GCI Update


Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Susan and I are part of a new church plant in Steele Creek, NC (a neighborhood in Charlotte). So far, we have been gathering in the home of the pastor, Dishon Mills, and it has been a delight. I am proud to say that we follow the Revised Common Lectionary and keep in step with the GCI Worship Calendar.

During Easter season, we studied John 17 and explored the prayer of Jesus that he prayed for the disciples and us. How amazing for Jesus to include all believers in his prayer, and even more amazing to include us in his life and love. The essence of the prayer is, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21)

It struck me how the Godhead of Father, Son, and Spirit are all at work in this process of bringing the oneness and unity that only God possesses, and only he can give. My mind went to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.

In GCI we spend a great deal of focus and instruction on this New Testament letter. In chapter 4, Paul speaks about the offices of the church and the purpose for each office. It was from this letter and other passages that I extrapolated the 4 E’s of pastoral ministry – Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage. These aspects of ministry had a solid biblical foundation for the New Testament church and still do for our church today.

Notice that before Paul speaks specifically about the church offices, he says this, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, NIV).

The oneness, the unity that Jesus prayed for us is produced through the presence and power of the Spirit. It is a gift for us to receive, and then for us to pass along.

In light of all this, who God is and who we are as his adopted, redeemed children, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. (Ephesians 4:1-3 MSG)

There is a lot going on here in our walk with Jesus through the Spirit. Allow me to draw your attention to three basic actions that allow us to stay in step with Jesus and to maintain the Spirit-produced unity.

    1. Pour yourselves out in acts of love for each other – tangible, selfless acts of kindness and care.
    2. Be alert in noticing differences. Noticing differences is not meant to divide, but to motivate us for positive actions toward building meaningful relationships. This begins with knowing that all humanity is under the spilled blood of Jesus, and we can’t see anybody in any other way. This means we regard others as we regard ourselves. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
    3. Be quick to mend fences. Saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me” is one of the most powerful statements a human can make. Instead of simply being peacekeepers, Jesus said to be peacemakers.

Our walk with Jesus and participation with the Spirit will move us on this path of unity. If you read to the end of chapter four it speaks about us growing up into the stature and fullness of Jesus. We are back to the “oneness” that he prayed in John 17. May the prayer of Jesus be fulfilled in you and me, and throughout the church.

In him,
Greg Williams

P.S. I solicit your prayers for this new church plant and for all church plants that are springing up across our global family of churches. Church experts will tell you that there is no stronger demonstration of the gospel than the start of a new church.

Devotional—Be a Blessing

Editor’s Note: Our overarching theme for devotions during the next five months of the liturgical calendar called Ordinary Time is Jesus is sending his church. Using Michael Frost’s B.E.L.L.S. acronym as a framework, the topics will relate to missional living.

    • As “sent” people, we are invited to…
  • bless others generously, in word and deed (July),
  • eat with others hospitably (August),
  • listen to the Spirit while engaging with others (September),
  • learn Jesus’ teachings as a disciple (October),
  • and, sent people share the good news with others (November).

Never walk away from someone who deserves help;
your hand is God’s hand for that person.
Don’t tell your neighbor “Maybe some other time”
or “Try me tomorrow”
when the money’s right there in your pocket.
Don’t figure ways of taking advantage of your neighbor
when he’s sitting there trusting and unsuspecting.
Proverbs 3:27  The Message

Whenever you are in a position to help someone in need, or when you have a skill or knowledge that you can impart to help others, don’t put it off. When you make sacrifices to help people’s dreams come to pass, despite our own challenges and troubles, God is giving you his heart toward your neighbour. As you bless others and show them favour, our heavenly Father is also blessing you according to his great purpose for the world.

Let’s learn to be a blessing to people in our communities, churches, schools, and offices. Let us not focus only on ourselves and the challenges we battle with daily (sickness, financial issues, workload, school assignments, the economy, inflation, etc.). Let’s go out of our way to be generous and be a blessing to someone today. Give a word of encouragement, visit a sick friend or church member, pray for someone, assist an elderly person in your neighbourhood, or provide a ride to an elderly church member to church. These are some of the ways we can be a blessing to others. When we help alleviate people’s problems, we are joining Jesus in his redemptive work. Today is another opportunity to be a blessing to someone, so go out there and bless someone!

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Thank you for all that you have blessed me with that I can also use to bless other people. I believe you know and see the challenges that come my way. I thank you for my spiritual and physical growth in you. Help me to be a blessing to someone today. As I continue to serve you, I believe you have given me my heart’s desire to serve my neighbour. In Jesus name, amen.

