By Kristin Devine Mueller
As I look toward the start of a new school year, I was struck by the fact that our previous school year ended so abruptly. In fact, it never really ended. We just stopped. We stopped school, church, Kids Out Loud, nursery, Special Needs ministry, Kids Club – it all just stopped, and we never closed out the season in any of those areas. As we move into the fall, I’m realizing how hard it’s going to be to start as well. All the routines we have become accustomed to won’t exist this fall, and we’re all starting something that seems very precarious and uncertain. So what does it look like to continue on in ministry, but mark the beginning of something new?
The answer, put simply, is that things are not going to look the same. And that is ok.
As we move into the fall, we will hold our plans for Children’s Ministry loosely. We’ll put some dates on the calendar for some of the things we know and love. We hope to offer nursery care and preschool classes again, beginning sometime after Labor Day. We know it’s difficult to engage a 2, 3, or 4 year old in worship, so our first stage will be to open classrooms for those ages. Our hope is that this will open the door for families who are comfortable to return to worship together with their children who are kindergarten and older. We hold this plan loosely because we will need to adapt our plans if the number of cases in our community continues to rise, but we move into the fall with the hope and prayer that we can offer age-based experiences for our little ones this this fall.
As we move further into the fall, we’ll look at opening up our classes for elementary-age students at some point in October. We honestly don’t know what will happen as our children begin to meet in school classrooms again. Due to all the uncertainties, we in Children’s Ministry are choosing to sit back, wait, and follow the lead of the schools in our community. We value the collective wisdom of our school leaders in this area. We feel that this is a time to wait and proceed as we see effectiveness in the path that others have taken.
All that being said, we know there is a desperate need for connection in our world, our community, and our church right now. So we will move into the fall, not with a Rally Day or Kick-Off, but with some new ways to build community and relationships among our church families.
We know there is value in seeing each other, and so our plan is to orchestrate a way to have fun with each other each month. We’ll host one social gathering each month, working our best to be outside, maintain social distance, and protect the health of those in our community. This is a stressful month, so this month we’ll offer another “Parking Lot Playdate” on Sunday evening, August 16, at 7pm. We hosted a playdate in July, and we were able to open up a large portion of our parking lot for kids to run, bike, roller skate, scooter, and simply play. You are invited to come and play, or to simply sit outside in lawn chairs and enjoy time outside in the presence of others from our church community.
We know that being at home, all together as a family, can be both a wonderful experience and an incredibly frustrating and isolating experience, sometimes in the same afternoon! This fall, we will be working to pair each family up with one or two others from our church, so that you can offer each other support and encouragement. Each relationship will look a little different, but our hope is to create smaller groups of community among our church family so that you know you are not alone in this season.
Things won’t look the same this fall. It will be hard to let go of what we know and expect to happen. My hope and prayer is that you will see God at work in the new, and that we as a church will connect in ways that are stronger and richer than what we ever expected to happen.
By Ronda Ooms
It’s hard to believe that it’s August and time to think about school starting! This has been an unusual summer! I’m sure that it hasn’t looked anything like what you thought it would. Mine certainly hasn’t! BUT here we are at the end of summer and looking at what this new school year will look like.
Here at ECC, we have partnered with Miller Elementary School for the past 13 years. This year we will be entering our 14th year of ministry with them and part of my job as Community Outreach Director is to look at how to do ministry during this unusual time in the history of our nation. Back to School has always been a time of helping families purchase clothing that follows the dress code of the school, co-hosting a Back To School Carnival, and recruiting volunteers to help in the classrooms at Miller. This year we will be approaching these areas a bit differently.
Many families have taken a financial hit during this time with loss of jobs, increased child care needs, etc. Therefore, we are taking donations to help families with needs that they will have with the start of the school year. Those needs may be clothing, shoes, masks, supplies, or other things that may come up. Typically, the school staff will let us know about needs and we will follow up with the families. If you are interested in making a donation, above your tithe, please make your check out to ECC with Miller School in the memo portion. You can drop it off at the church office or place it in the offering box on Sunday morning when you attend the worship service.
