• Ray Hileman


We are in a whirlwind time here at Celebration of Christ (formerly known as First Church of the Brethren) here in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the lovely area known as Tampa Bay. When I began as interim pastor in the Spring of 2017 following the previous pastor's retirement, the church was already moving in the direction of a desire to reach people for Christ in new and fresh ways.. I have been able to "ride the wave" with them ever since.

God has blessed us in two significant ways as we embark on this journey. First, we have a Leadership Team which is united in its desire to share Jesus with our neighborhood, our community, and our region. Second, God has blessed us with some resources, thanks to the sale of some adjacent property and some wise investing of those funds with our denomination. And we are putting them to good use.

Now, about eight months into the process, here is what has been happening. The first and most significant thing we did was to change our name, an idea that was already under way with my predecessor, Pastor Phil Adams. Through a discernment process using names suggested by members, we came to the decision to call ourselves Celebration of Christ (or CoC for short) in April of 2018. Because that is, first and foremost, why we are here, to celebrate Him.

Secondly, we have been making some cosmetic improvements to our facility, including, but not limited to:

- purchasing new outside signs with our new name

- refurbishing the terrazzo floors in two of our rooms

- repainting the walls and trim in several of our key gathering rooms

- renovation of our smaller fellowship hall into a coffee house gathering area

- repainting the entire outside of the building with a fresh coat of white on the main walls, and the replacing of the dark blue on our trim with sea green to match the colors on our new signs..

- installing a new dual projector/screen system to enhance our Sunday worship

Thirdly, we have been making incremental adjustments to our Sunday service, including:

- music playing as people enter the sanctuary

- a coffee gathering time preceding worship which will begin soon

- moving announcements to the end of the service, to leave folks with important information and, hopefully, a desire to return

- using power point for more elements of the service, now with our new system in place

- forming a Welcoming Team to help us all become warmer and more inviting to all who come in

And more to come. And what about the future? Here are some things to be watching for

- calling a new Pastor of Outreach.

- forming a "Discipleship path" for new Christians and members to learn about basic beliefs, spiritual habits, spiritual gifts for ministry and more

- developing a small group ministry for deeper fellowship and spiritual growth

- calling a worship/music leader, not only to lead worship in song but to help form other musical groups to lead.

- possibly adding a second service in Spanish

God willing, this is the only the beginning. A few final thoughts:

1. We are grateful for Jacob Schmelzer Resources for providing training and materials to help us in this process.

2. Again, we cannot say enough about the faith and big dreams of our Leadership Team

3. We are still Church of the Brethren. We have some unique values in addition to the Christian beliefs we share with other churches and denominations.

4. Finally, our name says it all. We want to celebrate Christ, to worship Him, to serve Him, to follow Him, to share Him with others. It is Jesus Christ who makes all things new. We trust Him to lead us forward. But our great desire is to have YOU join us on this journey. Come and worship with us Sundays at 10:15 am and find a welcoming family who loves Jesus and loves everyone with His love. Perfect? Not at all. But celebrating Christ and wanting to live for Him? Absolutely!

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(727) 381-0709

3651 71st St. N. St. Pete, FL 33710

3651 71st St. N. Saint Petersburg, FL 33710

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