GCI Update

Lent AND Easter Preparation

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As I travel around the world visiting our various GCI regions I hear and learn many new things. I become informed about cultural nuances, and I am asked to clarify various aspects of what we believe in GCI, and how our theology informs our practices.

In my recent trip to France, I engaged in a lively discussion with our leaders. They shared that many of the GCI members are former Catholics, and their view of Lent is based in traditional Catholicism. Based on their past experiences, they view Lent as a works-based practice that is intended for a Christian to establish their personal worthiness. It feels like a backward step into legalism, and a move away from the vicarious atonement of Jesus that alone makes us worthy.

The French leaders went on to express that the phraseology that we have used, “Easter Preparation” is acceptable, and our members can embrace it. For former Catholics, it aligns with our grace-based Christ-centered focus.

In the greater Christian community, Lent is celebrated by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians. The practices in observing Lent and the importance placed on it vary. The conundrum for GCI is that in primarily Protestant-based regions, using Lent as terminology to describe what we call Easter Preparation is acceptable and interchangeable, and therefore it has appeared in some of our GCI publications. Please understand that this is not intended to create confusion, nor is meant to be offensive to any of our former Catholic members (be they in France or any other country with strong Catholic influence).

It is extremely important to know that the GCI worship calendar is informed by GCI theology. The pure intention is to rehearse and celebrate the salvific events of Jesus Christ. In no way are our celebrations designed to throw us back on ourselves and place our eternal salvation on human works. Our goals are to point to Jesus, be focused on Jesus and to worship him only. This alone is why we promote and support the GCI worship calendar.

For our members who have had challenging experiences and carry painful memories associated with Lent, please use the terminology “Easter Preparation.” We have openly asked our leaders across the international churches to contextualize the tools that we provide from the Home Office. We have often experienced that clear communication is difficult, especially when translating from one language to another.

In France and several other countries, I have been asked why I only carry the title of President and why the title of “Pastor” is not included? Most understand why Pastor General was dropped because General is a military title. The sentiment that members convey is that they see me as the Pastor of the denomination, and I embrace this role.

This letter is written out of my pastoral heart to extend the care and love for our members who may have experienced misunderstanding and hurt. Written out of my pastoral mindset, I desire that all of us in GCI relentlessly pursue Jesus and see that he is central in every season, year in and year out.

Everything begins and ends with Jesus. This is the focus of a healthy church. This is the focus of GCI. May God continue to bless us as we keep Jesus the center of the center.

Greg Williams

P.S. Are you interested in a fuller explanation of the primary worship days and seasons? Check out this list.

Devotional—The Gift

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Chosen One.” John 1:29-34 NRSVUE

John the Baptist believed that a savior would come, but he wasn’t sure Jesus was that Savior until God revealed this to him.  Maybe John had an inkling, but it took a revelation from God, an epiphany if you will, to confirm this.  And then John believed.

It took an epiphany from God for each of us to believe that Jesus is God and our Savior.  None of us did anything to deserve this special, amazing truth being revealed to us.

What about those who do not believe yet? God will reveal the truth to each of us when the time is right. Remember 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Abba, we are grateful with every fiber of our being that you have given us this gift now.  And we thank you for your promise that you will not withhold this gift from anyone and one day, when the time is right, all will have the opportunity to know you.  Abba, thank you.

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

Parents’ Day Out—Derby, KS, US

Participating in what Jesus is doing is so awesome. In December, Grace Communion Derby held our Parent’s Day Out/Day Camp. Our goal was to provide parents with time for themselves and make connections with children in the neighborhood. Seven children, grades K-5, attended. Twelve adult members participated to assist and love on the kids.

The event was held from 10:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. Our Sunday School teacher, Sue Ann, created a fantastic program for the children. The activities included:

    • Reading Christmas stories,
    • Decorating cookies,
    • Painting wreaths,
    • Playing games,
    • Drawing with sidewalk chalk,
    • Assembling and flying foam airplanes,
    • Making personal lunch pizzas,
    • Making cards,
    • Building with Legos,
    • Watching the Candy Cane Legend movie, and
    • Playing with model trains, including a scavenger hunt within the display.

Here are a few comments from some of the adults:

    • One boy said he wanted to come again next week!
    • There were enough adults to give one-on-one attention between scheduled activities.
    • The day was full of opportunities to build relationships.
    • We had special structured activities, but the unstructured engagement was so sweet, like a lesson in shoe tying on the floor.

