Our learning and growing didn’t stop after the conference. We attended one of Covenant Life’s morning services, had lunch with our UK friends, and checked out music instrument and guitar stores.
We learnt just as much on Sunday as any of our days at WorshipGod 11. Firstly, we got to obsere first-hand how their regular Sunday services were put together.
So what happens at a Covenant Life service? There are two meeting times, either at 9:00am or 11:30am. We attended the 9am and our experience was this:
- Before the start of the service, one of the pastors (they have quite a few) led a pre-meeting prayer time. People are encouraged to come to the front of the auditorium, and pray together with the help of a particular passage of Scripture (this morning it was Phil 2). The pastor then opens the time in prayer.
- Next, we sing two songs led by one of the church’s music teams, all contemporary bands. This morning it was led from the piano by Ken Boer (with guitars, bass, drums, synth and two vocalists).
- One of the pastors come up to give any important notices (most were kept on noticeboards outside and on the website) and welcome any visitors. Each visitor was given a pen, a small bulletin-brochure with key church information and a guest card tear-off, and a CD with some essential Sovereign Grace songs. A very practical gift for first-timers.
- The offering would be taken, at which there may be more singing before someone comes up to teach from Scripture.
- Then there are one or two songs before the service concludes.
(A list of songs used on Sunday morning is made available on the Covenant Life Music and Worship blog.
While I learnt much about service structure etc, this was definitely not a normal Sunday morning. Some of you may know that Covenant Life Church is currently involved in a painful controversy that involves one of their founding pastors, CJ Mahaney, and the wider Sovereign Grace movement.
We were moved to tears as through the meeting the pastors devoted much time during the gathering to address these issues the church is going through.
(For those who need to know, it’s complicated and involves disagreements on the course of action taken by Covenant Life church’s eldership, and Sovereign Grace Ministries’ board of directors in response to allegations against CJ Mahaney’s leadership, character and purported sins. This Sunday morning Covenant Life announced that two of their pastors had resigned in protest at how this was being handled, and other issues. You can read more here.)
I cried as I thought of how in the midst of their troubles, they still gave to us so generously by hosting this conference, modeling our generous King. During the sermon, senior pastor Josh Harris taught from Colossians 3:9-15 and reminded us not to forget the big picture: our identities, and those of brothers and sisters we disagree with, are in Christ, not in the issues we disagree on.
Please keep Covenant Life Church in your prayers.
“When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine…”
– How Firm A Foundation, closing song at Covenant Life Church, August 14
Crepes and goodbyes
After the morning meeting we said more goodbyes to people we’d met at Covenant Life, and then headed over to a a nearby suburb for some tasty crepes and ice creams with Fran and Matt Richley.
It’s been wonderful to meet these two blokes, and we wish we would be able to see them one day in the future. Cheryl loves many things Welsh so it’s a strong possibility we’ll plan to head there one day if the Lord wills.
We spent a relaxing afternoon and evening buying requested items for friends, before exploring the local supermaket (this one was called Giant). There are so many weird things on sale that it was an experience in itself for us!
Next: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflections
Update (26/08/2011): here’s the full series of our time in the USA.
Part 1: Fly, land, drive
Part 2: train, jam, steak
Part 3: sing, meet, glory
Part 4: rehearse, seminars, NZ connection, Thabiti
Part 5: edify, songwrite, organise, gather live
Part 6: mission-focused meetings, instrument shopping
Part 7: Covenant Life, tears, crepes and goodbyes, Giant groceries
Part 8: DC take 2, travelling back, final reflectionsÂ
– William Chong