By Pastor Kurt Kincanon
Greetings Church Family,
Prior to advent of the current “stay at home” and travel restrictions we are all experiencing, Jo and I were able to experience the trip of a lifetime, visiting Israel at the end of February. I made reference to the trip in my sermon last week including some pictures taken of the Mount of Olives and Temple Mount.Our trip was a Clergy Familiarization trip with Dr. John DeLancy. Dr. DeLancey is a retired Covenant Pastor who has started a new ministry called Biblical Israel Ministries and Tours (BIMT). Part of the expectation for me as a pastor participating in the Clergy Familiarization Trip is that I will lead a future tour.
Dr. Delancey served two Covenant churches for over 26 years prior to starting BIMT. He has also lead over 72 Israel tours as well as tours to surrounding biblical areas. John has also been a part of a number of archeological experiences in Israel and is extremely knowledgeable about multiple archaeological Tels throughout the region. I encourage you to check out Dr. Delancey and the BIMT here. He has several teaching videos that are very informative as well as information on future trips.
By far the question I have been asked the most since returning is “What was your favorite highlight of the trip?” To which I pause and stumble because I can’t narrow that question to one thing. I will share that one of the things I was most looking forward to and that did not disappoint was to be in the Galilean region surrounding the Sea of Galilee. There is usually considerable debate about where certain biblical things happened in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem. However, Galilee was the center of Jesus 3 year ministry and there is no doubt that when we visited there, we were in areas in which so much of what we read in our gospels happened. Attached is a picture taken from the top of Mount Arbel of the Plains of Gennesaret and the Sea of Galilee. Both areas are referenced in the gospels where Jesus would have visited. This was his back yard so to speak.
When we as a church are once again able to meet again face to face, my wife Jo, and Todd and Kate Cogswell intend to host an evening event where we share more about our experiences and begin to plan and dream about a future trip. In the meantime, feel free to ask me about another favorite highlight. In the meantime, here is a 12 minute video tour of Israel put together by Dr. DeLancey. The sequence of our trip was very similar to this video. Enjoy!
By Ginny Quesada
The Bible app from YouVersion is a great resource for accessing the Bible and resources from our church services. Our live event has the current Bible verses, an area for notes on the sermon, questions to ponder, links to resources mentioned during the sermon, a Communication Card link, our prayer list, and how to connect with our community online. It is quick and easy to get to ECC’s live Bible app event. I’ll show you how to get to the live event each week and how to save the event for later viewing!
One of the ways that I am blessed and honored to serve our Covenant Denomination and our greater Covenant Family is as a board member for Covenant Living and Services. You may not be aware that the Covenant Denomination has a large health system that serves older adults across the country at 17 unique locations. Covenant living serves over 5,000 residents at these locations. Many of these residents have been lifelong members of Covenant churches and all Covenant Living communities have a faith culture and a culture of serving and mission. Residents of Covenant Living communities are encouraged to “Live with Purpose.”
Attached is a recent Covenant Newswire article highlighting a recent award-winning video called “Diversity Awareness Partners.” The article contains a link to the video highlighting how a group of residents from Covenant Shores engaged in diversity awareness and reached out to newly arriving refugees to help them acclimate to American culture. You may also watch the video here.
If you would like to know more about Covenant Living or my role on the board, please reach out to me. I would love to tell you more.
by Carol Smith and Kristin Devine Mueller
This winter, we had the opportunity to attend Winter Camp weekends with both our 7th-12th grade youth and our 5th-6th grade students. We saw God move in amazing and wonderful ways as we had this time away together with the youth of ECC! Camp becomes a sacred place for both our students and our leaders, as we step away from the rhythms and routines of our daily lives and step into a life of close community with God and with each other.
We learned about God, got to know each other in a deeper way, and had so much fun. Many friendships were made and developed over these weekends. Here’s a glimpse into our adventures at Winter Camp!
On our 7th-12th grade weekend, we had 21 students and 5 adults at the second of the combined middle school and high school retreats of the season. Throughout the weekend worship services, we had a fantastic speaker and theme of Relentless! Seeds were planted in the hearts of our group members. We hope that this main idea continues to resonate with our students: GOD IS GREATER THAN EVERYTHING, OUR ANXIETY, OUR TROUBLES, OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS, OUR FEARS! John 3:30 reminded us that God must increase, and we must decrease, meaning that he must be above all other things! This quote also had a strong impact on our students, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.
We learned that God used John the Baptist, who was this awkward guy, to be the one to further the kingdom and announce the coming of Jesus. We don't have to change who we are to fit into the crowd. We need to live into how God designed us and sacrifice for God because God can handle all that.
