Exploring Covenant - Week 2 (The Church)
BRIEF HISTORY OF UNITED METHODISM
Methodism was started by a man named John Wesley in England, in the 1700's. It started as a group of college students who got together everyday to study the Bible and pray. Other students made fun of these guys. They called them "Methodists" because they organized everything they did and did everything methodically. Wesley became a priest in the Church of England.
John Wesley went to America to preach the gospel to the Native Americans . He was a huge failure! He came back to England very depressed. He was unsure about his Faith in God. One night, he was at a meeting in a house on Aldersgate Street. As he listened to the speaker, God did something in his life. He said, "I felt my heart Strangely warmed , I felt I did trust in Christ, and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins" From this point on, Wesley's faith was alive and vital.
Wesley and his friends began to preach in the streets, in open fields, and at the mouths of coalmines. Wesley's message was that the grace of God was available to all - that everyone mattered to God. His message was accepted with joy be many persons from the working classes of England.
People who accepted Wesley's message were organized into small groups of 12 (originally called "class meetings") for accountability, support, prayer, and Bible study. The classes were brought together in larger groups called "societies". These later became Methodist churches. Wesley taught the early Methodists to "do good, avoid evil, and use the means of grace.
He taught them to strive for "Christian Perfection" or holiness, which he defined as being completely controlled by love. Today many historians credit the Wesleyan Revival with saving England from a bloody revolution like the one in France.
Five Important Characteristics of Early Methodism
- Dynamic Worship - The early Methodists were called "shouting" Methodists.
- Lay Leadership - not only ordained ministers could preach and lead.
- Small Groups - for support and encouragement to live the Christian life.
- Strong emphasis on telling others about Christ.
- Strong emphasis on helping people in need.
Remember that Methodism began as a renewal movement within the Church of England. John Wesley never intended to start a separate church. He died an Anglican priest. It did not take long for the renewal movement called "Methodism" to spread to America. By the time of the revolutionary war, there were around 57,000 Methodists in America.
When America broke away from England, these Methodists suddenly found themselves without a church, since they were no longer members of the Church of England (the state church of the country from which they just declared independence!). So, in December of 1794 at a famous conference called "The Christmas Conference," the "Methodist Episcopal Church" was officially born. The first two Bishops were Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.
In America, Methodism became a frontier religion, characterized by:
- Circuit Riders - The preachers did not belong to any one church, but rode a "circuit" that included multiple churches. They would come in, preach, appoint class leaders, and move on to the next town.
- Going where the people are - Whenever a new settlement cropped up, the Methodist preachers were there to start a new church.
- Camp Meetings - people would gather in large groups, pitch tents, and have several weeks of worship services.
- Rapid Growth - Methodism was the fastest-growing religious group in America in the 1800's. during this time, they were starting new churches at the rate of one per day.
United Methodism continues to be a connectional church:
- Every pastor and every church belongs to an Annual Conference. This group meets once a year. It is made up of all the pastors, plus one lay member for each pastor. It is presided over by the Bishop. It's goal is to oversee the ministries of United Methodism for its particular region.
- Every church pays apportionments to support the world-wide mission of the church.
- Every pastor is appointed to a local church or to a ministry beyond the local church for one year at a time. The appointments are "fixed" every year at annual conference.
- Because of our covenant of shared ministry, there is no church without a pastor, and no pastor without a church! Our goal is to reach the world for Christ together!
Facts & Figures
Covenant Community Church is one of 134 United Methodist Churches in the Blue Ridge District (BR below), which is part of the Western North Carolina Conference.
The Western North Carolina Annual Conference is made up of over 1,100 churches working together to minister to the western part of our state.
Each of the Annual Conferences around the world gather together once every four years as the General Conference, the top level decision-making body of our denomination. It is made up of representatives of the United Methodist Church from around the world. Its final "product" is the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, which provides the policies and procedures for our church on the local, annual conference, and general conference levels.
We can do more together!
These three groups, Blue Ridge District, WNC Annual Conference, and General Conference, gave Covenant money to get started. We in turn support these three groups through our annual apportionments as we collectively seek to reach out across the street and around the world with the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ.
SOME DISTINCTIVE UNITED METHODIST BELIEFS
The Primacy of Grace is God’s loving action through the Holy Spirit.
It is a free gift from God, unearned and undeserved. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 United Methodists believe in three “dimensions” of grace:
- Prevenient Grace - is the grace of God which operates in our lives before we make a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ. Prevenient literally means “goes before.” We believe that God always makes the first move. That is to say, you and I cannot accept Christ by ourselves. God has to work in our hearts first. (See John 6:37)
- Justifying Grace - is the grace we receive once we put our faith in Christ for salvation. This is the turning point, the “aha” moment when we realize our need for a Savior and accept God’s forgiveness in Christ in a personal way.
