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Love You Can Taste

Grace Communion Woodbury’s Love Avenue is directed towards feeding the hungry and giving the lonely a place to connect. With long-term goals of having mission meals to contribute to this endeavor, our short-term goals are more within the grasp of our currently small membership.

Our Love Avenue team has begun creating half-size aluminum steam pans (available at warehouse club stores) to assist families struggling between “heat or eat” through the winter months. They have been experimenting with recipes in order to learn the amounts and costs for each meal. So far, there have been two large “meal-making” parties after church netting between 15-17 half-size steam pans of food. The first was a shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes on top. The second was Mexican rice and chicken fajitas; tortillas, sour cream, and salsa included.

They delivered the hot pans to unexpecting families. The families’ faces lit up when receiving the hot and ready-to-eat dinners, and they expressed their gratitude. Any pans that were unable to be delivered the same day were put in the freezer for later delivery. An unanticipated benefit of these meal preparations is that when a guest came to church and mentioned he was attending a funeral later in the day, we were able to offer a frozen dinner for him to give the grieving family.

There are no strings attached to this outreach. Recipients are not asked to join our church. They are simply receiving love and assistance in a tangible form. The foil lids have our church name on them as well as the words, “You are loved. You are valuable.” If the meals are delivered hot, recipients are verbally informed as to the meal content. If frozen, they are labeled with content and heating instructions.

This “first phase” of our Love Avenue walk has been a growing and learning experience. We are enjoying where we are now in the process and are anticipating a well-developed Love Avenue as we continue.

By Brad Reed, pastor
Woodbury, PA, US



Watch the WeAreGCI video featuring Brad and his wife, Marlene.

Black History Month Celebration

On February 26, Grace Communion Cleveland celebrated Black History Month with a multicultural luncheon after church services. Members were encouraged to bring a dish that highlighted their family’s culture. The delicious food was an excellent opportunity to celebrate our unique differences and how we all are brought together in Christ.

We had another reason to celebrate on this day. We opened our new children’s space!

Earlier in the month, we had an evening sing-along on Saturday, February 18. A good time was had by all, with several guests in attendance. Using members of our worship band and YouTube karaoke, the music from various genres was covered for young and old alike. The song list ranged from “The Gilligan’s Island” theme song, “We Will Rock You,” to “Hallelujah Amen,” just to name a few. Singing, dancing, and laughter filled the air. It was decided the sing-along would become an annual event.

Tamar with husband, Lenny

By Tamar Gray, pastor
Cleveland, OH, US

Celebrate Dr. Alvin Simmons

Black History Month is celebrated in the US during the month of February. To honor this celebration, in GC Ladson (SC), the children spoke to the congregation about historical figures. Included was a summary of the life of Aretha Franklin and a recitation of a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. Join us in celebrating the achievements of one of GC Ladson’s elders, Dr. Alvin Simmons!

Dr. Simmons is a leading research entomologist at the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. An entomologist is an expert in the branch of zoology concerned with insects.

Dr. Simmons is also the president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. He is the first African American president of the ESA.

We asked Alvin to tell our readers a little about his family.

My wife, Edith, and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year. We have two wonderful daughters, Princess (age 12) and Duchess (age 8). We all enjoy travel opportunities; Princess has been to eight countries so far. Last November, Princess was, by far, the youngest speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

Read more about Dr. Simmons here and here.
Congratulations on your achievements, Dr. Simmons!

Devotional—All Things for Good

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

As we start our day, it doesn’t take long for something to not go well. It might be a missed alarm, spilled coffee, an angry interaction, or any number of daily occurrences which we’d say are “not good.” How then can we believe God works all things for good? There’s no way, right? Wrong, there is no human way, but God has made a way through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 8 helps us remember this way of Jesus: full of forgiveness, grace, mercy, love, and relationship. Paul reminds us not to have a mindset of flesh, which is death, but one of the Spirit, which is life and peace (verse 6). We are not obligated to live according to the flesh (verse 12) especially because it cannot compare to what God has in store. Paul is adamant about shifting our focus and perspective away from ourselves and upwards to God, our relationship with him, and his coming glory we’ve yet to experience (verse 18).

This is how we know “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (verse 28). This doesn’t mean all things we experience are good, for we live in a broken, fallen world. It does mean God is with us in our sorrow, confusion, suffering; bringing his goodness into every heartache we experience, no matter what.

Precious Lord, you know our struggles and our desire to experience your good. Help us lean into you and receive life and peace amidst our struggles and daily circumstances. May your life replace our selfish comparisons. Show us, Lord, how you work ALL things for good. Amen.

By Carrie Osborne, pastor
Chillicothe, OH, US

Prepare for Palm Sunday

Occasionally, we want to share a congregation’s best practices. May this spark some ideas as you plan for Palm Sunday.

Our local church has appreciated the beauty of intentionally keeping Jesus “the center of the center” through the use of liturgy, expressed in different creative ways.