I honestly cannot say who had the better time, the children or the adults. Our members are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.Yes, we were tired, but we found, with the help of Jesus, we could participate with him. Now we are planning a two-day day camp next June. Participating with Jesus is a blessing on a whole new level.

Kirk Hayden
Pastor, Derby, KS, US

American Heritage Girls—Richardson, TX, US

American Heritage Girls Troop TX1595 was chartered in 2021 by our GC Richardson church family as a vessel for engaging our neighborhood and sharing the love of Jesus with them.

The troop organized its winter awards ceremony in December to celebrate the wonderful achievements of the girls over the previous four months. Close to 40 people, including 9 girls and their families, gathered for an inspiring night of recognition, prayer, food, fellowship, and fun. More than 10 adult volunteers, including parents and grandparents, were honored for their role in running the troop.

Camping, badgework, and social events keep the troop members learning and growing in relationship with each other and with Jesus all through the year.

The troop has served in many ways, including packing Operation Christmas Child boxes and participating in the City of Richardson’s Christmas Parade. This year’s float depicted the book, The Gifts of the Animals, in the Christmas Storybook themed parade. It was well attended by the Richardson community.

Currently, only one of the girls attends our fellowship with her family. The troop reflects our neighborhood’s ethnic diversity and members come from Catholic, house church, Baptist, Pentecostal and other Christian faith traditions. We look forward to welcoming more girls and families in the future including those who do not yet enjoy the blessing of intentional intimate relationship with Jesus.

American Heritage Girls’ mission is building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. Learn more at americanheritagegirls.org.

Christine Ojih
Richardson, TX

Christmas Parade—Surrey Hills, OK, US

On December 11, GC Surrey Hills joined our neighbors and celebrated “A Very Surrey Christmas” by participating in the Christmas parade. There were floats, golf carts, 4 wheelers, and even a muscle car decked out for Christmas and spreading joy (and candy) throughout the neighborhood streets.

We saw more people sitting outside with their families to watch the parade than any other year so far! Our float theme was “The Greatest Snowman,” a spin-off of the popular “The Greatest Showman” movie.  The Love Avenue team did a great job getting the float together. Our resident cowboy, Cowboy Steve, provided us with a wonderful trailer and pulled us safely through the parade.

After the parade, we headed to the Golf Club where neighbors and the Lion’s Club served free hot chocolate and cookies. It was sponsored by two neighborhood-owned businesses: Grounds 4 Compassion and A Latte Love Coffee House. We filled the club house, because this neighborhood loves to come together! We may need to start looking for a larger space for next year. Two of our amazing neighbors came to the clubhouse as Mr. & Mrs. Claus so that parents could get pictures.

In addition, 48 children in our neighborhood were adopted by other neighbors for Christmas.  The gifts piled in and were delivered to the kiddos before Christmas! Together, as neighbors, we wanted to make sure that each and every neighborhood kiddo had a VERY Merry Christmas.

The Spirit is moving throughout Surrey Hills, and we are SO blessed to be a part of what Jesus is doing.  God’s love is flowing throughout the neighborhood. What a gift it is to be in relationship with him and one another!

Ceeja Malmkar
Love Avenue Champion

Volunteers Needed—Denominational Celebration

Are you considering volunteering, but you have questions?

Check out our Q&A.

Q: The conference is 3+ days. Will I be expected to serve the entire time? Every session? What’s my time commitment?
A: Each shift or session is 2.5 hours or less. We ask that you choose and serve for one shift. Of course, you can choose more than one shift.

Q: Do I have to create my own lessons / curriculum?
A: No. We will provide a lesson and activity with all supplies for your session.

Q: How many other adults will I be with?
A: Depending on the age group, you will be with at least 2 other volunteers during your shift.

Q: Can I request which age group I help with? If I’d rather serve with teens, can I request that?
A: Absolutely.  On the sign up, you will see that the shifts are organized by grade/age and times. You can pick any open slot.

Have additional questions or want to volunteer? Please send an email to home.office@gci.org 

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!

Prayer for Melissa Nolan

Melissa Nolan is a GCI elder and facilitator of the fellowship group in Clearwater, FL, US. Melissa had a cancerous brain tumor removed three months ago. She underwent a second surgery to treat infection on January 19.

The cancer has spread to both her lungs but cannot be treated until her overall condition can be stabilized. She is in the critical care unit of at Tampa General Hospital. She and her husband, Gerald, would appreciate your prayers.