We’ve been co-sponsoring a Back To School Carnival with Bauer at Miller for the past 8 years. This year, on Tuesday, August 18 from 5:30-6:30 PM, we will be having a “Car”nival. The families will stay in their cars and drive through a predetermined route set up through the parking lot and the front of the school. Our idea is to have some type of entertainment for the families as they make their way through the predetermined route. We hope to have clowns, a juggler, music, several games (played in or from their car) and at the end of the route each family member will be given a taco meal and snow cone. We will also have raffle prizes and the kids will have a chance to see members of the Miller staff get crazy things done to them (water poured over them, eggs on their head, pie in the face, etc!) It should be lots of fun!! Our goal is to have all the children, whether they have chosen e-learning or to attend classes in person, come to this event. We hope to help families feel cared for and loved and to know that we are here for them. We’re trying to do something “normal” in a unique way! If you have any contacts for possible entertainment or have ideas of what we could do, please email me at email@example.com or give me a call at the church office at 474-4842.
In order to make this “Car”nival a success we will need volunteers. Following are ways you can help: food prep, distributing food, helping with a non-contact game or helping where ever there is a need. Please sign up here. We will wear masks and social distance as much as possible. Please help us help make the start of this unusual school year a fun one for the children.
Part of the startup plan for the Lafayette School Corporation is to limit the number of outside people into the school during the first 9 weeks of classes. Because of this, we will not be recruiting classroom volunteers at this time. Our monthly family meals at Miller will also be put on hold until we are given the green light to start those once again. Our hope is that in November we may see things returned back to a more normal routine.
Over the last few weeks I have met with Deb Paterson, Miller’s principal, and Greg Louk, the assistant principal, and they, along with the rest of the Miller staff, are working hard to get things in order for the new school year. I know that they all would appreciate your prayers as they get things ready for the children and their families. I know that applies to all of our educators, no matter the age of the students they teach. It is an unusual and very stressful time.
Your continued prayers for our outreach ministry are greatly appreciated. We desire to walk alongside the families of Miller Elementary School and be a source of encouragement and care. We are so thankful for the ministry God has given to us. May we be His hands and feet as we care for our community.
By Kristin Devine-Mueller
In this unusual season of life, I have welcomed different activities that bring some sort of change from the normal routine, no matter how small that change may be. When I started reading about Covenant Harbor’s Family Getaway program, I caught a glimpse of how our family could change up the routine, take somewhat of a summer vacation in a relatively safe way, and bring about a change that would renew and refresh us all. We signed up for the Family Getaway from July 12-18, and we were blessed and delighted with our time away!
Camping ministry has been a part of my walk with Christ since I was in junior high, and it’s taken various forms over the different seasons of my life. I love taking kids to camp, and when I realized that I could spend a week at camp with my own kids, I knew this was a chance to create some sweet and special memories with my 3 & 7 year olds.
I find that the rhythm of life at camp is so different than home, which creates this sacred space for people to interact with each other and not worry about everything that has to be done in a day. I’m surrounded by God’s creation, so it’s impossible not to marvel at the works of God’s hands! Rather than drive from place to place, in a camp environment you get everywhere by walking. These frequent walks meant shared giggles with my son, listening to the voice of my daughter as she is learning to express herself more and more, and the holy silence of a quiet wooded area. At camp, I felt more present with my kids than I had in many of our moments at home simply because everything else drops away, and I marvel at these little people whom God has entrusted to my care.
My husband Glen wasn’t able to travel with us – we are thankful that he is now working full-time, but it also meant that he didn’t have any vacation time to join us. At first I was worried about traveling with the kids on my own, but when I realized that camp was going to take care of all our meals, I realized that this was a getaway I could handle! You do have to pay extra for meals each day, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all available. Best of all, I didn’t have to wash a single dish!
