to get to know one another within your family? I mean really get to know each other at a deeper emotional level. Do you know each others’ hopes, dreams and goals in life and faith? Do you know the burdens the others are carrying? What fears they harbor? Within the larger church, we can’t know everyone, but we can make sure we getting to know someone or some smaller group.

Fourth, a healthy church and family reaches out to others. Caring for one another is important and good for us. It helps us love and feel loved. Enlarging our love for others outside our families and church not only gives away our love to others; it is also good for us; it makes us healthier. For one, it strengthens our purpose in life. It also gives us perspective regarding our own problems. We realize we are not alone in our own struggles when we get involved in the lives of others. We see that others may be struggling at a deeper level than we are. A family that is solely focused on itself is not preparing itself for the time when children will spread their wings and fly. Likewise, a church that is solely focused on itself is not preparing for the future; it is missing out on those who might bring new ideas and life into your church.

As we move into the future I hope we will develop a heart to grow healthier as a church and within our own families (whether immediate or extended). Consider what it would look like to nurture these traits within Covenant and within your own family. May we continue to be good for one another.

In Christ’s Service,

Hal

 

More Than We Can Ask For Or Imagine!

 

Dear Members and Friends of Covenant Presbyterian,

“More than we can ask for or imagine!” That’s how the apostle Paul describes what Jesus can do through us as a church in   Ephesians 3:20.

It is with deep pleasure and gratitude that I greet you as your new Associate Pastor. My wife Alison and I are delighted to call Huntsville our new home and to call you all our new church family. We can’t wait to meet each of you in person over the coming months and to introduce ourselves (including our four-month-old son George). We truly feel like God has given us “more than we could ask for or imagine.”

Alison and I both graduated from Princeton Seminary in the spring with M.Div. degrees. Although we interviewed at many churches, at the end of our search we very clearly heard the Lord call us to Covenant. We believe that this is one of the most remarkable congregations in the denomination and are convinced that Jesus Christ will use this church in a powerful way for His Kingdom here in Huntsville and beyond. We could not be more excited to begin working alongside you in this mission.

I am settling into my office and already I have been so encouraged by the warmth and energy with which you have greeted me. Please do not hesitate to drop by or to give me a call. Hal and I are planning my ordination service for the fall and we look forward to sharing those details with you so that we can celebrate together as a church family.

My deepest passion is telling people the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. I enjoyed doing this so much when I was working in the financial services industry that I felt the Lord call me to equip others to do the same. Now, after three years of study at Princeton, it is truly my privilege to share my enthusiasm and training with you. God is calling us to a great adventure together, and I truly believe that it will be for “more than we can ask for or imagine!”

Yours in Christ,

David

 

Staff Update

At the time you read this you likely know that we elected David Kling to serve as our Associate Pastor, to begin work in late July. He still must pass his examination before the gathered body of North Alabama Presbytery on July 19. We are confident he will. David will preach on Sunday, July 31st. I want to thank the Associate Pastor Search Team for their good work: Robin Strong, Ray Rowley, Lora Keiser, Debbie Hester, Martha Lehmann, Nita Maddox, Steven Herriott, Tom Cunningham and Joe Jones. They have done an excellent job.

With the addition of Steven Herriott (Director of Youth and Families), Lana Stapler (Executive Assistant to Pastors), Ben Tieslau (Director of Music), we now have an outstanding staff to join me, Cyndy Sarkisian, Betty Augsburger,  Susan Pendergrass, Alice Searcy and Eddie Glasser. I am overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude.

Now a few details to inform you of our plans:

  • Ben Tieslau will begin as our new Director of Music Ministry on July 1. He will be helping with worship and planning during July.
  • Second, Richard Brooks will continue to serve as our Assistant Pastor through July 31st as I will be away on vacation and study leave to plan worship and preaching for the year. Following this, Richard will spend some special time enjoying a second try at retirement with his family. In the Fall we will sit down and consider ways he may serve among us as a volunteer Parish Associate. Richard has become a good friend and colleague during the past seven months. More importantly, he has become one of the pastors of Covenant. He has served us well and you have extended a warm welcome and acceptance of him. Thank you.
  • Our primary task will be to help our new staff grow into their leadership roles. I ask you to pray for them and be open to ways you can help them.

I continue to thank God for the privilege of serving alongside you. God is doing some amazing things among us as we seek to advance God’s kingdom on earth. I covet your prayers.