In our desire for members to be more participative in our worship celebration, we have explored ways where we can encourage their participation, most especially in the special celebrations based on the Christian worship (liturgical) calendar. Last year, we encouraged our members to bring palm branches to church and explained that we will be commemorating the “Triumphal Entry of Jesus” to Jerusalem, commonly referred to as Palm Sunday.

As the worship ministry leader, I coordinated in advance with the music ministry as to the choice of songs. For example, the song by Paul Baloche, Hosanna, includes these lyrics: “You are the God who saves us, Worthy of all our praises.” The song selections were in keeping with the flow of the worship celebration, in sync with the theme of Palm Sunday.

Our children’s ministry leader, Sis Auey Parcasio, also prepared a short skit presentation. The children portrayed the Palm Sunday story with their costumes and dialogues from the Gospel text in Luke 19:28-40 aligned with the Revised Common Lectionary.

The worship hall was set up with decorations of palm leaves, lights, and video clips. A tapestry, beautifully placed on the floor, added to the experience of the congregants. After the worship celebration, each person received a blessing and took their palm leaves home as a reminder of the Savior-King Jesus.

Indeed, we recognize that purposeful preparations for a meaningful, Jesus-centered worship celebration are very important. The use of liturgy has helped us position the gospel story of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all throughout the year. We look forward to encountering Jesus more in our Sunday worship celebrations as we continue to journey through the rhythms of the worship calendar.

By Justine Paolo Parcasio
Associate Pastor, Baguio, Philippines

Get to Know Rose Hamrick, CFO

In the January 11 Update issue, Greg Williams announced that Rose Hamrick was joining the home office staff as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and we provided her professional bio for readers. Now, to help you get to know Rose even more, we asked her a series of fun and personal questions.

Rose with her sisters and brothers

Describe the moment when you knew you would say yes to this position as CFO?

When I consulted with the Holy Spirit. Almost immediately when I began to pray about it, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Yes, this is why the answer was ‘no’ before and ‘not yet’ at other times, for such a time as this. This is what I was preparing you for.” I had another career opportunity to move to Charlotte next door to the home office with another company 7 years prior.

Rose’s son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons

What have you sacrificed to take this role?

Seeing my family each day, particularly my grandchildren.

You’ve been working at the Home Office for a couple of months now. What’s been the biggest surprise?

How much joy and laughter are in the hallways and throughout the office each day.

Was there a key moment when you realized God had given you a gift for business management and finance?

When I was asked to serve as CFO of GCI. Seriously, it’s been a gradual process and realization throughout the years in my career, in my service in the church and the community and in my family. I naturally gravitated to all things having to do with business or finance and always asked to serve in the capacity of one, the other or both.

Family dinner

How would your family members describe you?

I decided to ask my family. These are their responses: you love the Lord, are God-fearing and kind, patient and honest, always smiling and positive, genuinely love helping everyone, spiritually grounded, empathetic toward others and always available to listen, loving and faithful.

Name one of your favorite books—and you can’t say the Bible.

I have two: They Walked with God by Max Lucado and Faith Walk by Rose M. Hamrick. It’s not one of my favorites because I wrote it, but because God inspired it, and it highlighted his power and provision.

Rose’s daughter

If you’ve had a particularly trying day, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?

Sit quietly and meditate.

What’s the best thing about being a grandmother?

Spending time with and watching my three grandsons’ growth, development, and personalities.




Read a Gospel Reverb Excerpt

In this podcast episode, our host, Anthony Mullins, speaks with Mandy Smith. Mandy is the pastor of St. Lucia Uniting Church in Australia.

The following excerpt is from their discussion of Matthew 28:1-10, and it’s a fitting subject for International Women’s Day.

Listen to the full episode and read the full transcript here.

Anthony: I sometimes hear people say, Mandy, that the disciples abandoned Jesus at his death. And there was abandonment, of course, but I also see the women going to him and being the evangelists, if you will, sharing this great message. Tell us about it.

Mandy: I know a lot of women who feel called to proclaim the good news are very encouraged by this passage, especially if they’re in contexts that don’t affirm them in their calling.

I’m really hesitant to say because I always want to be welcoming to my brothers. … and I don’t want to perpetuate all of the brokenness between men and women.

And at the same time, I think it is really good to share [that] it is really painful to feel that calling and to not always be given an opportunity to share it.

… But every single time somebody has not received me or has not treated me in the way that Christ would treat me or has not recognized what God is doing in me—and I’ve had some really painful experiences—every single time, it has been an invitation for me to talk to the Lord again and to say, who are you again? What are we doing here again? Who do you say I am again?

And for anyone who’s marginalized—which is not just along gender lines, but the many different ways people are marginalized—it can be a really empowering experience if it becomes an opportunity for us to say once more, who are you [God] again? Who am I again?

… it’s often those who have been on the margins, for whom the system has not been functioning anyway, who actually have real leadership to offer in [a crisis]. And that’s how I see this passage. These women were not given much of anything really in the system. And so, when the status quo falls apart, they have something that enables them to press through.

So how do we listen to the voices who are saying, you know what? Before you were aware that the system was falling apart, it wasn’t serving me anyway, and I’ve had to function within the system according to the kingdom. How can we invite those people to be leading, as these women had the opportunity to, when Jesus was dying and coming back to life?