Covenant Harbor is located right on the shore of Lake Geneva, in Wisconsin, and my family took advantage of the waterfront time each day. We swam in the lake every day, Sunday through Friday, and we also took two different boat rides during the week. Eric Anderson, the current Interim Executive Director of Covenant Harbor, and his wife Cherith took us out on the lake for a short tour and a chance to swim off the boat. They welcomed each family personally throughout the week, and they are making it their mission to get each family out on a boat tour during their Family Getaway stay.
The highlight of my son’s week was our second boat ride, where he rode on a banana boat for the first time! The banana boat is an inflatable tube that can seat up to 8 people and gets towed along behind a faster boat. Inevitably, it turns and hits a wave just right, and many of the riders are dumped into the lake (with life jackets on, of course). My son was terrified of going fast, so he kept giving the “thumbs down” signal for going slower. He had a blast riding at the slower pace, and was just as thrilled to join us in the motor boat and watch the others go fast and eventually get knocked into the water!
As part of the Family Getaway, we stayed in a cabin at Covenant Harbor from Sunday afternoon through Saturday morning. We were blessed to stay in one of the new Kishwauketoe cabins, or “Kish” for short. We had 12 bunks, our own private dorm-style bathroom, and a really fun loft where the kids could hang out and play. Families can stay in a cabin entirely on their own, but we chose to invite some friends along and were so glad that we did!
There is still availability for a Family Getaway time through August 13 at Covenant Harbor. While I know many won’t be able to make last minute plans and head to camp in the next week, I wanted to share our experience because it’s very possible that a program like the Family Getaway week will continue into the fall. Our Covenant camps weren’t able to host their traditional summer programs which directly impacts their financial situation. By participating in the Family Getaway program, we can help support our camps while also changing up the rhythm and routine for our own families.
We don’t know what the fall will bring. We don’t know if we will have further seasons of remote school and remote work ahead of us. If your family does end up in a situation where you can work from anywhere, as long as you have internet access, I encourage you to consider spending some time at Covenant Harbor. I’ll be sure to keep you informed if they add on some fall Family Getaway weeks! I’d love for you to have the opportunity to take a deep breath and enjoy God’s creation, just as we did.
By: Pastor Stacey Littlefield
Renovaré is an organization dedicated to the art of spiritual formation in followers of Jesus. Chris Hall, president of Renovaré, recently wrote a brief reflection on the challenges they are facing. His observations speak to us all, however, not just those involved at Renovaré. I encourage you to read his gentle and faith-focused words as encouragement for us all.
By Kurt Kincanon
Great News! ECC’s Missions Commission is delighted to share that Perspectives is coming to the Greater Lafayette area due to a multi-church partnership. A leadership group, made up from multiple churches, have been working to bring Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Class - A Journey into the Heart of God for All Peoples back to the Lafayette area this fall. This renowned and life-changing class is a powerful opportunity to immerse yourself in God's work around the world by hearing each week from expert speakers brought in from all over the region. Perspectives helps believers from all walks of life see how they can get threaded into God’s story of redeeming people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to Himself. I know from conversations I have had with others who have participated in the class that Perspectives will challenge and inspire you to think differently about world missions and global engagement.