Blessings,

Hal

To the Holy Land

Tomorrow, Jean and I will board a plane to Israel and the Palestinian Territory. Twenty-one of us will share the journey. It still doesn’t seem real, but it is beginning to sink in. All my life I have read and studied the Bible, learning the geography, culture, teachings and politics of this region. I go with mixed emotions. A part of me resists elevating the meaning of geography. Yes, our Lord Jesus  was born there and walked the area. Names like Galilee, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jordan River, Gethsemane, Jerusalem mean something to me. At the same time I am confident that God does not reside only or even extraordinarily in a particular place. I walk with Jesus each day in Huntsville. He has carried me in his arms everywhere I have gone. Yet, I expect the experience to be a palpable one. Walking biblical history will stir emotions and evoke thoughts that will change me. Seeing the geography of the Bible will awaken a  new and deeper understanding of God’s Word. I am also interesting in developing a deeper and fuller  understanding of the political situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  I have always believed that Israel has a right to exist as a nation, but that the Palestinian people justly deserve the same right. My prayer and hope is that both would find a way to live in respectful peace and justice. Unfortunately, that has not happened and I am not optimistic that it will happen any time soon. I expect to leave with a better understanding, and even more questions. Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That name, Jeru=city; salem=peace, wholeness; it would seem a contradiction in terms. But I believe it is God’s vision. I have been reflecting on Psalm 133:

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,

Running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Is the psalmist speaking of a geographical city, or God’s vision for humanity? Or both?

We ask your prayers as we travel.

Hal

Welcome, Steven!

It is with considerable joy that I share the good news that we (our Session) have called Steven Herriott to service as our new Director of Youth and  Families.  As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, he will devote 75% of his time to Youth Ministry and 25% to Family Ministry.  He, our Associate Pastor, and Cyndy (Director of Children’s Ministry) will work together in discipling young families/children and youth.

Now, who is Steven? Steven joined Covenant in middle school and became a leader in our youth ministry, serving as high school and college  intern.  He knows our philosophy of growing student disciples and has served as a volunteer in a previous church.  Steven has taught elementary school in Birmingham and Huntsville for eleven years.  He has a BS in     Elementary Education from Samford and a Masters from UAB. He is a gifted young man who is married to Victoria (Christian) Herriott.  They have four beautiful young children.  Both are active in our Young Adults Ministry.  We know Steven, and have known him for many years.  And that is important.  In addition, he is a gifted young man who will serve well.

He will be serving as our Temporary Youth Director for June and July, a full-time position, and will start his new position August 1st.  Please welcome and pray for Steven and his family as he joins our staff leadership team.

What about our other positions?  Our Associate Pastor Search Team is in the process of interviewing candidates. We are hopeful these will prove fruitful for us.

Our Director of Music Search Team is in the process of interviewing candidates and are hopeful one of them will serve among us.

Finally, our Executive Assistant to the Pastors Search Team is also interviewing candidates and reviewing resumes.  As with the other positions, we are excited to be in conversation with some talented people.

I want to thank our Session which has worked diligently and respectfully in discerning our needs and developing a staff leadership model to help us move forward.

And, a very special thank you to Richard Brooks who continues to serve as our part time Assistant Pastor.

What a joy it is to serve among you!

Grace and love,

Hal

 

 

Covenant’s Future

 

As we move into Spring, it has been exciting to walk the path of Jesus during Holy Week. Remembering his entrance into Jerusalem, the crowds celebrating the upcoming holy day, then facing betrayal, arrest, an unfair trial , suffering and death….and then the Resurrection. Celebrating the lives and resurrection of George Woodward and Teresia Reid were worthy worshipful expressions of our faith in the midst of life. Thank you to all who surrounded these families and helped with the receptions. I especially appreciate our deacons who led the effort in the receptions:  good times to enjoy fellowship. In addition, thank you to Richard Brooks for his pastoral ministry in my absence, and to our office staff and their support of Richard.

I would also like to thank our choirs and Chris Walters (our Interim Music Director) and Betty Augsburger (our Organist/Pianist/Harpist) for their leadership in worship throughout Lent and especially during Holy Week. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were extraordinary experiences of worship as we remembered Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and his suffering and sacrificial death on the cross. Friday night as we left, it was dark and getting cold. But the thought occurred that “Sunday’s a-coming.” As I type this on Saturday night I wait with enthusiastic anticipation for our Easter celebration. What a privilege to gather freely to worship, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and the inheritance that awaits us. George and Teresia, you join that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) and are at this very moment cheering us on in the arena of life.