Our 7th-12th grade students had a few camp victories during the weekend. First, our group became Stumpball champs when they won the stumpball competition! This is a game that is similar to ultimate frisbee but students stand on a "stump" for the goal. We were proud to see that our students played hard all game without giving up (even though they were cold!), acted with kindness toward each other, encouraged each other throughout the game, treated other teams with kindness, and didn't let the competition take over their purpose of having fun!
Our second victory came when our group also won the weekend-long game! This game started as soon as we arrived and ended Sunday morning before breakfast. Our students were committed to talking to the camp leaders and working together. When conflict did arise, students were willing to work it out.
On our 5th and 6th grade weekend, we had 9 students and 3 adults at the largest attended winter camp (and the last) of the season. Our theme was Relentless and our verse was John 3:30, He must become greater; I must become less. We learned a lot about John the Baptist, things like he was made for a purpose; to point others to Jesus. His life was a little awkward; he was misunderstood (sounds like the life of a preteen/teenager) and relentlessly pointed people to Jesus. Jesus relentlessly pursues us and wants us to repent and turn to him. Sometimes our "decider is broken," and we need to repent (turn totally the opposite direction) of the things that makes God sad.
This group participated in prayer stations on Saturday night. The different stations allowed students to experience God through building a prayer with word stones, Bible journaling, lighting a candle for burdens, and several others. They were invited at the end to take a piece of sandpaper and choose the grit. While coarse sandpaper will knock down the roughness of something and work through some big things, less gritty sandpaper will refine and smooth out the material. But all sandpaper makes things smaller. God works down our burdens and he becomes greater than all our burdens.
We’re thankful for the honor and privilege it is to be part of the faith journey of each and every one of our students. Pray with us that God would continue to work in our student’s hearts, and that God would continually bring to mind what they heard and experienced over the weekend.
By Kristin Devine Mueller
I know that you value Children’s Ministry at ECC, and I know that this church has a long history of valuing children as a part of God’s kingdom. About 18 months ago I was blessed to be able to join the staff here, and I have truly enjoyed working with the church to help create, nurture, and sustain a place for children in our congregation.
I think we do this in two ways – we create same-age spaces where children are completely free to be children, like in our Kids Out Loud classes, our nursery rooms, our Wednesday Kids Club, and Summer XP. When you come into one of those spaces, you’ll see a large team of volunteers reaching kids on their level. You’ll see (and hear) children engaged through all the different learning styles. I love these spaces and these places, and I’m so thankful for the volunteers who give their time and talents each and every week.
It’s been my goal to also create a space for our children in worship, in the Sanctuary, with the larger body of Christ. We try to do this through songs that children learn to sing both for us and with us, through our Bible presentations, through events like Bump-Up Sunday, through our bookshelf of resources in the Sanctuary, and through children reading Scripture. We’ve been experimenting this fall with spaces for children to play instruments and spaces for children to create art. We’ve had videos and skits on Unity Sundays, and just this month we celebrated and taught about communion in worship, on a Sunday when we knew the children would be present with us.
Our summer worship format was a mix of these two styles. We created both a worship space and a space for children to be with same-age peers. During the summer months the children began with us for songs and prayer, and we shared in a spoken blessing together. We then invited children to participate in a worship experience outside the sanctuary, and we had them return to the sanctuary during our closing songs.
We do all this because we want our children to know God, follow Jesus, and pursue God’s purposes in the world. We want them to have a strong foundation in faith, before they are 10 years old, so that they don’t walk away from the church when they get older. In the video, we heard that 55% of children will never set foot inside a church. That means that 55% of the children in Lafayette – 55% of the children we see at the grocery store, at the library, in our schools – will never set foot inside a church. That’s a lot of children!
Let’s talk about numbers here at ECC. This summer, we were able to track that 74 unique children came to children’s worship during our 10:30 service. Our database shows that we saw at least 84 unique children during the school year in our Kids Out Loud classes. The number is actually higher – we’ve been tracking this fall and we have seen 110 unique children in our preschool through 6th grade classes on Sunday mornings. These numbers are just class numbers though – they don’t include the children who have special needs and meet with one-on-one aides, and they don’t include the children in the nursery, and they don’t include the children who stay with their family in worship. These numbers also don’t include the children who come for our MOPS kids programs, or the children who are on our campus for events like our Fall Kick-Off or Trunk or Treat. We’re just starting to track our numbers more closely, and we want to expand our data so that we include all the children who come through our doors. We see a lot of children during the year! We want to make sure that we are always creating room for those 55% of children, who are predicted to never enter our doors. I think we’ve got some of them coming through the doors already, and we want them to encounter the life-changing love of Jesus Christ!
