Hello ECO Community! Hope you enjoy this month's newsletter! Make sure not to miss the end! Click on the blue link at the very bottom of this email that says "View entire message"!
by Dana Allin, ECO Synod Executive
ECO’s ten year vision articulates the Kingdom impact we believe God desires through the influence of our movement. We talk about millions of people being touched with the tangible expressions of the grace of God that will lead to many being lavishly adopted into His family. The way we experience this kind of impact is through a thousand flourishing churches that are equipping and empowering a multitude of people to have daily gospel influence. 

Recently in our newsletter, I said that one key strategy that will enable us to have a thousand flourishing churches has to be the planting of new churches. At the same time, we must not only start new churches but strengthen existing churches. One thousand churches isn’t just about the quantity of churches, it is about the quality. Therefore, we aim for one thousand flourishing churches. Our strategy at its core is to develop both lay and vocational leaders, who will be able to both plant and continually transform existing churches.   

One of the hidden blessings of this season is that churches are more aware of the need to engage in transformation. More leaders have expressed that COVID, as well as political and racial tensions have caused them to realize a lack of depth of discipleship within their covenant partners. The brokenness in our culture is also becoming more and more apparent, as is our congregations’ preparation...
National Gathering Website is LIVE!
Registration is OPEN!
Grab your friends and rally your whole entire congregation for an inspiring weekend together! You won’t want to miss ECO’s 2021 Virtual National Gathering! Mark your calendars now.
JANUARY 29 - 31, 2021
Visit our website to learn more!
Is God calling your church to transformation?
The Church Transformation process is an instrumental tool in retraining pastors, refocusing leadership, and bringing renewed vitality to our congregations. Church Transformation incorporates a Pastoral Learning Community, an on-site consultation, and ongoing coaching. 
Start here to get details on the transformation journey! 
“Irwin Church has been blessed by our venture into church transformation. We have yet to experience the organic growth we are praying to see. However, the congregation has transitioned from inward-driven ministry to living into the great commission and into disciples who know their purpose is to make new disciples for Jesus. That spiritual awakening is driving every leadership decision. God holds our future and we trust His plan." 

- Pastor Bobbie Hunt, Irwin Presbyterian Church, Stoneboro, PA

"Transformation has been more challenging than we had anticipated and yet it has been a journey with ongoing, unexpected blessings from God."

- Rob Bromhead, Co-Pastor, Centreville Presbyterian Church, Centreville, VA
"Crestwood was in the middle of the transformation process when COVID hit. While the pandemic has slowed some of our transformation steps, the training we've received has helped us to be asking much better questions in the middle of this crisis. Instead of asking about attendance and "getting back to normal", our staff and leadership are working on "how do we love and lead people to Jesus?" questions. The transformation to think of mission first has been one of the best parts of the cohort experience."

- Dr. Matt Merrill, Senior Pastor, Crestwood Church, Richmond, VA
A Message from ECO Synod Moderator Bob Reich
It’s not unusual to have folks ask me, “So what’s it like to be Moderator of the ECO Synod?” or, “So, what are your responsibilities as Moderator of the Synod?” These questions cause me to recognize how blessed and honored I am to be entrusted with both the position and title of Synod Moderator, or officially, the President of the ECO Synod. They also cause me to rejoice that I have been given the opportunity to serve alongside an incredible group of gifted leaders. Actively participating in Zoom and in-person meetings, frequent interactions with our Synod leaders, and our Synod Executive Council, always confirm for me our ECO mission. I find these interactions are both a joy and very invigorating as we get to partner together in the work of advancing God’s Kingdom through ECO. 

Having previously served on the Synod Executive Council, and now as its Moderator, I get to observe our Synod staff, who demonstrate both a calling and a passion for futuristic visioning, strategy development, providing program resources, and teaching and coaching, which better enable our local churches and worshipping communities to thrive. All of this helps us reframe what it means to become flourishing churches. Each of our executive leaders, Rev. Dr. Dana Allin, Synod Executive, CLP John Terech, Executive Director of Operations, and Rev. Nate Dreesmann, Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support are exceptional spiritual leaders, gifted to do a wide array of ministry work that is seldom visible in the big picture...
Update - Confessional Standards 2020
Approved by ECO Presbyteries and updated - now available! (Order a hard copy or download the PDF version by clicking "view" below)

Check the newsletter next month for the updated 2020 Constitution!
Repurposing Space and Reigniting Hope at FPC San Antonio
Rev. A. Mitchell Moore, Associate Pastor for Young Adults and Missions at FPC San Antonio asks, “Could you imagine if churches opened our doors to trusted partners who can empower our love for both neighbors and the neighborhood? Imagine if churches opened space to children without access to the Internet but needing to study online or opened space for classes for financial health like Faith & Finances? What if churches provided needed relational and influence capital for teen moms, mental health ministries, or job readiness programs? When the church commits to open doors, stewarding space for collaborative kingdom advancement, then other resources follow—relationships, connections, influence, time, talents, and the doors of hearts are opened. I choose to believe the promises of Isaiah 58, especially that when we care for the afflicted our healing will speed up quickly and our light will break forth like the dawn. The promises of God for the people of God are true!”
"This retreat (Map Your Journey) ranks in the top experiences of my lifetime. I feel very seen, known and loved. The assessors spoke the truth in love to me in a way that challenged me to grow and will impact my life and ministry for years to come."

