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4B Copyright © 2009, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.


NEWS BRIEFS Obama speech tops journalists’ poll COLUMBIA, Mo. — President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world in June was chosen as the top religion story of 2009 in a survey of journalists who cover the beat. Obama extended a hand to the Islamic world in a speech in Cairo while quoting from the Koran, the Gospel of Matthew and the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law. “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity,” Obama said in the speech. “And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.” The survey of more than 100 journalists was conducted by the Religion Newswriters Association. The No. 2 religion story was the government health care overhaul and the role the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith groups played in the debate. The third-ranking story involved the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. The accused gunman, Maj. Nidal Hasan, was considered a devout Muslim, which again raised questions about terrorism and Islam. — The Associated Press

Catholic schools seek charter status INDIANAPOLIS — Catholic Church officials have applied to convert two inner-city Indianapolis elementary schools into taxpayer-supported charter schools, which would mean giving up their religious identities and Christian education classes. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has subsidized St. Andrew & St. Rita Catholic Academy and St. Anthony School for years because low-income families sending children to the schools couldn’t afford much tuition, church officials said. A plan submitted to the city calls for a nonprofit organization to run the schools, which could receive more than $1 million in state funding in the first year. If city officials agreed, the charter schools would open next fall. The nonprofit organization formed by the archdiocese to run the charter schools would have to ensure they have a secular curriculum. “We will always be about values-based education,” Connie Zittnan, the current director of the schools, told The Indianapolis Star. “What we will not be able to do is to bring those values with a direct discussion of God.” Church officials intend to offer before- and after-school religious education programs to students on a voluntary basis. But crucifixes and religious statues will have to be removed from classrooms and hallways or be covered up. — The Associated Press

Florida court allows humanist appeal TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A humanist group can go ahead with its challenge against the Florida prison system’s use of two faithbased organizations to provide substance abuse programs for inmates, a state appeals court ruled. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals ruled the “no-aid” provision of the Florida Constitution prohibits spending taxpayer money on programs that use religious doctrine to carry out their work for the state. The unanimous decision sends the lawsuit back to a trial judge to determine if the programs violate that ban. It was filed by the Council for Secular Humanism and two of its Tallahassee members, Richard and Elaine Hull. — The Associated Press



is the percentage of 2,539 Southern Baptists polled who say they pray once a day or more. — U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life


Spirited growth The Arkansasborn Assemblies of God steadily adds to its numbers

The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches tracks the membership of the nation’s Christian religious bodies. And in this year’s edition, the numbers were grim. Only three of the two dozen largest organizations are growing, according to the 2009 Yearbook. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette assistant religion editor Christie Storm has investigated these three growing religious movements and will be telling their stories. This week she examines the Assemblies of God.



peaking in tongues. Faith healings and prophecies. The Assemblies of God is known the world over for these gifts of the Spirit and for its fervent, often emotional worship. Fewer might know that the denomination was born right here in Arkansas. In 1914, a few hundred Pentecostal revivalists from around the country gathered in Hot Springs to form a cooperative fellowship. Since then, the Assemblies of God has grown into a worldwide leader within the Christian church and now has more than 61 million adherents around the globe. The church is also strong in the United States, ranking 10th on the list of the largest denominations in the country with 2.8 million members, according to the 2009 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. As mainline churches continue to decline in numbers, the Assemblies of God is one of only a few religious bodies defying the trend. “Fifteen years ago we had 145,000 churches worldwide and now we have over 300,000,” said George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. “Then we had 25 million and now 61.5 million adherents. ... We’re growing 250,000 a month worldwide.” Wood said church leaders are predicting that by 2020 the denomination will top the 100 million mark. He thinks current missionary efforts will make it possible. “About every 10 seconds someone is coming to Christ through the Assemblies of God,” he said, crediting the efforts of the church’s roughly 8,000 missionaries. Even when the church was small, Wood said, leaders had a farsighted vision for the world. “We have a mission to accomplish — the Great Commission,” he said. “Our churches aren’t simply islands of comfort ... but places where people can be really engaged in the Great Commission of Jesus.” Don Hutchings, pastor of Evangel Temple in Fort Smith,


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON

Demonstrative worship is common in Assemblies of God congregations, like at this recent service at First Assembly of God in North Little Rock.

