‘Renewal’ event at Valley Christian celebrates faith

Church members from varied denominations around the Pacific Northwest will be in Hood River Thursday through Sunday for “Celebration of Faith,” and local residents are invited to get involved.

Members of Hood River Valley Christian Church are working with the inter-denominational “Lay Renewal Ministries” of St. Louis, Mo., to organize the event, which will involve group meetings, worships, meals, and small groups to help church people build on their faith.

“It’s an opportunity to hear how God is active in lay peoples’ lives in business and in family life, and also to have an oppportunity to share how God is acting on your own life, for the building up of life in your church,” said Matt Ihle of Valley Christian Church, who is working with Pastor Dan Armstrong to coordinate the event and encourage his fellow congregants to attend “Celebration of Faith.”

“We hope it will be a focal point for our church body, but it’s always something we want others to share in,” said Ihle, for whom the event is a return to a formative past experience.

A similar renewal event when he was a Sumner, Wash., junior high youth, was a defining moment for Ihle, a Hood River resident since 1995.

“I still remember a witness from Pacific Lutheran University, and he was so cool,” Ihle recalled. “His faith was very real to him. Over that weekend I got to see what that faith looked like to a college student, and I was greatly affected.”

“I’m one of the few people in our congregation who has seen (a renewal event).”

Ihle said the celebration is intended as “a renewal of our body as a church.” Participants meet in small groups, including coffee hours at local homes.

Armstrong related the event to visiting friends in a home — refreshments, talking and story telling — as well as to a church retreat.

“Our ‘Celebration of Faith’ shares common elements,” he said. “Dedicated time with God and His people, a theme, prayer, worship, and a whole weekend for relaxation and conversation.”

Preparations for the event began when the church contacted Lay Renewal Ministries, and were connected to the Northwest regional coordinators, Tom and Gretchen Goer of Snohomish, Wash., who assembled the lay team that will come to Hood River. The visiting lay leaders, who come at their own expense, have themselves been through a “Celebration of Faith” as recipients.

“They come to share what God is doing in their lives,” Ihle said. “It’s similar to the old revival meetings, and they have the same goal, of people telling their stories, what it is Jesus does in my life.”

“At each opportunity, people can share, and there will also be specific ministries for youth and kids, and for worship and music,” he said. Ihle and his wife, Paula Lindquist, are parents of Luke, 9, David, 5, and Grace, 2.

Ihle said planning for the celebration has brought people into “new areas of leadership in the church.”

“People are responding and we are finding many latent talents,” he said. “One benefit is we are finding more people who are very capable and putting their gifts together for the church.”

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