For several years, Grace Family Church of Providence, RI (a GCI congregation) has sponsored a Volunteer of the Year award, presented to residents of the community where the church meets who have distinguished themselves in unique ways in service to the Lord. The congregation recently announced that the recipient of the award in 2018 is Suzanne D. Cozzi, wife of the congregation’s pastor, Luciano Cozzi. Several guests from the community attended the service (below, left) where the award (below, right) was given to Suzanne.
Though she had to leave gainful employment a while back due to cancer, Suzanne never stopped helping and serving the church and the community. Now cancer free, she dedicates 30 or more hours each week to serving the church and its associated counseling center.
Though Suzanne’s example and service to the Lord has touched many lives in the congregation and the community, she has never asked for or expected acknowledgment or praise. For her, the privilege of serving the Lord is a sufficient reward. Suzanne’s sterling character as a woman, mother, wife and servant of the Lord shines brightly as a testimony to God’s grace and love. Congratulations Suzanne.
The Women’s Ministry of Living Hope Christian Fellowship (a GCI congregation in Atlanta, GA) held their three-day annual conference in late September. The backdrop was a Hawaiian Luau; the theme was “Saved by Grace, Let’s Celebrate the Joy in Our Lord!”; the theme scripture was Ephesians 2:8-9. The primary goal of the conference was to bridge the generational gap and promote a stronger “sisterhood” among the ladies of the congregation. During the conference, the women were able to have an open dialogue to address areas of concern, develop strategies for improvement, and work as a team to build stronger unity within the ministry.
Attendees at the conference ranged from 6 months to 80 plus years of age. It was a time of praying, bonding, fellowship and worship. The women enjoyed devotionals, fun games and activities, and plenty of food. According to Joyce Gordon who serves as President of the Women’s Ministry, “We were thankful for the many ladies, both young and seasoned within the church, who rose to the challenge by allowing their God-given talents and gifts be used in such a powerful way, remembering that we are all God’s work in progress.”
“I’ve got it! I’ve finally got it!,” exclaimed an enthusiastic student on the first morning of the ACCM Jesus and the Gospels course taught at GCI’s Home Office over the weekend of October 20-21. “I’ve finally seen why it really is all about Jesus,” the delighted student went on. Along with the other students, she saw clearly why Jesus changes everything.
Over two days together we explored and mined the deep, inexhaustible revelation of Jesus contained in the Gospels. Not just revelation, but also the relationship he brings us into with the Father through the Spirit. We learned about the method and message of Jesus’ teaching, and how to read Scripture through the lens of Jesus.
In the Christian Leadership course (held concurrently), we explored the theological foundations of leadership through Jesus, and addressed the practical implications and applications of this for leading. As GCI President Greg Williams often says, pastor-led, team-based leadership is the model for ministry and pastoral leadership that we follow in GCI. The course ideally equips participants for living out this model, yielding more effective leading for ministry and mission, while developing healthier churches.
Although the two classes met separately, each day started with combined worship—knowing that both our learning and lives are offered in worship to the Triune God.
ACCM’s interactive learning style encourages transformation, not just information. The students enjoyed that learning style through the facilitation of quality teachers as they continued their learning and formation journeys as disciples of Jesus. They were encouraged and rewarded with deepening understanding and life-changing growth and development as we shared the deep things of God together.
“I find it very inspiring,” said one participant. Another said his experience was so great that he now believes “every member needs to be participating in ACCM.” Another participant wrote, “Thank you for having this course. It has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I feel it will help me become a pastor.” Another said, “I am richly blessed by this course. I know Jesus and love him even more.” A new pastor said, “I owe it to my congregation to do these ACCM courses.” Another participant wrote, “I believe our church’s use of ACCM worldwide is preparing us for growth, and definitely healthier churches.”
A huge thank you to all who attended and special thanks to Pam Morgan and all the others in the GCI Home Office who helped make the two days such a delight.