agrees. He said his congregation is growing because members are given things to do, like helping the homeless and feeding the hungry. “People want to help the hurting,” Hutchings said. “We found out that people who love God want to try to pay Him back somehow. The closer people get to God, the more they sense this urgency to do something for Him.” Hutchings said he learned a valuable lesson as a new pastor in 1982, and it has served him and the church well: Don’t just tell people how great God is. Let them serve Him. “Give them an avenue for release. Otherwise they get frustrated,” he said. “Here

we have so many ministries where people can feel like they are doing something for God.” Today, headquarters of the General Council of the Assemblies of God are in Springfield, Mo., but the church’s roots run deep in the Natural State. Arkansas is home to more than 420 Assemblies of God congregations, with membership of around 40,000. Churches of all sizes are scattered around the state, from the megachurch First Assembly of God in North Little Rock to Celebrate Family Church, which meets in an athletic club in Rogers. Wood said at least a third of the Assemblies churches

have membership of fewer than 50. Another third have between 50 and 100 members. Small churches dominate the denomination, much as they do most church bodies in the United States. “Just because they are small doesn’t mean we are not [affecting] lives in a great way,” Wood said. Most of the church’s membership, however, lies outside the United States. Wood said the church’s growth is particularly impressive in Africa and Latin America. Much of the growth is the result of “church planting” efforts, which Wood said is a priority. “We’re giving great focus

An inside look Basic beliefs of the Assemblies of God The church attests to four defining principles: m Salvation through Jesus Christ — The only path to eternal life is through Christ. m Divine healing — Divine healing is provided through Christ’s death. m Baptism in the Holy Spirit — When a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit he will speak in unknown languages. m The second coming of Christ — All Christians who have died will be raised from the dead when Christ returns and will join him in heaven. Those Christians who are still alive will be “raptured” to also join the Lord forever. The church also has a list of fundamental truths or beliefs. Followers believe: m The Scriptures are inspired by God. m There is only one true God. m Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God, both human and divine. m Man, through sin, is a fallen creature. m Man’s only hope of redemption is through the blood of Christ. m Baptism by immersion and Holy Communion are the ordinances of the church. m Sanctification is separation from evil and dedication to God. m The mission of the church includes reaching the lost and spreading the Word of God. Source:

See GROWTH, Page 5B

NLR church grows with ‘planting’ dare CHRISTIE STORM ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Rod Loy, pastor of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, wanted to do something meaningful to mark his congregation’s 100th anniversary. In recent years members had embraced “church planting,” starting one in Vilonia and another in south Little Rock. What better way to honor First Assembly of God’s centennial than with a church-planting challenge — 100 churches to celebrate 100 years? He presented the idea to worshippers one Sunday in January 2006. “Boy, I was scared to death,” Loy said. “I thought If I get up there and say we’re going to do this and we don’t ... that’s historic if you fail in that regard.” They had six years to accomplish their goal. It took them 86 days. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, the excitement and the

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON

Rod Loy, pastor of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, challenged his congregation to start 100 new churches. So far they’ve topped 950, marking each location on maps outside the sanctuary.

enthusiasm,” Loy said. Almost four years later, the number of churches that First Assembly has helped plant has swelled to more than 950, and they have no plans to stop. Four large world maps adorn the walls outside the sanctuary

of the church, each pierced with hundreds of pins marking the location of the new churches. So far, the congregation has helped start churches in 54 countries, focusing on what Loy calls “the leastreached areas of the world.” “There is no feeling in the

world like walking through a village where’s there’s never been a church ... and nothing more satisfying than attending a church in one of those villages eight months or a year later and realizing that for the first time people are having a chance to hear [the Gospel],” Loy said. Loy said his congregation got started by teaming up with Assemblies of God missionaries around the world. They relied on the missionaries’ contacts with local residents. The goal was to find people interested in starting churches. “We beat the bushes an awful lot,” Loy said. “We’ve been to some crazy places.” First Assemble will celebrate its centenial two years before the national Assemblies of God reaches that milestone. Originally independent, the North Little Rock congregation joined the Assemblies of God in See DARE, Page 5B