Yet, we know that we can still do more to develop children as disciples, to equip parents as spiritual mentors, to empower children to participate in our church, and to reach out to engage the children of Lafayette. This spring, we’ll begin a journey with Steve Burger, the Covenant Church’s Director of Children, Family, and Intergenerational Ministry. This journey is called Legacy, and it will help us reimagine children’s place of priority in God’s kingdom. I’ve got one other short video to show you…
The Legacy journey will begin here at ECC on Sunday, April 19, the first Sunday after Easter. Steve Burger will be here to preach in worship, and then he will lead an afternoon experience where we assess and celebrate our current children’s ministry, identify which one of the four framework pieces we want to focus on in the coming year, and dream and plan how we can begin this work. We’ll be inviting pastors, church leaders, and children’s leaders to join together in this experience. Each of you could very easily fit into that group of people, and if you are a leader in our church or in our children’s ministry, we would love to have you join us.
There is always room for more of you to lead with us in Children’s Ministry, and there is always room for you to make a kingdom impact in the lives of our children. We have a wonderful team of volunteers, but volunteer recruitment in the world of children’s ministry never stops. If your heart was touched by the video, come sit in the nursery with our little ones, come greet at our welcome desks, or come teach in a class. There are always openings and needs to fill, and we currently have openings for nursery workers, greeters, and teachers. If you want to get more involved, please come talk to me. If you want to read more about our upcoming Legacy journey, I have flyers that I will gladly share with you. Thank you!
On Ash Wednesday, (February 26, 2020) we enter into the season of Lent in the Church Year. Lent offers the invitation to set aside time each year to “walk with Jesus to Jerusalem”, to remember and intentionally focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
Lent lasts 40 days, leading up to Easter, minus Sundays. The 40 days mirror Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, where he fasted, prayed, and triumphed over the temptations of Satan. In accepting the invitation to celebrate Lent, we may also be called to fast and pray.
“The purpose of Lent is not to force on us a few formal obligations, but to ‘soften’ our heart so that it may open itself to the realities of the spirit, to experience the hidden ‘thirst and hunger’ for communion with God.” (Reverend Alexander Schmemann)
The more traditional way to identify with Jesus is by giving up something for Lent, and you may sense that is a good option for you. Maybe you give up chocolate or Wednesday lunches or maybe it’s social media on Mondays you choose to fast. Possibly you could feel the invitation to refrain from complaining or to give up your purchased coffee and donate the money instead.
However, you might be invited to add something during Lent. You may decide to more faithfully pray for people in your life, walk a certain amount of time or distance each day, or more intentionally read through the gospels. You could also prayerfully identify people in your life, your neighborhood, your family, your place of work or school, whom you can serve in some small way. You can pray for them, as mentioned above, or you can be on the lookout for a way to serve them, to deny yourself in some way on their behalf. You can volunteer in a ministry for a season. All of these are also ways in which we can observe a holy season of Lent as we remember what Christ has done for us. We would love to have you start by taking part in our Ash Wednesday service February 26, 7:00pm, at ECC.
What you choose, by themselves, can do nothing – these practices are about making intentional space to connect with God and allowing Him to work in and through you. Committing to intentionally focus some way on Christ’s life during Lent is a way we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit on the pathway to Christoformity. We encourage you to take some time and prayerfully ask God how He is inviting you to observe Lent this year.
If you would like to receive some guidance or encouragement during your observing of Lent, we invite you to sign up for daily Lenten texts on your phone where we’ll offer you a prayer, a passage to reflect on, or some other suggestion to help you more intentionally observe the season of Lent. If you sign up, you’ll receive an initial text on Ash Wednesday, and then, starting the following week, 5 daily texts each week leading up to Easter. Simply text @ecclent20 to the number 81010 to enroll.
As we experience this sacred season, however you choose to celebrate Lent, may our hearts be softened and open to the realities of the Spirit, may we experience a deeper communion with God, and a grow a greater commitment to love and be loved by the Savior.
by Pastor Stacey Littlefield
On February 26, we will observe Ash Wednesday at ECC with a family friendly, interactive time of prayer and worship to enter into the season of Lent in community. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the 40 days that lead up to Holy Week and our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning. It is called “Ash Wednesday” because of the ashes that are customarily placed on the forehead of worshipers during the service.
Why ashes? In biblical times and down through history ashes have been a sign of mortality and repentance. In Job 42:4-5, for example, after Job is confronted by God, he says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job sees God and sees his own sin and responds in repentance by sitting among the ashes. While we do not physically “sit among the ashes” on Ash Wednesday or during the Lenten season, we are invited to reflect and pray.
It might be tempting to see Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent as morbid affairs, even something those of us who know Christ need not bother with, but there is something here we dare not miss. Yes, we have been forgiven. Yes, the grace of God is sufficient for us and all of our sins, past, present, and future. No, we need not wallow in shame because we fall short. But repentance is an important part of our walk with Christ, and we also dare not forget the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. We dare not forget, either, that Christ came not only to secure a place for us in heaven, but to teach us a new and better way to live—abundant life now. Lent reminds us of our calling to walk the road that leads to Christoformity, even as we acknowledge Christ’s death on the cross and celebrate the gift of our redemption.