Celebrate Debby Bailey

Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re grateful for all the women in this fellowship. We mark this day by remembering when GCI officially recognized the gifts and calling of women as elders in 2007. We can celebrate this, while also acknowledging the struggle women have faced and at times, still face because bias and resistance toward women in leadership has not yet been fully rooted out and healed.

To honor this day, we celebrate Debby Bailey and what she represents as the first woman ordained as an elder in GCI. We asked her to share her story.

August will make 21 years I have served in a pastoral role. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this being part of my journey. A friend had a dream in which she saw me standing in front of the congregation as pastor. I didn’t know any females in that role in our denomination. Yet, as crazy as it sounded, something resonated within me. Five years later, our congregation worked with our regional director to form a pastoral team, which included me, to lead the church. The Holy Spirit had been preparing me.

Both the congregation and I struggled with the role. A female pastor was new ground. I kept asking myself if a woman should be a pastor and then pondered whether God would open the door if it was wrong. I didn’t give a sermon for a year, until I had to as part of a preaching class led by my regional support. Unfortunately, after that sermon, a couple left the church. The wife, a friend, said she didn’t believe a woman should be preaching. Our advisory council then recommended that I shouldn’t be on the speaking schedule.

After three years, the church assessed if the pastoral team was how we would continue. I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to take a stand. I would only be considered for the pastoral team if I could function fully like the other team members—which included speaking. The congregation accepted this decision.

Over the years, I have experienced hurt and disappointment but also a lot of joy. There were many days I wanted to walk away, but every time God stepped in and made it clear I was to stay. I had the privilege of being the first female ordained as an elder in GCI. I was commissioned by Regional Director Rick Shallenberger as lead pastor in 2021. Serving as a pastor has been the most difficult, exciting, and rewarding experience of my life. Now I can’t imagine pastoring not being part of my journey.

By Debbie Bailey
Pastor, Pikeville, KY, US

Devotional—How Language Puts God in a Box

Language is subject to cultural influence, and if you’ve ever studied the origins of words, you know how culture and technology have changed our language. If we would’ve told our grandparents thirty or more years ago that we would “google” the weather forecast, they wouldn’t have known what we were talking about. Culture also affects the language we use in Christianity, which shapes our experience and perception of God.

Many Christians only talk about God using masculine terms or father metaphors, as if this is the only acceptable symbol or picture of God, rather than a reflection of the ancient patriarchal culture of the biblical writers. But Scripture provides us with a diversity of images: masculine, feminine, and non-gendered images.

Deuteronomy 32:18: “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” [Rock and Laboring Mother]

Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” [Light]

Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” [Mother]

When we exclusively use male-gendered metaphors for God, it’s easy to assume God exists as a gendered being. But John 4:24 tells us “God is Spirit,” and spirit doesn’t have a gender.

Consider biblical examples where Jesus disrupts gender norms, especially in his actions toward women and children. Jesus came to break down the cultural norms of his day that boxed God into the patriarchal system that marginalized non-Jews, women, and children. By expanding the language we use to think about God, we can grow into the awe and mystery of being in relationship with our Father/Mother God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Light of Life and lover of our souls, expand our hearts’ ability to see your love and care in new and meaningful ways. Amen.

By Nan Kuhlman
Monrovia, CA, US




Note: In GCI, we normally call God “Father” because that is the way Jesus taught us to pray, and the name by which he told us to baptize. Some people misunderstand, and think that the term indicates God’s gender, but it does not. God has roles similar to a human father, similar to a mother, similar to a shepherd, and similar to a king, but God cannot be equated with any of those terms. We continue to use the terminology Jesus gave us and seek to help people understand what the term does and does not mean.


And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten journey to Easter. A reoccurring Easter Preparation or Lenten theme is forgiveness. We remember the words of Jesus from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” as an invitation to receive and extend forgiveness.

Perhaps your heart has a hard time embracing forgiveness. We have all been hurt or offended by someone in our lives, and the thought of forgiving them seems like an impossible task. Well, guess what? You’re right. It is an impossible task on your own. It is only through participation in the forgiveness that has already been done by God that we are able to forgive. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” he was speaking of forgiveness as well. God’s forgiveness is unconditional.

When the Father sent his one and only Son to reconcile us and bring us back into a relationship with him, Jesus took full responsibility for all our faults, failures, and sin and dealt with them on the cross, once and for all! It’s a done deal and you had absolutely nothing to do with it. There is no condemnation. There is no record of wrongs. There is only mercy, grace, and love.

As we allow these revelations to take deep root within our souls, we begin to enjoy God and revel in his sheer goodness. When we are able to “live” in the reality of the Father’s forgiveness and acceptance in Christ, our hearts are able to relax and extend grace and forgiveness to others.

Prayer: Merciful God, help me experience the full weight of grace and forgiveness in my heart, so much that it simply and easily radiates out of my very being to those around me. Amen.

By Davina Winn
Assistant Pastor, Hanover, VA, US