v v SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2009 v 5B

Growth v Continued from Page 4B

to that worldwide, as well as in the United States,” he said. The denomination has developed a Church Multiplication Network to assist individuals interested in starting another congregation. Wood said it’s a focused approach with church planters partnering with a regional Assembies of God body [called a district] and a parent church to get off to a healthy start. He said churches started through the network have traditionally been successful, with average attendance of more than 70. The influx of Spanishspeaking members is also contributing to the denomination’s growth in the United States, and many Hispanic churches have been planted. Of the 2.8 million Assemblies of God adherents in the United States, about half a million are Hispanic. Wood said the church’s continued growth can be attributed to its willingness to embrace the changing times. “[Our] way of doing things flexes with the culture,” Wood said. “We have not gotten stuck in a cultural mode that was exclusive rather than inclusive.” That’s not to say the church is lax on doctrine. The church firmly believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, and while some things may change with the culture, the denomination’s views on social issues are firmly conservative. “We have sought to faithfully adhere to the Scriptures and to the centrality of Christ and to live the work of the Holy Spirit,” Wood said.

Dare v Continued from Page 4B

1925. Loy said they didn’t want to dictate how churches ought to be planted, especially in foreign countries where customs are vastly different. “We don’t know how to plant a church in Iran or Tanzania or Indonesia,” Loy said. Loy believes his congregation has been successful at church planting because it keeps things simple. Instead of forcing partners to conform to specific rules and cultural norms, First Assembly of God focused on what Christians have in common: Jesus Christ. “They may not check each box we check. They may not dress exactly the way we think they should dress ... but we can rally around Jesus and present him together,” he said. “The Assemblies of God has really done well in being willing to accept the unconventional and being willing to accept that person who may not look like a preacher,” Loy

Assemblies of God beliefs Beliefs and practices: How Assemblies of God adherents compare to the general population of the United States Percentage who believe in the existence of God with absolute certainty

71% 93%

Percentage who say religion is very important in their lives

56% 87% 58%

Percentage who pray once a day or more


Percentage who say the Bible is the word of God, literally true word for word Percentage who attend religious services more than once a week


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STEPHEN B. THORNTON

70% 15%


First Assembly of God in North Little Rock is the largest Assemblies of God congregation in Arkansas. Its members believe in speaking in tongues, divine healing, prophecy and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

“That has been the DNA of the Assemblies of God since we were founded.” Gifts of the Spirit have also been part of the church since its inception. Pentecostal bodies, which include the Assemblies of God, The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Church of God in Christ and others, are known for demonstrative worship that sometimes includes spontaneous speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia. Margaret Poloma, professor emeritus at the University of Akron (Ohio), believes the

face of the church is changing. A scholar who studies and writes about Pentecostalism, Poloma said the very practices that make the Assemblies of God unique are fading away. “They are losing their distinct identity,” she said. “You can go to an Assemblies of God church and you won’t know it’s Assemblies of God. You can ask people in the pew and they might know. “The raw, primal experiences, I think they are going the way of the dodo bird.” According to a poll by the

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, about four in 10 (or 38 percent) of Pentecostal evangelicals say they speak in tongues about once a month. In contrast, 77 percent of nonPentecostal evangelicals say they never speak or pray in tongues. Poloma attributes some of the changes to Pentecostals’ desire to fit in, especially with their evangelical brothers and sisters. “They were on the outs with Protestantism. Groups saw them as heretical because of speaking in tongues, and the evangelicals they identified with didn’t come around until the 1940s and the Assemblies learned to adapt to the evangelicals,” Poloma said. The fast pace of modern society is also changing the church, Poloma said. Whereas in the past services could stretch on for hours, today, she said, many people are in a rush for worship services

said. “But really what does a church planter look like? Hopefully he looks like the people he’s trying to plant a church with.”