By Leslie Asare-Akoto
Assistant Pastor, Lashibi, Ghana
National Youth Pastor, Ghana

We Are GCI—David Borum

Neighborhood Hot Breakfast—Clarksville, TN, US

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderful example of a congregation paying close attention to the rhythms of their neighborhood. They discerned a need and were compelled by love to risk trying something new. Thank you for sharing your story!

It was a simple plan—a hot breakfast prior to our church service for the neighborhood the first Sunday of each month. First, we advertised in the newsletter of the senior center where we meet for church, and we put up flyers in a nearby apartment community. We learned that both places provide meals during the week, but no meals are served on Sunday.

Next, one member, Princess Yeager, gave our bulletin board at the center a fresh, new look. We spruced up the worship hall with new silk plants. It may have been a simple plan, but it was a lot of work for organizer Zebbie Cox. For that first Sunday of March, we decorated and laid out a table of juices, hot beverages, biscuits with sausage, breakfast casseroles, and muffins—everything you could possibly want for breakfast. This was in addition to the usual work for each Sunday: setting up chairs, sound system, and the tricky job of setting up cameras for a live recording of the sermon.

Our March breakfast was set for 10:00 a.m. with the church service at 10:30. We didn’t know what to expect, but we had high hopes for a big hungry crowd. That was not the case. We had a few family members attend, but they were simply being supportive. It was the same in April–disappointing and discouraging, to say the least. We talked about pulling the advertisements and discontinuing the breakfast. Two ladies, Sue Williams and Shirley Barton, were keen on continuing the breakfast, though.

We’re so glad they were, because for our May breakfast, we had four guests! You might not think that’s a big turnout, but when the average attendance on Sunday is fourteen, that’s almost a 30% increase. The irony is, two of the guests had already eaten, so they didn’t come for the breakfast.

We will continue the monthly breakfast but will scale back a little bit on the amount of food we provide. We continue to pray that God will lead others to visit our little congregation for nourishment of one kind or another.

By Sondra Peters
Pastoral Team Member, Clarksville, TN, US

Neighborhood Camp—Surrey, OK, US

As 75 campers, 40+ volunteer staff, and dozens of parents poured into the front doors Wednesday morning of Camp Surrey, I was reminded of what life-on-life ministry looks like. These people were more than camp attendees – they were people I see at my kid’s school, ball games, neighborhood activities, the neighborhood gas station, the neighborhood park, and all other places where my family and I do life. Camp Surrey was yet another braid in the rope of my life, the church’s life, and the lives in Surrey Hills. Every single child and parent was known in some way by at least two or three staff members. The friendly greeting and connections further deepened the relationships being built with our church and the people of the neighborhood.
But the Holy Spirit never stops. Among the 40+ volunteer staff, approximately 10 of the staff are “new members” of our church! Relationships with these new church family members and long-time family members were significantly deepened. Bonds were built as a foundation for a life-long relationship with one another.
The activities, kayaking, team building, food, dancing, and messages were all great. But what really stood out to me as a pastor was seeing the everlasting impact happening in the lives of campers, staff, and parents.
Being a neighborhood church with a neighborhood camp is more than being a church in the neighborhood with a camp. It’s living out the love of God in our daily lives in the neighborhood we live!
Grace and peace,
Joe Brannen
Pastor, Surrey Hills, OK, US

Playground Pop-up—Cleveland, OH, US

Grace Communion Cleveland hosted its first neighborhood engagement in the afternoon on June 26 after Sunday services. Our congregation meets in a classroom at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus, which is a former elementary school that now houses non-profit groups and artists. The Playground Pop-up, as we called it, was held in the community park that is part of this campus, where families often bring their children to the large playground with grassy hills on weekends.

There was a rubber ducky-pull game for kids to win prizes, face painting, sidewalk chalk drawing, a balloon artist, corn hole games and a physical education teacher to engage kids in organized activities. Juice boxes, water and an assortment of chips were the snacks for the afternoon. Four $50 gas cards were given away to adults in a drawing midway through the event.

Although thunderstorms were in the forecast all week for that Sunday, we forged ahead with our plans, praying for God’s intervention with the weather. The rain held off until 3:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the end of the event. Even then, it was just a gentle brief rain. We were amazed, pleased, and praising God that all went so well for our first outreach and look forward to August when we will have a picnic and school supply giveaway.

By Pat Shiels
Love Avenue Champion, Cleveland, OH, US

You’re Invited—Women’s Retreat, AL, US

Hello Girlfriends!

I am happy to announce our 2022 fall retreat at the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center in Cullman.  So many of us have gone through difficult times over the past few years.  Sometimes the “cares of this world” can choke out our faith focus.  Faith friends are so important, and these retreats have made it possible to renew friendships as well as make new friends.