Here are what a few Christian leaders have to say about it:
“Perspectives is, in my experience, the single best discipleship course to mobilize the church to God’s mission.” J.D. Greear, Pastor, The Summit Church of Raleigh-Durham
“The Navigators routinely used Perspectives with the students in our ministry. Without a doubt, Perspectives played a huge role in helping our student friends develop an informed world-view, a deepened passion for Christ and specific plans to do their part in taking the good news of Christ into the nations!” Mike Jordhal, Navigators
“The whole world will be reached with the gospel when the whole church gets involved. Perspectives is one of the keys that God is using everywhere in the Great Commission.” Loren Cunningham, YWAM
“We value our partnership with Perspectives. Their leadership discipleship tools have helped our members to discover how they can effectively become a part of the global Christian movement.” Dr. Tony Evans, Sr Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas TX
The Missions Commission strongly encourages you to find out more about this opportunity and take the time to pray about your participation in it. ECC’s Missions Commission is offering assistance with the tuition for Covenant members and attenders who complete the class. Check out all the information at http://perspectives.org/lafayette and share it with anyone you know who may be interested. Join us to learn to "use what's in you to bless the world around you." Questions can be directed to me at the church office (765) 474-4842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jorden Meyers
It seems the world is filled with constant transitions and adjustments in this season and the offices at ECC are changing too. It is with sadness and anticipation that we announce that Carol Smith will be concluding her time on staff here at ECC this month. Will you join us in celebrating Carol's ministry here at ECC and join us in wishing her well in this next exciting chapter of life. Use the comments of this blog post to celebrate Carol with a memory, prayer, or piece of advice.
Let us pray this prayer together:
God, you have called us into being through love. You have joined us to one another in love. How good and pleasant it is when you people dwell together in unity.
Shine your light upon your people that we can see the glory of eternal life. Grant Carol Smith the strength to carry your blessing from this place to the next. May she be at home in any land, for all the earth is yours. And, with her hopes set on your coming glory in the world, live also as an alien in all lands. May the lamp of your word guide her feet on the unsure paths of life.
Grant Carol a deeper fullness of being and spirit, by carrying our memory with her in the coming journey. May her face be fuller in glory and joy, now bearing new shape, as our faces transform and supplement one another.
We pray for Carol to go in the peace of Christ to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God! Amen
Read Carol's letter of resignation below.
Carol's Exit Letter
By Carol Smith
Dear ECC Attenders,
I want to start by saying that ECC has been my church for my entire adult life and I owe much of my spiritual growth to the leadership and the people of the church. My journey started 21 years ago as a young single mother. I was welcomed with open arms. Justin, Dave (my soon to be husband) and I were accepted even though we did not look like a typical family. 18 years ago, I started serving the youth through VBS skits, teaching Sunday School, and eventually serving as a youth leader. After Ara Koliantz began his journey in Detroit as lead pastor, I stepped in as the youth director.
About a year ago I began to sense a restlessness and began to pray about what that was. I sought counsel from a spiritual coach, prayer warriors, and my family. I asked them to hear me and pray alongside me on what to do with this restlessness. God showed up in my prayers and my trusted counsel. It has become clear that it is time for me to move on from youth ministry at ECC. I am moving into starting a new path in my life that serves not only my gifts but my family, as well. I believe because God has made this very clear to me that it is also what is best for ECC.
Please know that this was not an easy decision nor was it a decision that was taken lightly. My heart grieves over this ending but know that God also has given me peace about the decision. I imagine, many of you will have questions about the why, the when, and what is next for ECC Youth. The leadership is working hard to develop the plan to move forward. I am not moving out of the area as my family is still connected to school and work here. I would be honored to answer any questions you might have. Please reach out for clarity.
Thank you for loving my family and I for so many years. I would appreciate your prayers as we listen to the Spirit and God’s direction in our lives.
By Carol Smith
We have all had to pivot in this season. We have worked from home, schooled from home, and canceled events left and right. In the midst of the all that, we have had to reimagine the Young Adult Retreat, originally designed as a one weekend get-away, to learn how we are created uniquely and with a purpose. While so many events were canceled, many went online. And so we decided to attempt an online cohort instead of a retreat.
Nine young adults, ages 17-21, participated in a Young Adult Cohort online for four weeks. April Diaz and I coached these young adults during a pandemic, activism and division over racial injustice, and their whole worlds looking different than they could have ever imagined. Many older adults who have gone through a lot in life were having a hard time and here are 9 young adults having to navigate the unknown with people who have never had to navigate it either. We asked a lot of them: to be present, to be vulnerable, and to participate fully. AND THEY SHOWED UP! They dug deep in a short time and I was energized by them.