-Candidate from Texas Presbytery
"The Retreat 2 experience (Final Assessment) was beyond what I imagined. I was amazed at the vision ECO has for pastors and churches, the standard of excellence for pastoral ministry, and the equipping that they offer to pastoral candidates in order to prepare us to flourish as leaders in local flourishing churches."

-Candidate from Mission Presbytery
Ordination Pilot Retreats: Our Journey has Begun
As the end of the year approaches, the Ordination Team has been hard at work preparing for the official launch of the new ordination process in 2021. In order to develop a new generation of pastors who are equipped to start and strengthen churches in the 21st century, ECO has designed an innovative ordination process that equips women and men with the best of our Reformed and Evangelical tradition to prepare them for our changing cultural and ministry climates. We have taken a holistic and relational approach to the new ordination process so that we can develop and deploy pastors for the Kingdom who exhibit ECO’s four desired ordination outcomes: proficient in ministry, skilled in leadership, spiritually and emotionally healthy, and can integrate their biblical and theological knowledge into their ministry.
Retreat 1: Map Your Journey is geared toward teaching the importance of spiritual health as foundational for life and ministry, learning ECO theology and vision, building covenanted relationships, and creating an Ordination Map unique to each candidate based on their individual growth and development needs. It was exciting to see the candidates connect with their Spiritual Formation Groups, and deep-dive into discussions with the presbytery assessors about their unique wiring, gifting, and ministry experiences. Each candidate left the retreat with an Ordination Map that they will need to complete (with the guidance of their presbytery mentors) before taking the next steps in the process. While each Ordination Map is unique to every candidate, some of the maps included growth steps such as: conflict management training, meeting with a counselor or Spiritual Director, taking additional seminary courses, and gaining more preaching experience. One candidate shared, “I really appreciated the individual attention and care each of us received. I was not expecting my Map to be so specific. I loved how all of our maps were different and that’s it’s not just an arbitrary list of hoops to jump through.” We are excited to hear how the Lord works amongst the candidates as they complete their Ordination Maps!
The capstone of the ordination process is the next retreat called Retreat 2: Final Assessment in which the presbytery and Synod assessors discern if a candidate is ready for full recommendation for ordination based on the candidate’s ordination portfolio and the proficiency that they show in the assessments at Retreat #2. Each candidate was required to preach and share their call to ministry story, complete a church revitalization project, and engage in an evangelism exercise. Although this is an intensive process, it was encouraging to see the abundance of gifting and passions that the Lord has given to our future pastors. The retreat allowed candidates to form covenant community with one another and with retreat leaders through their Spiritual Formation Groups, sharing meals together, in-depth conversations and interviews. 
Whether a candidate was fully or provisionally recommended for ordination, all candidates walked away with recommended steps for further growth as they step into searching for their first call. It is an understatement to say that we are grateful for the humble servants that the Lord has brought to ECO to serve as our future pastors!

We finished both of the retreats by offering a time of reflection and sharing as to what the Lord had done in our few days together. We asked the candidates: What can you celebrate from these past few days? Where do you need prayer? To close the retreat, one of our pastor-assessors spoke words of encouragement over the candidates before we blessed them, prayed for them and anointed them with oil.

Although we are thankful for the many ways that the Lord was at work at our pilot retreats, we know that there is more work to be done before we begin hosting our ordination retreats in 2021. The Ordination Team is currently poring over the feedback that we have received from the participants and will be making changes for our upcoming retreats. We also look forward to publishing a training handbook and video for presbytery mentors, plus a series of informational videos for presbyteries that will help clarify roles during each step of the process. Please join us in continual prayer for our ordination candidates and for the official launch of the new ordination process, including the 2021 ordination retreats.

Save the Dates - 2021 Ordination Retreats

1) Texas
  • Feb. 22-24 or Feb. 25–27 Retreat #1: Map Your Journey
2) South Carolina
  • April 28-May 1 Retreat #2: Final Assessment
  • May 3-5 Retreat #1: Map your Journey

3) Pennsylvania
  • October 7-9 Retreat #1 : Map Your Journey
  • October 10-13 Retreat #2: Final Assessment

If you have questions about our new ordination process please reach out to us:

Rev. Kendra Norton
Ordination Advisor

Rev. Lisa Johnson
Director of Leadership Development
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians | eco-pres.org