- Sanctifying Grace - is the work God does in our hearts after we receive Christ. This is the grace that moves us into spiritual maturity and causes us to become and more like Christ himself.
No matter where we are in our spiritual lives, we got there by grace, and we can only move forward by grace. Because we believe this so firmly, we United Methodists try not to be judgmental of others. After all, “ ‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!”
We believe that, by God’s grace, humans have the ability to say yes or no to God’s love. God has determined the means for salvation, but we have the freedom to respond. (John 3:16, II Corinthians 8:7-10, Mark 6:9-12)
We believe that Christians can know for a fact that their salvation is secure and that there is a place waiting for them in heaven. (I John 5:13; Romans 8:14-15)
A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality, initiated by God for us. Like other Protestants, we celebrate two sacraments:
- Baptism: This is a once-in-a-lifetime sacrament of initiation into the church. (Ephesians 4:5-6) When we baptize infants, we are recognizing that, as children of believing parents, they have a place in the covenant community of God’s people. (I Corinthians 1:16, Acts 16:15, Acts 2:39) Infant baptism is a response to prevenient grace. We do not believe that infant baptism alone is sufficient for salvation; the child must one day accept the gift of salvation for himself or herself and then be confirmed as a professing member of the church. We recognize the baptisms of other Christian denominations as valid. If you were baptized as an infant, then your public profession of faith upon joining the church makes it complete. If you were, or will be, baptized as an adult, then your baptism serves as your public profession of faith in Christ. If you need to be baptized, you may choose between pouring and immersion.
- Holy Communion (The Lord’s Supper): “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love Him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” Communion in the United Methodist Church is an open table: one does not have to be a member of this church to participate. The bread of Holy Communion represents the broken body of Jesus Christ, given for us. The cup represents the blood poured out to give us new life. (Mark 14:22-24) We believe that Christ is present in a special way when we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. (I Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:23-26)
History of Covenant Community Church
Covenant began as a church plant in the Western NC Conference of the United Methodist Church. In1993, Rev. Mack Strange went door-to-door inviting people to become part of the founding core group. His vision was for “something that was beyond religion that would focus on relationships.” Concerned about what he saw as a “spirit of condemnation” in many churches, Mack wanted this new church to offer a strong message of grace and to welcome diverse people from different backgrounds.
Before long people were meeting in the Laurel Creek clubhouse to hear messages of healing and hope that were truly applicable to their lives. The original name was “River Ridge Church - A United Methodist Congregation.” Later the name was changed to reflect the values of the new congregation rather than the location: “Covenant,” meaning a sacred agreement (with God and with each other); “Community,” meaning relationships -- “we’re in this together!”
Covenant held its first public worship service December 5, 1993 in the “minitorium” of A.C. Reynolds High school. Roughly 200 people attended that first public service. During the “high school years,” Covenant rented office space on Highway 74-A, where staff worked and meetings were held during the week. The youth group met in a barn in the Reynolds area. Eventually, the church purchased land for a building from our neighbors, the Sayles family. This land contained a deep ravine which made it unsuitable for building. The NC Department of Transportation, however, was in the process of widening 74-A (a narrow two-lane road at the time) and they needed a place to deposit dirt. The ravine was filled in, a building was constructed, and Covenant began worship at its current site on September 27, 1998.
Previously, three senior pastors have served Covenant: founding pastor Mack Strange (1993–2001); Robert “Buzz” Scott (2001– 2005); and Claude Kayler (2006 – 2014). Associate and interim pastors have included Earlynne Bartley, Beth Crissman, Kelly Crissman, Wes Sharpe, and Keith Turman.
Rich Tuttle - Lead Pastor firstname.lastname@example.org 828-298-8955 x102
Tracy Weinmann - Church Administrator email@example.com 828-298-8955 x100
Ken Morgan - Pastor of Worship Arts firstname.lastname@example.org 828-298-8955 x110
Ryan Robertson - Pastor of Students & Missions Coordinator email@example.com 828-298-8955 x103
Ginny Allison - Pastor of Children’s Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org 828-298-8955 x111
Shonnie Streder - Director of Connections & Communications email@example.com 828-298-8955 x107
Church-Elected Lay Leadership Church Council (Governing Body)
Tripp Porter - Chairperson
Jake Hill - Chairperson
Staff Parish Relations Committee
Cynthia Reese - Chairperson
Gary Mills - Chairperson
Kelly Houston (Lay Leader for Annual Conference)
We are the church
We each bring our personal stories and play a role in the story and the body of the church.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
We Connect to each other through:
- Small Groups
- Playing a role on Sundays and/or in Leadership (Using our Gifts)
- Serving together in our Community