Pastor Gary (Debbie) Churchill minister in Miramichi and the surrounding area, and lead the Miramichi Wesleyan Church. Joanne and I had the privilege of worshipping with this congregation December 14th. The Holy Spirit’s presence was evident in the service. The sanctuary was full, and it is now too small for this growing congregation. I was told there were 94 chairs in the sanctuary (that’s full capacity) and the attendance was in the low 80’s on this particular Sunday (lya 54). The church is making plans to build in the spring, and add a 50’ X 50’ sanctuary that will seat 200 people. Some other benefits of the new facility will be a larger platform, more foyer space, larger kitchens upstairs and down, and it will accommodate a better office arrangement for the staff. The present sanctuary will become the fellowship hall. Pastor Gary and the Building Team have put together a well thought out plan and time table for the financing, and when construction will begin. They plan to raise $30,000 for the building fund by June, 2009 and they have generated over 50% of this target amount to date. We commend pastor and people for their diligence and willingness to take those next steps of faith.
Pastor Bill (Lois) Lea, Doaktown Wesleyan, reports the church was filled to capacity for the Children’s Christmas Service December 14th. Pastor Bill said he felt a bit like Art Linkletter with the younger children on the platform – give a 4-year-old a mic and… One family said they would return the next week and “give the church a try”. One older gentleman sought Pastor Bill out after the service, and with tears in his eyes, told him how God had blessed him through the children’s service. He was very moved by the love that the congregation was displaying for each other. The offering for the weekend was $43 over budget, and the once-a-month mission offering was $42. Pastor Bill felt it was a weekend where God’s blessings abounded!
Pastor Jasper Rideout reports Westchester Wesleyan had their annual Christmas Concert on Sunday night (14th) with 71 in attendance (lya 32). This level of community connection is really encouraging!
A new survey from The Barna Group shows that more than 150 million Americans said they have been affected by the economic turbulence, and are now passing on their financial pain to churches and other non-profit organizations by cutting back substantially on their giving during the fourth quarter of 2008.
Barna reports that two out of every three families — 68 percent — have been noticeably affected by the financial setbacks in America. Nearly one out of every four (22%) said they have been impacted in a “major way.”
During the past three months, one of the ways that adults have adjusted to their financial hardships has been by reducing their charitable giving. In total, one out of every five households (20%) has decreased its giving to churches or other religious centers. [Visit Barna.org to view the complete report] (Taken from “The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing 12-12-08)
Eleven of the District’s churches (17%) are in the State of Maine and can relate directly to Barna’s report as it reflects the state of affairs in America. However, the Canadian churches have also felt the impact of the present economy.
In contrast to this information, Kings Valley Wesleyan received a special offering on December 14th to assist with current fiscal responsibilities. Pastor Jim Agrell reported over $54,000 was received in the offering! This incredible response on the part of the people reflects obedience to God in responding to the need, and a large spirit of generosity. We rejoice with KVWC, and give thanks to God for His blessing demonstrated through His people! I appreciate KVWC’s example and reminder that our source is not the stock market. Our source is the Source – Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Philippians 4:19-20)
Bethany Bible College held its first “Christmas at the College” Concert on November 30th in the new Saunders Irving Chapel. Greeted by carolers singing outside, people from the area churches and surrounding communities entered the chapel that was decorated with greenery, ribbons, poinsettias, and a 15 ft. Christmas tree bearing 2000 lights. Approximately 1,000 community people, resulting in standing room only, attended the evening of music. Thanks to the expanded capacity offered by the new Saunders Irving Chapel, this incredible event was by far the largest engagement of the college with the broader Sussex community.
Under the excellent leadership of Professor David Klob, local school and community church choirs, a hand bell choir, students, and professors, along with Bethany’s chorale Crosswind, provided a variety of Christmas music. Children from the audience were invited to decorate a Christmas tree while Sussex Mayor Ralph Carr read the story of the Candy Cane. At the close of the community service, the audience sang Christmas carols by candlelight, bringing everyone’s focus to Christ, coming as the Light of the world.
Plans are already underway for next year’s concert to be held on multiple evenings in order the accommodate everyone who wants to attend.
Beulah Wastewater Project Update: I spoke with André Chenard (Director, Green Infrastructure Programs, PNB) by telephone last Wednesday (12-10-08). The Oversight Committee has met regarding the project applications submitted for funding under the Building Canada Funds (BCF). Mr. Chenard made the following comments:
There have been some changes in the process used in the past by the committee to determine the awarding of the funds, particularly in the way the committee prepares the information for approval. This is an internal matter but impacts the time frame of the final project selections and approvals. It will be January 2009 before we have an answer on which projects are moving ahead and which are delayed.
Mr. Chenard stated that out of the total BCF money that NB will ultimately receive, $25 million is currently available to work with on what he terms as the “first call” money. There are 74 applications being considered for this money and we are one of them. We are awaiting word as to whether or not we are in the “first cut.”
This is the current status on the funding situation. Friends, this would be a good time to add some extra impetus through your prayers for this important matter that impacts Beulah Campground. Thank you.
Please mark your calendars for the District Marriage Conference, May 1-3, 2009, at Beulah. Further details and information will follow in the new year from the District Married Couples’ Retreat Directors, Pastor Wayne & Threasa Doiron.
Information has recently gone out regarding our Annual District Ministerial, which will be held in Moncton, NB, February 3-5. Dr. H.B. London Jr., Vice President of Ministry Outreach/Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family, is the special speaker. District Pastors and ministers, as well as church board vice chairs, received the initial information regarding registration, accommodations, meeting place, and start times. Additional information relating to schedules, agendas, etc will follow in the new year. Please don’t hesitate to contact the District Office if you have any questions.
For those of you who have or will be going south in the next couple of weeks, don’t forget the Annual Atlantic District Snowbird Breakfast on Saturday, January 10, 2009 at the Country Kitchen Restaurant in Brooksville, FL at 8:30 a.m. Put it on your calendar, and we will look forward to greeting you then.
The District Office will be closed December 24, 25, 26 in celebration of Christmas, and January 1, New Year’s Day.
In the next few days you will gather in family circles, visit with friends, open presents, and enjoy food. But I trust you will also have some moments when you experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude for your many blessings. I hope you will pause and give thanks for your salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Take a few moments personally and as families to read again the Christmas Story and the miraculous “invasion” of God into our world as God Incarnate. The Scripture tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Our salvation is in Jesus Christ, and no other. Joanne joins with me in wishing you all a very happy and blessed Christmas, and a wonderful New Year!