On Ash Wednesday, at the culmination of our time of prayer and worship, worshipers are invited to come forward and have ashes place on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. The receiving of ashes is not mandatory. It is available for those who wish to take part. The ashes remind us of our mortality and of the call to repentance. As we place ashes on each forehead, we say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ultimately, Ash Wednesday is about looking back in gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ and looking forward in hope because God is with us, still—leading us, guiding us, sustaining us, and fulfilling his promises to us. As a prayer I pray almost every day puts it, we bless you, God, “for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ash Wednesday is a time to give thanks for our redemption in Christ, to acknowledge the road to transformation we are yet traveling, and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. I hope you will join us on February 26 for Ash Wednesday.
Since the fall, we have been exploring our ECC Touchstones of Welcome, Transformation, and Presence from different points of view. Most recently, we have used our Wednesday evening Community Gatherings to foster conversations around each of them. Beginning February 12 and for six weeks after that, we will shift gears a bit, even as we continue exploring each of the Touchstones. Each week we will look at some aspect of one of the Touchstones on a more practical level. We’ll spend two weeks with each Touchstone.
While the exact details for each week are still coming together, we wanted to give you a sense of where we will be going and encourage you to make time to join us. Even if you cannot stay for the learning opportunities, we’d love to have you join us for the time to fellowship around the table with one another. Dinner is served from 5:45-6:30pm. Programming for all ages and our further journey into the Touchstones takes place from 6:30-8:00pm.
2.12.20 and 2.19.20 // Welcome
Guest Presenter Pastor Rodney Lynch, Director of the Baptist Student Foundation on Purdue’s campus, will lead us in a two-week conversation on Welcome as it pertains to race. On the second week, February 19, brothers and sisters from Second Baptist Church are planning to join us to enrich our fellowship, conversation, and understanding.
2.26.20 and 3.04.20 // Transformation
On February 26, we will hold an interactive Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. The following week, March 4, Beth and Dave Booram, authors of the book, When Faith Becomes Sight: Opening Your Eyes to God’s Presence All Around You, will speak to us on spiritual formation.
3.11.20 and 3.18.20 // Presence
We are currently working on two weeks on which we will talk about what it means for us to be present to our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ, in word and deed, in a very practical manner. We will keep you posted as things develop.
Many of us witnessed a exhilarating Super Bowl this past Sunday with a heroic come back. Some of our ministry Heroes at ECC serve very quietly behind the scenes providing one on one care to those in need through Stephen Ministries. In the wake of what was a very entertaining Super Bowl game, see how one former NFL coach found meaning through becoming a Stephen Minister at his local congregation…
For more information about Stephen Ministry at ECC go to ecclife.net/stephen-ministry
We are missionaries to Japan, serving with the Evangelical Covenant Church. We first went to Japan as missionaries in 1993, but both of us were born and raised in Japan as missionary kids. Jim’s parents were Covenant missionaries in Japan from 1955~1993. Hydi’s parents were TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) missionaries in Japan from 1961-1996. But the story goes back a bit further as Hydi’s grandparents were also missionaries in Japan, sent from Germany by the Liebenzeller Mission in 1928.
So, answering the question, “Where are you from?” tends to be a bit complicated for us. But, we are fortunate to have partial roots in many places, including Illinois. Hydi’s parents did graduate studies at Wheaton, her dad studied at the University of Chicago and the national office for TEAM, their sending mission, was in Wheaton. Jim’s dad did his undergraduate work at Wheaton and further studies at North Park, and as Covenant missionaries they were frequently back in the Chicago area. They were also blessed to be supported by the Glen Ellyn Covenant church for many years.
Even though we both come from missionary families, our parents never even suggested that we consider becoming missionaries. I guess they knew it needed to be a personal decision. In deciding to become missionaries, neither of us were really motivated by a desire to follow in the family footsteps or tradition. It was more about reflecting the gifts and abilities we had and then thinking and praying about where those gifts could be most effectively used for God.
We are blessed to have three wonderful kids who all grew up in Japan. Our eldest is Miles. He works and lives in Japan, is married to Miho and they have a beautiful son Gen, who is almost two. Miles is a backcountry skiing guide in the winter, a mountain climbing guide in the summer and is currently working on a Ph.D. in fisheries. Our daughter, Kendra, lives in Seattle and is a free-lance photographer and social activist. Our youngest, Eli, lives on the coast in Oregon where he and his wife Mandi are currently on an adventure as commercial clam divers in the Tillamook Bay. During the warmer half of the year Eli is a wild-land fire fighter.
Whether working or playing, we tend to be extremely active. Hydi plays tennis, competes in triathlons, trail runs and marathons, while Jim enjoys cycling, sailing, hunting and landscape photography. We both love mountain climbing as well and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to live deep in the mountains of Japan at a church owned camp facility.