I would like to inform you about our progress relating to staff leadership positions. First, our Associate Pastor Search Team has reviewed almost a hundred resumes and conducted three Skype interviews. We are finalizing a personal visit for later in April or early May. We tried to arrange another but the candidate accepted another position. It makes sense that if we like someone, another church likes them as well. The team is prayerfully reading resumes, discussing our needs and discerning those who best fit Covenant. Please pray for them.

In March, after three months of prayerful discussion, our Session made important decisions regarding two positions: youth and music/worship. First of all, we decided to seek a full-time Director of Youth and Young Families/Adults . Looking to Covenant’s future, we agreed that our youth ministry remains a priority, and we see the value of adding Young Families/Adults to this position. The breakdown will be 75% Youth and 25% Young Families. The Associate Pastor would share in this responsibility. What we hope to create is a powerful and effective synergy between our Associate Pastor, Director of Youth and Young Families/Adults and Cyndy, our Director of Children’s Ministry. We hope this will help us excel in discipling the young families who are part of Covenant, and aid in our outreach to young adults/families. We have our eye on someone at this time and are prayerfully moving to make this happen. We hope to complete these plans by late April. We will communicate with you as soon as our plans are finalized.

We also decided to proceed with a search for a part-time Director of Music Ministry. As we discussed our needs and financial ability, it became clear that we could build an effective music and worship ministry using part time staff. In addition, as we look to the future, we concluded that we cannot afford four full-time staff leadership positions. We have appreciated Chris Walters work among us and would have loved to have him continue in this part time role. However, we recently learned that he will be moving to Atlanta to assume a new job. So we have set a search team for this Director of Music position and hope to make a decision by May. We already have several people who have expressed interest in serving at Covenant. The members of the search team are: Jack Royster (chair and Elder Worship Team), Art Woodling (Elder Worship Team), Rebecca Boone (Elder Admin Team), Sheila Cloud (Elder Admin Team), Marian Woerner (Choir Member), Syd Hoyt (Choir Member), Annette Shingler (Choir Member), David Wilkie (Choir Member) and Tanner Lindbloom.

Finally, our Session approved the position of Executive Assistant to the Pastors, a part-time position of 25-32 hours to replace Debbie upon her retirement May 31st. They decided to consider someone who is not a Covenant member, thinking it would be good to have one office staff member from outside Covenant. The search team will be: Rebecca Boone (Elder Admin), Sheila Cloud (Elder Admin), Bill McDowell, Alice Searcy, Susan Pendergrass and Hal (ex officio).

Please keep all of these  leadership teams in your prayers as we prepare for our future which God so faithfully holds.

Blessings Upon You,

Hal

 

Building Together

I have enjoyed reflecting upon our new Covenant Vision during February.  Thank you to our Special Ops Team for designing the devotional.

Covenant’s vision is to be a Christ-centered church where our love for God is evident in all that we do.  Our vision is to be a growing church, living as exemplary followers of Jesus Christ, viewing the world biblically, making disciples intentionally, and serving the Church faithfully in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our vision is to be a church known in the community for open doors, acts of grace, God-centered worship and growing leaders. This family of faith envisions each of us loving and ministering to all people whom God brings into his or her presence.

Several phrases have enriched my spiritual growth.  “Living as exemplary followers of Jesus Christ…making disciples intentionally…to be a church known in the community for open doors, acts of grace,….loving and ministering to all people whom God brings into his or her presence.”

As we embark on a new Habitat house (see schedule on page 3) I have been thinking about our vision.  Building a house for a family, joining with others in this work, …these are ways in which we live out God’s vision for us.

First I would like to thank Nes Cumings for stepping up once again to lead our construction effort.  As I have said, we need someone who actually knows how to build a house, and Nes has served as Habitat construction leader many times.  Thank you also to Tom Cummings (and Cheryl who made our poster) for service as our volunteer organizational leader.  Thank you to Richard Brooks, our new part-time Assistant Pastor, who is guiding this process and connecting with our “build partners.”  I am excited that we will be joining with several other churches and the Islamic community.

