Category Archives: Northeast

Unexpected Journeys Lead Pastor to Niche in Teaching, Blogging

Scott Beha

By Carl Stagner

Southridge Church is a thriving Church of God congregation nestled in South Charleston, West Virginia. On Easter Sunday, they rejoiced to welcome over 700 for worship, an all-time high. Already this year, the church has celebrated the baptism of 20 believers. Eighteen months ago, small-group participation had declined to about 60; since then, the number of participants has topped 200. Outreach into a women’s recovery center has brought more than 150 additional guests, many of whom have since been saved and baptized. A strong partnership with an elementary school has helped the church make major strides in the advancement of the kingdom, even as the school permitted the church to host an Easter egg hunt for students during the school day! Lead executive pastor Michael Coker and lead teaching pastor Scott Beha are thrilled to be a part of Southridge during such an exciting time in the church’s history. But Scott wouldn’t have been there to experience it firsthand, except for a series of unexpected journeys that also helped him find a God-ordained niche in teaching and blogging. Continue reading

Virginia Church Commemorates Arrival of First Africans in English North America

By Carl Stagner

Four hundred years have passed since the first recorded African landing in English-occupied North America. It was in 1619 at Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, that twenty-some Africans from Angola stepped off the transatlantic White Lion and set the stage for the slaves of the subsequent two-and-a-half centuries of American history. Joynes Road Church of God in Hampton has played an integral role to-date in the official commemoration of the pivotal events that unfolded so long ago. Though the special activities and events began during Black History Month this year, community and social involvement is nothing new for Joynes Road. Pastor Simeon Green provides a closer look. Continue reading

Governor Appoints CHOG Pastor as Faith Commissioner on Suicide Prevention

Kevin Wayne Johnson

By Carl Stagner

The former pastor of First Church of God in Accokeek, Maryland, was intent on cultivating a congregation-wide heart for community and societal transformation. In the last five years of his thirty-four working for the federal government, Kevin Wayne Johnson served the local church faithfully as a bivocational senior pastor. For Kevin, this calling was far more than filling the pulpit; it was about shifting the gears of the congregation to a more community-oriented direction, all the while laying the groundwork for evangelism and discipleship that would continue long after his tenure was complete. Observing national holidays and marking months of societal awareness quickly became a tangible step toward accomplishing these goals. One of the church’s annual emphases, in particular, caught the attention of the governor’s office—suicide prevention. Continue reading

Called to Connect the Inner-City to Christ in Connecticut

Special moment of prayer at New Antioch Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

New Haven, Connecticut, is home to Esau Greene. He grew up in a family well-known to the community, achieving success in school, excelling especially in sports. After college, his story took a turn for the worse. But before it was too late, Jesus Christ not only rescued him from a life of drugs but also called him into ministry. Knowing what it’s like to live on the streets yet highly educated with a degree in human services, and coming from a family of influence yet familiar with the allure of drugs, Esau Greene is God’s man for the job—urban pastor in a college city. Though the church he leads is only three-and-a-half years old, it’s already grown from 5 to some 130 people. Continue reading

CHOG Congregations Celebrate Black History Month

Church of God of East New York dressed for Black History Month.

By Carl Stagner

Cultural traditions and observances have long been a part of the church calendar. While they don’t demand acknowledgement in worship settings, they’ve been used effectively to establish connections between Christ and community, and between the present-day congregation and faithful servants of the past. From “Souper Bowl” Sunday to fall (Halloween?) festivals, from Labor Day picnics to celebrations of God and country (Independence Day), celebrations of otherwise secular occasions are often used by the church to reach neighbors, encourage fellowship, and/or put into practice biblical values. Each February, numerous Church of God congregations celebrate Black History Month and, in so doing, build bridges between church and society, often shining a light on topics sometimes overlooked or ignored by popular culture. Three Church of God congregations in the Northeast offer a snapshot of Black History Month in the Movement. Continue reading

Rejuvenating the Church of God in New England

Peace Dale Church of God (Rhode Island) elders in fellowship.

By Angela Sagesse

The Church of God in New England consists of ten congregations dispersed between Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. All six states that comprise “New England” consistently are ranked within the top ten of the nation for having the lowest church attendance, thus making this the least-churched area of the country. Yet, the New England Church of God is wanting to turn that around! Continue reading

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