Those of you from Texas (and especially Houston) know “winter” is a relative term. Truthfully, referring to any part of the year by the name of the season is relative here in Houston. Our “fall” and “spring” are laughable compared to most places. We do have “summer” down, though. Don’t mess with a Houstonian when it comes to summer. We know summer. Anyway, all that to say, for this post I am using the term “winter” to refer to the last couple of months since I last gave an update. That is all.
November brought yet another first for Covenant. (I don’t know what I’m going to do next year when none of these are “firsts.” For some reason the “first” aspect makes it all seem so much more blog-worthy. But alas, that is a worry for another day). Covenant had its first Community Group Leader Training. This was important because we just sent out our sixth community group at the beginning of January (read more about that here). Tim and I had been community group leaders before at our church in Louisville, so we had attended these types of trainings in the past. I was expecting it to be “just a review.” Not hardly. Our pastor Justin led the training and basically punched us all in the face (and I mean that in the best way) with the vision he put before us for our community groups. Tim and I had a lot of discussing, evaluating, praying, repenting and re-shaping to do as a result. I am so thankful for a God who is gracious to teach and instruct my heart even when I am not expecting it. I am thankful for faithful pastors who prepare instruction in a way that is challenging and convicting yet not condemning.
Also in November, our pastors finished up the sermon series on the book of Psalms. If you’re keeping track, it was the third sermon series preached at our church (Colossians, Core Values, Psalms). Our pastors took us through the book of Psalms for 13 weeks, and preached on a different category of the Psalms each week (wisdom, praise, thanksgiving, cursing, etc.) It was a fantastic series. The series finished up in the middle of November when Tim preached on the final category, Messianic Psalms. This was a great way to end the series (almost like they planned it that way 🙂 because it allowed us to finish our discussion on Psalms by thinking about Jesus, who is the key and the point of the whole story of Scripture. It was also great because it was a wonderful transition in the book of Matthew, the next sermon series.
Appropriately, the sermon series on Matthew began on the first Sunday of Advent. It was so exciting because this was our church’s first chance to celebrate advent together since we started public services. If you don’t know what Advent is, no worries – I didn’t either until a few years ago. If you want a fantastic explanation of advent, go here. Briefly, advent is the portion of the church liturgical calendar that encourages the church to look forward to and long for the birth of Jesus. It begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and goes until Christmas Day. This year, it fell the Sunday after Thanksgiving, as it often does, and as such, the first sermon on Matthew was that Sunday. It was such a joy to get to celebrate this special season worshipping corporately every Sunday of advent with our church family, altogether remembering and longing for the birth of our Savior.
The first weekend of December brought one of the events I look forward to every year: The Covenant Women’s Gift Exchange. Because Covenant is not a program-driven church, there aren’t many “women’s ministry” events to “go to” in the way most churched people would think of that category. We do, however, have our annual Women’s Gift Exchange. This was our second one. Our first one was last year before we were even holding public services. There were 7 people there last year. This year, there were 27 ladies! Some from our church, some from outside our church. And it is super fun. Picture this: Women only. Yummy food. Delicious drinks. Crafty, cutesy homemade (or, in my case, dollar-store-purchased) gifts. Swapping stories. Laughter. It was so fantastic. A sweet lady in our church opened her home and let us invade for a morning of fellowship, gifts and hearing about Jesus. Excellent.
This Christmas season was our first doing public services, so this brought with it the opportunity to do a Christmas Eve service. How precious it was to sing, hear about, meditate upon and celebrate the birth of Jesus with our church family. Not that this service went off without a hitch. There were many hitches along the way. Holiday travelling and work schedules meant we were short two pastors and all music people (did you get that? ALL music people) for this service. This required some, shall we say, improvising. Thankfully, our lead pastor Daniel is a man of many talents and dusted off his guitar to lead us in worship. Tim preached, there was no childcare, and there was a torrential downpour. And somehow it all came together so that our hearts were turned to Jesus in worship and thanksgiving at his birth.
As is not uncommon, this season brought many opportunities for our church to serve- inside and outside our body. And serve we did. Our church adopted a few families in need from our community and divided up lists to provide toys and clothes for the children in these families. A precious couple in our church took in a young couple with nowhere to go, and slowly our church banded together to share in the work of providing rides, hospitality and hope with these newcomers.
This season, we celebrated the addition of three more Covenant babies (don’t try to keep up, we’ve all lost count). One through childbirth. One through adoption. One through fostering. Wow, just typing that makes me tear up. I am so thankful for the love God has given our church for children- both those who share our genetic codes and those who don’t. Thanks be to God. As always, new babies bring the opportunity to serve, complete with bringing meals, babysitting and passing along hand-me-downs. Oh, the joys of celebrating these new precious new lives.
The new year brought with it a new discipleship track at Covenant. The pastors are taking us (those who signed up) through a teaching program called “Porterbrook.” It’s like a college class in the sense that there are assigned readings each week on four different subjects, and we meet one Saturday a month to learn and discuss how what we are reading applies to our lives. It’s unlike a college class in that there are no grades. Which I appreciate. 🙂 The track is a two-year commitment, and as you read through the material, it builds on itself as you learn more and more about the different subjects. So far, it has been super challenging, and I have learned a lot. I am thankful for pastors who understand the responsibility to teach, equip and train the sheep and provide material with which to do so.
Goodness, there is still so much more to write, but this post is already insanely long, which seems the be the way my posts always go. You would think I would learn from this and just post shorter updates more often… but you’d think wrong.
However, I will post again soon, as I am happy to report that Covenant celebrated one year of public services yesterday!! One. Year. That’s right, one year ago today actually, on Valentine’s Day 2010, Covenant Community Church met to do a public service for the very first time. That definitely merits its own post. I’ll try to get that up soon. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us. God is working. We are so thankful.