Last week someone asked me why we are engaging with the Islamic community.  A good  question, which led to a fruitful conversation.  Let me share four reasons why we have invited the Islamic community to work with us.  First, Jesus called us to “go and make disciples of all nations (people groups).” J. Dudley Woodberry, Professor of World Mission and Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, stated, “As Christians, we are enjoined to love God and people.  Part of the love of both is sharing the gospel, drawing more people to God through Jesus Christ.  Muslims are people—they are people God loves.  It’s not that God will love them when they become Christians; God loves them now.  We are called to do the same.  How can we love them if we don’t know them?”  The first reason is to engage with the Muslim community in such a way that we would be winsome witnesses for Jesus Christ.  It is my hope that the Muslims who join with us will walk away thinking, “These Christians are wonderful, gracious people.”  Just maybe, we will plant a seed.  Second, I hope we who serve in this ministry will discover Muslims who are people just as we are.  They love their families and friends and are trying to live as nobly as they can.  I’m reminded of an iconic line in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, “I think there’s just one kind of folks.  Folks.” Our eyes might be opened so that we may challenge some of the hatred we hear.  Third, I hope we will be a winsome witness to our community, examples of people who value reconciliation between diverse cultural groups.  Fourth, I hope we might be the ones who make a difference in a Muslim’s life.  I recently read an article by Yazmin Ali, a Muslim– American woman.  Her father is Muslim; her mother is an evangelical Christian.  She has experienced nasty looks, distrust and even hatred from strangers because she wears the traditional hijab (head covering).  According to FBI statistics, hate crimes decreased for all categories of victims except Muslims.  It is precisely these kind of hate crimes that could cause someone to withdraw from society and radicalize.  I like to think my personal conduct with Muslims, conveying acceptance and friendship, will make our society safer for all.

I hope you will join our team to build this house and/or bring snacks on Saturday.  Our goal is to involve over 100 people from Covenant.  Invite a work colleague or a neighbor. Come as a couple.  Join your child (must be 16 years of age) for a Saturday morning work session.  Help us make a difference in our community.

Blessings,

Hal

 

What’s Coming in 2016?

As we begin a new year, let me share with you a few things that are in store for 2016.  First as you are aware, Bryan and Suzanne Page are moving to Dallas where he will serve as Director of Music at Northridge Presbyterian Church.  Thank you to all who made their final Sunday a joyous celebration.

Beginning Sunday, January 31st, Dr. Chris Walters became our Interim Director of Choirs, conducting our Sanctuary and handbell choirs.  Chris is an experienced choral conductor and is currently director of choirs at Randolph School. I hope you will pray for and welcome him as he serves among us.  Moreover, we hope some of you will decide to jump in and become a part of our choir ministry.

Our Associate Pastor Search Team (Robin Strong, Ray Rowley, Lora Keiser, Joe Jones, Martha Lehmann, Nita Maddox, Tom Cunningham, Debbie Hester and Steven Herriott) is beginning to read and evaluate resumés.  We are advertising our positon nationwide.  Our hope is to call someone by this summer, but our main task is to discern God’s Will for the right person for Covenant.

What about leadership in youth and music/worship?  During the next two months our Session will be discussing staffing models and hopefully will make a decision by early spring as to how we will proceed.  Do we need full time or part time?  What can we afford?  Both full-time positions are included in our 2016 Ministry Budget.  We welcome your input and prayers.

In addition, Debbie Hughes our church secretary, will be retiring May 31st after serving faithfully for 25 years. Our Administration Team has been thinking about office staffing models for two years and, as a result, we plan to change the position from a full-time church secretary to a part time (25-30 hours) Executive Assistant without benefits.  This change is based on an assessment of our needs and finances.

What else in 2016?

Covenant’s 14th Habitat House!

An Opportunity to Make a Difference!

In 1990 Covenant led the effort to pay for and build Huntsville’s first Habitat house.  In 2012 the Love Family paid their mortgage in full.  Since 1990 we have built 13 houses joining many churches and other groups.  Nes Cumings will be the Construction Leader and we will be joined, as of now, by Faith and Fellowship Presbyterian Churches.  (We are still exploring other partners.)  We are committing over $18,000 to this building project.  (Thank you for your gifts.)

Our goal is to involve 100 or more volunteers in this effort.  We need a small team of people who would organize our volunteer effort and do publicity.  Contact Kerry Rowley at the.rowleys@knology.net, Andy Glover at ag1987@yahoo.com, or Hal at hal.oakley@covhsv.org. Work days will be Tuesday and Thursday from 8-noon (all you retired people!) and Saturday 8-1pm.