Category Archives: Northeast

West Virginia Church Rises from the Ashes—Literally

Dedication service crowd fills the new sanctuary!

By Carl Stagner

It was nearing the middle of the night on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Instead of sleeping, several of the saints of Green Valley Church of God, in St. Albans, West Virginia, were wide awake. They’d gathered in the parking lot, gazing in horror as smoke and flame engulfed the place where they’d accepted Christ, got baptized, grew in their faith, and/or made lifelong friends. Thoughts raced through their minds: What’s next? How will this affect the ministry here? What in the world does God have in mind? In the trauma of the moment, God’s sovereign hand was hard to detect. But out of the bad, God was working for the good, ushering in a new beginning for Green Valley Church of God. Continue reading

A Sure Bet: West Virginia Pastor’s Kid Reclaims “Wasted Years”

Duane singing “He’s All I Need.”

By Carl Stagner

Duane Clarke was raised in a Christian home with loving, godly parents. As a PK—“pastor’s kid”—he heard the gospel preached more times than he could count, whether at Middle Grave Creek Church of God near Moundsville, where his father was senior pastor, or at Ash Avenue Church of God, where his father had served as Sunday school superintendent. At age fifteen, while attending youth camp, Duane went to an old-fashioned altar and asked Jesus into his heart. Soon after, he followed Jesus’ example in baptism. But when this young sports fan checked into a local bar to purchase Lakers tickets, he was inadvertently introduced to sports betting. It wasn’t long before he was thrust into the world of gambling, and for thirty years, he couldn’t find his way out. Hell stole much from Duane Clarke’s life, but Jesus would have the last word. Continue reading

Fairfax Regional Day 2: Better Together

Wednesday night worship at the Fairfax Regional.

By Carl Stagner

Jesus is the subject. As Jim Lyon acknowledged on Tuesday at the Fairfax Regional Convention, some who have heard the line too readily dismiss it as simply a slogan or tagline. But it is so much more, as evidenced by the weight those four words carry and the way they’ve become part of the lexicon of the Movement—and tribes beyond. A common theme emerged during the Fairfax Regional Convention on Wednesday as the implications of “Jesus is the subject” became clear in the face of generational, geographic, cultural, political, socioeconomic, and ethnic division in the world and the church. Teachers Rod Stafford, Jo Anne Lyon, Kevin Earley, and Brad Lomenick called the church to recognize the greater life that awaits all of us when we bridge the gaps that would otherwise separate. Frank and open discussion at the Town Hall on racial unity, as well as opportunities for question-and-answer throughout the day, encouraged the Church of God to address root issues that stunt growth and suppress life. Continue reading

Fairfax First Day a Joyful Celebration of Life

Tuesday evening led by a team from Celebration Church at Columbia.

By Carl Stagner

Earlier this year, an addition to the Fairfax Community Church facility was completed. The new wing, solely devoted to youth and children’s ministry, nearly doubled the size of the building. Gathering for worship and teaching sessions inside the new addition on the first day of the Church of God Regional in Fairfax, Virginia, afforded convention-goers a unique opportunity. While the five electives held on Tuesday afternoon demonstrated a rich depth of ministry insight on the part of the stellar host church staff, activity throughout the day under the church’s new roof served as a constant reminder of the life-giving DNA of Fairfax Community Church. The ideal setting for the kickoff of the fourth 2018 Regional Convention set the stage very well for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit through an interactive dialogue with Ben Hardman and Ben Sternke, moments of worship led by praise teams from Fairfax and Celebration Church at Columbia (Maryland), and an especially potent message from the general director. Continue reading

Fairfax Host Pastor Furthers Family’s Influential Legacy

Rod Stafford preaching at Fairfax.

By Carl Stagner

Growing up in the shadow of his older brother isn’t an accurate description at all. Seventeen years separated the two of them, but very little else did. Sibling rivalry wasn’t an issue, neither was the need for either brother to be in the Church of God limelight. In fact, Gilbert Stafford was more of a second father figure for Rod, the senior pastor of Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Rod Stafford considered Gil a role model, though he never planned to follow in his family’s ministerial footsteps. As the Church of God Regional Convention at his home church nears (September 18–19), Pastor Rod Stafford opens up about life, family, and calling. Continue reading

Former Catalyst Leader to Address Movement at Fairfax, Safety Harbor Conventions

Brad Lomenick

By Carl Stagner

Brad Lomenick served as lead visionary and president of Catalyst for over a decade. While credited with growing the conference into one of the most influential leadership brands in the United States, he hasn’t let that go to his head. In fact, one of the chief ingredients for effective leadership is humility, a virtue he’s highlighted in his latest book. Looking to Jesus as the ultimate Leader, Brad has first followed the ever-winding course his Captain has charted, even as it took him to places and heights he never planned on seeing. Born and raised in a Church of God home in Oklahoma, Brad Lomenick looks forward to speaking life into the Movement at the Church of God Regional Conventions in Fairfax, Virginia (September 18–19), and Safety Harbor, Florida (September 25–26). Continue reading

Grant Gives Movement Opportunity to Participate in Worship Arts Symposium

By Carl Stagner

Want to attend a preaching clinic, church health seminar, or theological dialogue in the Church of God today? You’ll find plenty of options throughout the year. Want to be a part of an experience designed for worship leaders and their praise teams? Those opportunities may be hard to find—until now. The Church of God Ministries U.S. and Canada Strategy team is excited to spread the news of the first-ever Worship Arts Symposium offered by the National Association of the Church of God (NACOG). The event, scheduled to take place August 2–4 at the National Association Campground in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, will offer theoretical and practical insights to strengthen the worship ministry of the local church, give opportunity to practice those insights during the NACOG Camp Meeting that follows, and return worship ministers back to their home churches refreshed and renewed. Continue reading

Delaware Church Strategy: Surprising the World with God’s Love

Pastor Edward and Jean Cross.