In the September GCI Equipper, Greg Williams emphasized the importance of being sponsor-mentors in the lives of new, younger church leaders. But finding these leaders can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. For some help, click here to read “3 Places to Find New Church Leaders.”
In the summer of 2012, while pursuing my Doctor of Ministry from Drew University, I was presented with the unexpected opportunity of taking an elective course called Celtic Spirituality. It required that I travel with the professor and six other students by plane to Manchester, England, then by train into Wales, then by van to the village of Aberdaron, and finally by ferry boat to Bardsey Island. Remote and rather barren (see the picture below), Bardsey has only four permanent residents. Nevertheless, it holds a special place in the cultural life of Wales. Due to the large number of Christians buried there, it is known as “the island of 20,000 saints.” Legend has it that King Arthur is one of those buried there. As a result, the island attracts large numbers of artists, writers, musicians and pilgrims (my class included).
In AD 516, an Irish priest named Cadfan sailed to Bardsey with 25 monks and began a monastery that operated through 1537. It was the mission of my class to recreate monastic life some 475 years after the monastery closed. In order to be formed into a monastic community, each of my classmates was assigned one of several roles: abbot, deacon, cellarer, cantor, acolyte, or the one I was assigned: lector. The job of the lector is to prepare the readings assigned for the mass (liturgical church service). The lector then either reads those long passages or assigns others to read them. I had no idea of the large amount of scripture that is read in these services.
Initially, my reason for reading the passages had to do with fulfilling a degree requirement. But as I read, I was surprised by the profound, personal impact it had as I experienced the Word of God washing over me. As I went back and forth between Old and New Testament readings, my appreciation for Holy Scripture was renewed and deepened.
The course professor, an Episcopal priest, gave me some special attention (perhaps his Tennessee roots paired well with my North Carolina roots!). He teased me incessantly, noting that though we Evangelicals say we are Scripture-based, we read far less Scripture in our worship services than do churches that follow the historically-orthodox worship liturgy. He made a strong case for making Scripture reading a primary part of all worship services.
Being immersed for a week in Celtic spirituality had a significant impact on me. I was particularly moved by sharing in deep, rich community with fellow students. Together, we prepared meals, engaged in morning and evening prayer, daily mass, and other class exercises. But the takeaway I want to share with you is the profound power of Scripture reading in worship services. If your congregation does not already read significant portions of Scripture in each service, I encourage you to do so.
For two examples of how God is heard through the reading of Scripture, read aloud Ephesians 5:21-33. Do you hear God’s instruction concerning marriage spilling over into the mystery of the relationship of Jesus to his body, the church? As we listen, our minds become filled with awe and anticipation. The metaphor of being cleansed by the washing water of God’s Word infers how Scripture is every bit as inspiring and transforming as it is instructive. Now read aloud Psalm 119:9-16. What do you hear? What do you experience?
I encourage all our congregations to follow the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) in their worship services. Each week the RCL has assigned Scripture readings (called “lessons”)—one from the Old Testament, another from the Psalms, one from the New Testament Epistles, and another from the Gospels. Typically, the sermon expounds on one or more of these passages. You’ll find manuscripts for RCL-synced sermons written by GCI pastors and elders in each issue of GCI Equipper (click here for the sermons published to date). Along with each sermon we also provide a Speaking of Life video and discussion questions synced with the readings and sermon. I encourage you to take advantage of these resources as you proclaim and celebrate the Word of God.
Reading the Word of God with you,
Greg Williams, GCI President
On November 11, 230 members of GCI’s Spanish-speaking congregations in Southern California came together for a joint worship service in which Joseph Tkach and Lorenzo Arroyo were honored. The service featured exuberant worship and a well-received message from Dr. Tkach. The two honorees were given plaques showing the church’s appreciation for their many years of service.
Joseph, who retires from GCI employment in January, served for many years as GCI President. Lorenzo, who retired in 2017, served for many years as a U.S. Regional Pastor, and ecclesiastical supervisor of GCI congregations in Mexico and Spanish-speaking congregations in the U.S.