You might be asking what is a cohort? Well, that was the question the young adults were asking as well. I am not sure how many knew what they signed up for when saying yes.
The Cohort was based on a coaching model. Coaching is being honest about where you are and where you want to go. Each young adult wrote their own mandate based on what they wanted to have accomplished in the 6 weeks from start to finish. They were creative and dreamed big. We had everything from wanting to write a song to complete all the tasks needed to start school in the fall.
We ended our time with the retreat we originally planned but it looked much differently than anything we could have imagined at the beginning of the process of dreaming up what we could do for and with our young adults. What would have been a jam-packed weekend, we transformed into a celebration and relaxing time.
It is not often we choose to get away with people who are not our family and without a ton of stuff planned. The option to go on the lake, sleep in, stay up late was left up to the individual. On an early morning kayak trip around the lake, a young adult said to me “I feel really loved by God right now.” It was not because we were answering Bible questions in a study or doing a “spiritual” thing but because we were connected to a part of God’s creation at that moment. So much of what the Bible describes life as is through water. That morning, God was visible. This is what it means to connect with God and to know God.
The weekend was filled with tears, laughter, rest, and recovery. But if I could tell you one thing about our time, it would be this: these young people gave me hope and energy for our future.
They care deeply.
They think deeply.
And they are willing to be vulnerable and present and dream about a future that seems unsure.
We could all do well to learn from them. Learn to care for the “others” and care for each other. Learn to take ownership and inventory of your lives to be a more whole version of yourselves. When we listen to our young peoples’ hearts, their hurts, and their perspectives, they benefit, but just as important, we ALL benefit. I could not be more excited about what is to come for these individuals! I invite you to do what they have done over the last couple months.
Be participants in your own life.
God has created you; the way you look, the way you laugh, the way you experience this world. He knows the direction your hair grows and the things that make you angry and what gives you great joy.
By Pastor Jorden Meyers
For the month of June, the movie Just Mercy is free on many streaming platforms. As we continue to wrestle with the complexity of race and justice in our country, I have invited my friend and colleague Pastor Dominique Gilliard to lead us in a discussion on this movie. Rev. Gilliard is the Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for our denomination as well as the author of the 2018 reader’s choice award-winning book, Rethinking Incarceration.
Rev. Gilliard is a trusted and well-researched voice in the history of the racialized incarceration system in the United States. In his book, he builds on the work of Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow), Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), and Christopher D. Marshall (Compassionate Justice) to create a readable narrative of this racialized history. Gilliard provides a survey on the history of mass incarceration, including “black codes” (restrictive laws passed in the late 19th century), convict leasing, and modern prison labor. He also takes the church to task for failing to “reckon with the reality that ever since black people were stolen from Africa and trafficked to this land, they have been dehumanized, abused, criminalized, incarcerated, exploited for profit, and governed in distinctively sinister ways."
One part of Rev. Gilliard's job with the denomination is planning and implementing a journey to understanding racial righteousness called Sankofa. Sankofa is an invitation to understand race as a critical component of our Christian discipleship. It is an interactive, spiritual formation, pilgrimage that equips Christians to pursue racial righteousness inside and outside the church. This relational journey traces the history of race in the U.S., and tangibly equips believers to begin living into the church’s mission to be ambassadors of reconciliation. I was blessed to participate in this journey last August, and you can read about that experience here. If you are interested in attending a Sankofa Journey, registration is now open for the October trip - more information can be found here.
Please join us for an online discussion of the movie "Just Mercy" on June 28 starting at 7:oo p.m. The cost will be $10.00/participant. Five dollars will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative and $5.00 will be given to Dominique Gilliard for facilitating. The movie is free to watch on several platforms. Click here to receive more information and a link to see how you can watch the movie.