By Carl Stagner

After forty-seven years shepherding the flock at New Community Church of God in Wilmington, Delaware, Pastor Edward Cross has made more than a few observations about the surrounding culture. For example, there’s a prevailing suspicion that nothing’s ever really free, and if you’ve got something to offer, you must want something in return. But by building authentic relationships in the community, not just hosting events and doing more programs, the Delaware congregation is catching a few people off guard—in a good way! They’re demonstrating that they really do care, surprising the world with God’s love. Continue reading

Triumph After Tragedy: A Developing Story in DuBois, Pennsylvania

Tri County Church celebrates one of many baptisms.

By Carl Stagner

January 23, 2016. A day Tri County Church of God in DuBois, Pennsylvania, will never forget. A day that could have dismantled much of the good that had been accomplished since the dawn of the congregation in 1995. Dave Bish, founding pastor, died suddenly and unexpectedly that day while out on a trail run. Devastation swept across the community, but hell would not prevail. Instead of a downward spiral, the church rallied together in an outpouring of love like they’d never seen before. God had a clear mission for Tri County Church, and neither the remaining leadership nor the new lead pastor would be deterred. As they relate the timeless story of Jesus Christ to the stories of those near and far from God, Tri County Church is inviting everyone into their own developing story in DuBois. Continue reading

Renovation for a Church, Renewal for Far Rockaway

Pastor Arthur Davenport speaks at the building dedication.

By Emily Ploetz

On Sunday morning, October 8, worship filled the room in the First Church of God of Far Rockaway, New York. The service was unlike any typical Sunday morning gathering for a very special reason, six months in the making! Far Rockaway had been under a full-scale renovation for half a year and, after everything had been completed, Pastor Arthur Davenport invited the congregation to join in a procession of prayer and worship. There was much rejoicing at this celebration because everyone there knew that God had blessed them in so many ways. Continue reading

Warner Press Releases Groundbreaking Book by CHOG Woman Pastor

Warner Press continues its strong relationship with the Church of God by publishing the first book of longtime, influential pastor, Melissa Pratt. Pratt’s new book, Impact: That’ll Leave a Mark, adds a new resource for women (and men, too!) by a woman to the Warner Press repertoire. Impact shares how you can use your role as a disciple of Jesus to change and impact others’ lives for the better. Continue reading

Western PA Churches Band Together for Hurricane-Hit Texas

CHOG Albuquerque team members unloading material in Texas.

By Carl Stagner

Pastor Greg Smith lived in Houston, Texas, from 2010 to 2013, where attended First Church of God. Over those three years, he got to know Texas pastors Tim Gould, Jim Fiertag, and Tim West. During that period, he also worked on a Homeland Security grant, and was a part of a three-person team that wrote the Mass Fatality Incident Response Plan for the city of Houston and thirteen surrounding counties. Though he now lives in Pennsylvania and pastors First Church of God in Punxsutawney, the Hurricane Harvey disaster hit home for Greg. It should come as no surprise that Greg’s church would respond. But what he might not have expected was the incredible show of support from a dozen churches across Western Pennsylvania. Continue reading

WV Church Reclaims Hope Amid Opioid Crisis, Prostitution, and Poverty

Clothing giveaway at Madison Avenue Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

In small towns, big cities, and everything in between, drug abuse is out of control. Especially dangerous is the increasingly popular opioid. Not limited to its common appearance as heroin, addiction to pain killers is also growing concern, as are the deadly additives fentanyl and carfentanyl. Far more complex than a cause-and-effect scenario, a vicious cycle connects the opioid crisis, prostitution, and poverty. Madison Avenue Church of God in Huntington, West Virginia, has declared war on these three products of hell. In the heat of the battle, they’re seeing bonds broken, hope restored, a once-declining church grow again, and a city slowly being reclaimed for Christ. They’re taking back what hell has stolen. Continue reading

Unfinished Business: God Orchestrates New Beginnings through WV Plant

Inside the sanctuary of New Beginnings.

By Carl Stagner

Sunday, September 17, will be celebrated by several church networks as National Church Planting Day. Just in time for such an observance is the news that West Virginia’s first Church of God plant in thirty years is another step closer to its January 2018 launch. West Virginia is excited to boldly get back into the multiplication business! Their focus is on Kenova, where three-fourths of the community is considered “de-churched.” Though the doors to the Church of God at 1616 Polar Street were once closed, they find themselves open again, with nothing but new beginnings in store. Continue reading

On Bended Knee: Prayer Perspectives from the Pulpit and the Pew

Redmond Church of God prayer walk.

By Carl Stagner

Maybe it was a passage that seemed to leap from the pages of Scripture. But perhaps it was a pastor or a trusted friend. Or it might have been a mother whose bedside “Now I lay me down to sleep…” made an eternal impact. For so many believers, prayer is not simply taught; it’s modeled by another. That’s how it was for Jamie Wilkerson. Her mother would faithfully kneel down and pray with young Jamie morning and night, instilling in her a passion for prayer which burns to this day. Like Jamie, Joe Arena sees prayer as one of the most vital practices of the Christian. Involved in numerous prayer ministries inside and outside the church, Joe’s pursuit of God on bended knee isn’t unlike that of Pastor Dave Thompson and the Church of God in Redmond, Oregon. Their desire to intercede on behalf of church, community, nation, and world is nothing short of infectious. As the Church of God prepares for the 360 Revolution prayer and evangelism initiative this September, these three individuals offer some timely perspective on prayer. Continue reading