For many years now we have enjoyed this great retreat center, which has a beautiful conference room where we have our general sessions, and the bedrooms are adjacent to the meeting area. The bedrooms accommodate two people (twin beds) and each has a private bathroom.

The dates are October 7-9, 2022. Registration begins Friday afternoon, October 7 at 3:00 p.m.  Snacks will be available, but you will be on your own for dinner that evening.  A Cracker Barrel and other restaurants are nearby.  This evening is free for getting checked in and relaxing. If you will be arriving after 10 p.m., please let us know ahead of time if possible. My cell phone is (205) 540-1515.

Our theme for the weekend will be Salvation Joy!  There are so many wonderful passages of Scripture that speak about this special joy that we can have, even when we are going through tough times.  Our happiness fluctuates so often, depending on our physical circumstances.  But salvation joy can be a constant.  The apostle Paul wrote so much about this kind of joy in the book of Philippians, at a time when he was a prisoner.  The word “joy” in its various forms occurs repeatedly in this epistle.

Speakers this year include Gerrie Bayley, Becki Brown, Barbara Dahlgren, Ruth Miller, and Sondra Peters. Ann Hartmann will be our guest singer again this year! You can go to Ann’s website (annhartmann.com) to learn more about Ann’s music and ministry. Mary Jo Leaver will be presenting her Music to the Eyes, which includes music, sign language and lyrical dance – beautiful and inspiring!

Dress is casual for the entire weekend.  Bring comfy shoes, as you might enjoy a bit of walking. We have a long-standing tradition of great fun playing games on Friday and Saturday evenings, so bring your “play clothes” or pajamas for this!  Bring your favorite board games, and label them, please!  The retreat center supplies our bed linens, towels and washcloths.  You might want to bring your own water bottles, if you enjoy having bottled water.  We do have access to a kitchen and a refrigerator, so we are able to enjoy snacks throughout the weekend.  The meals that will be provided are Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner and Sunday breakfast (total of four meals). This year we are planning to have all of our meals at the retreat center again. Being able to eat “in house” is very convenient, and everyone seemed to enjoy the leisurely meal times.

We plan to conclude the retreat by noon on Sunday so that those who need to get on the road will have the full afternoon for travel.  For those who want to stick around and visit a bit, we can have prolonged “goodbyes” in the retreat center.

We hope you will help spread the word to others who might enjoy the weekend. If you have questions or need more information, contact me at 205-663-7979 (home), 205-540-1515 (cell), or email ruth.miller@gci.org.

Please fill out the registration form, include payment, and return it to me by August 30.  Late registrations will be accepted if space is still available.  I’m looking forward to sharing this weekend with you in October!

With love,
Ruth Miller

Death of Don Miller

Don Miller passed away on June 25, just shy of his 90th birthday. Don was employed by GCI in the U.S. and Canada, and he worked at Ambassador College in various business-related capacities throughout the 1970s to 1990s. He retired in Canada and was involved in hospice work and refurbishing properties. He is survived by his wife of 24 years, his daughter Sue Berger of Longview, Texas, and his son Gary Miller of San Diego, California.

Cards may be sent to:
Sue Berger
218 Joan Lane
Longview, TX 75605

Death of James White

James White is the father of Troy White, GCI elder, and father-in-law of Connie White, Donations Processor in the Home Office, Charlotte, NC. We join them in their grief and in their hope of resurrection.

The following is the obituary shared with Update from his family.

James “Jim” White, beloved husband, father, and friend, passed away peacefully on July 5, 2022, in Roanoke, VA, at the age of 88. Jim was born in Lynchburg, VA, on August 2, 1933.

He was a proud graduate of Lucy Addison High School. After graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Korean War. While in the Army, Jim honed his skills as a trumpet player and performed in the traveling military band. After leaving the Army, he played in a jazz band called The Corvettes, entertaining folks in towns and cities all over southwest Virginia.

He believed in hard work and maintained multiple jobs simultaneously throughout his working career. Jim enjoyed working for General Electric as a machinist/lathe operator for over 25 years. He was an entrepreneur who started his own grading, excavating, and demolition business called J.H. White, Inc., in 1972. He retired 46 years later at the young age of 85.

Jim was a devout Christian, a faithful member of Grace Communion International where he served in various roles. He loved the Lord, his church family, and discussing biblical subjects with everyone.

Jim was preceded in death by his loving wife of many years, Anna Louise White. Jim is lovingly remembered by his four children, Patrice White, Joyce White, Ricky (Brenda) White, and Troy (Connie) White; four grandchildren, Lamont White, Damon White, Andrew White, and Jonathan White; along with four great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, and extended family.

Honorable, kind, giving, easy-going, friendly, personable. These are words everyone uses to describe Jim White.