By: Kristin Devine Mueller
Our Summer XPerience was unlike any other we’ve had as kids from our church, our neighborhoods, and our community gathered online! We learned to Focus on God and to keep our eyes open for how God works in the world around us. We saw God in creation, we looked for God as he revealed himself in Jesus, we encouraged our kids to talk to God in prayer, and we challenged our kids to live for God by loving others. We put together 80 kits for kids to use, and we encouraged all those who had registered to take a kit to share with a friend. Our kids did an amazing job of spreading God’s love in their neighborhoods! We took kits to our after school JAM kids, and we had 29 kids register through ECC. Those two groups of kids received and distributed 78 kits for Summer XP!
From Monday-Thursday, we had kids watch videos online and participate in Zoom small groups. Each night at 6:30, we premiered a video with the lesson for the day. Our worship team recorded 4 songs, including an original song by Meghan Gobrogge, both on location at ECC and on location at Miller Elementary. The lively motions, fun cheers, and oversized glasses made these music videos an interactive and fun way for our kids to worship God together online.
Each night, our video host Kristin Mueller would invite our video host Greg Louk to join the kids in a challenge for the next day. If enough of the kids participated in the challenge, Mr. Louk would fulfill his end of the deal, which always involved some sort of gross and messy task. When we posted enough pictures of how we saw God in creation, Mr. Louk let his dog lick peanut butter off his face! When we shared our sidewalk chalk art, Mr. Louk got covered in color run powder! Each night, we encouraged interaction with our online content by promising that Mr. Louk would fulfill his end of the messy deal. This helped add the element of fun that is always present when we gather together in person with Mr. Louk at Miller Elementary!
While we weren’t able to play games and do craft activities in person, we had a team of people who created supplementary videos for each evening of Summer XP. As kids finished the online videos and Zoom groups, they were invited to watch a series of videos that we posted in a playlist. The videos demonstrated different games that kids could play at home, with things they already had around the house. The videos also gave instructions on how to do the craft projects that each child had in his or her kit for the week. We even incorporated instructions for making your own bubble mix and ideas for using sidewalk chalk to connect with your neighbors!
As many churches have shifted to different models of Vacation Bible School in this season, we were grateful that curriculum writers shifted as well. We had story video content from the Orange curriculum to share each night, and we had small group guides for how to facilitate an online experience like the time we spent in Zoom. Each night, we would gather all together in one Zoom call, and then split into 3 groups based on age. Our Zoom meetings were lively and fun, and we were able to use the advantages of Zoom (such as the mute button) to give our teachers time to share the message of God’s love with our kids.
On Thursday night we joined the team who distributes meals at Bauer Community Center each week. Summer XP families were invited to come and pick up a meal as well as a celebration of our time together! We handed out t-shirts to kids who had participated with us, and we handed out sunglasses with our logo to all the kids who came through the line. Everyone who came through was also treated to Gibson’s Shaved Ice on a hot summer night! Greeting people as they drove through gave us an opportunity to share the sadness that we couldn’t gather in person this year but to also name the hope that we’d be back at Miller for Summer XP again next year.
Our hope and prayer is that this was a starting point for many of our kids and the kids in our neighborhoods to connect with others at ECC. We pray that these video and online experiences gave kids a glimpse into the children’ ministry that we do at ECC so that we can continue to invite our friends to in-person gatherings in the future.
We’re so thankful for all of you who prayed for us, created amazing content to share with our community, and spent time with our kids online!
We will resume worship gatherings on ECC’s campus on Sunday, June 14 at 10:30 a.m. You need to pre-register to reserve your place. There will be measures in place to protect everyone's health and watching the video below will give you a brief walkthrough to show you some of these measures.
Pastor Stacey's email from last week details the saftey measures in place. Below is a list of those procedures but you may also read Pastor Stacey's letter for more information.
If you wish to pre-register for the service, click the button below!