Bibles for a new congregation. Pam Harrell and her husband, Rick, have been faithful givers to the church’s missions fund, but after Loy’s challenge, the family decided to set aside extra funds for the church planting project. With the money, they were able to help build a church in Tanzania. They also traveled to the African country to meet the pastors serving there. “The life-changing thing for me was to see how much they do with so little and how little we do with so much and that changed me forever,” Pam Harrell said. “To see people who have absolutely nothing, but they have the joy of the Lord in them. It’s just amazing.” Harrell keeps a rock on her desk that she brought back from Tanzania. It’s a reminder of the hardships the ministers and their congregations face. The rock was one of many hurled onto the tin roof of a church by residents angry about the pastor’s work. “When they try to have their services people throw rocks on the roof to distract them,” Harrell said. “It re-

minds me they are battling zania,” Loy said. “And I’ve sat everyday to do something on a stump and negotiated that we take for granted.” for a coconut farm. It’s awesome.” TRAVEL TO AFRICA To Loy, the church is simHarrell said the two trips ply upholding Jesus’ comshe has made to Africa have mand to take the Gospel to reinforced her desire to con- the whole world. tinue to help. Now when she’s “We’re beginning to see writing a check for mission how that could really hapoutreach she sees the faces of pen,” Loy said. “The way we’ll her African friends. accomplish it is God is going “I remember the smells of to keep calling church plantAfrica and I remember the ers to go to the difficult places little kids. It’s not the amount where nobody is willing to of the check. It’s who can go and they’ll go at the risk this help. Since that time my of their life, and they’ll defiwhole frame of reference is nitely go at the risk of their different.” comfort and their safety and The family hopes to return they’re going to go plant the to Africa one day, and to help church where the church has start more churches. never been.” “There are pastors waiting. DANGEROUS MISSION They are ready to preach and they are meeting under a tree. Loy said in a perfect world, What they need is another church planting could be church, so if there’s anyway done risk-free, but he knows I can do that, then I want to,” the church planters aren’t alshe said. ways well received. Some are Loy said the collective ef- threatened and one, in Nigefort of the congregation has ria, was killed. Not too long made such stories possible. ago Loy was visiting a church It’s an adventure he’s enjoy- planter and pastor on an ising. land in the Indian Ocean. The “I bought a pig farm this man was starting a church in week to provide food and a community that had never support for a church in Tan- had one. The North Little

Percentage who say they receive answers to prayer at least once a week Percentage who say their religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life

46% 19% 41% 24% 38%

General population Assemblies of God SOURCE: U.S. Religious Landscape Survey/Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

DIFFERENT STRATEGIES Loy said each community requires a different strategy. What works in Nigeria might not work on the island of Vanuatu. Cost also varies widely. While it might take half a million dollars to start a church in the United States, in Africa a congregation can have a small building constructed for $5,000. In some cases, Loy’s church has paid for bricks and mortar. In others, it subsidized a new pastor’s salary or paid for him to attend seminary. So, how did this North Little Rock congregation find the money to help launch 956 churches? It wasn’t, primarily, through big donations or from members with deep pockets. The money came from everyday people, in dollar bills and change collected by children’s Sunday School classes. Some families adopted a church project to take on alone, or they paid for a pastor’s training or to provide books and

to end. And that can put a damper on the movement of the Spirit. “If you have services where the Spirit moves, you George Wood are n o t necessarily going to get out in an hour and 15 minutes, but you have problems if you have multiple services. People don’t like church to run over. It’s American-style. It’s timed.” Decades ago, Poloma said, Pentecostal church services were held in the morning and evening and those late services could be more free-form. In recent years, some Assemblies of God churches have eliminated evening services, and Sunday evening attendance has dropped sharply.

She adds, however, that the tone of the services depends on the pastor and his willingness to embrace supernatural, spiritually charged worship. As for Wood, he sees gifts of the Spirit as an important part of the church. “Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit was an expected experience in the early [Christian] church,” he said, adding that the Assemblies of God still believes in receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is initially manifested by speaking in tongues. Followers also believe in divine healing and often lay hands on the sick and anoint them with oil. They also believe in the gift of prophecy. “We believe Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” Wood said. “He does heal people today. He delivers them from problems and addictions and brings good news to people.” Rock church sent money to help him build a small concrete block building. “When the community found out, they threatened to beat him and burn his building down, so he slept outside [of the building] on the ground every night so they couldn’t,” Loy said. “And now, on Sunday mornings they have 25 people sitting on little stone benches.” Loy said he asked the pastor why he would keeping going when he was threatened with death. “’Why would you risk your life?’ And, he said, ‘You could die in a boat or die in a car or you can die right here doing the work of the Lord.’ I’m honored to be able to partner with these incredible church planters.” Loy is modest about the church’s success in church planting and gives credit to the men and women around the world who are starting congregations in often difficult circumstances. “I’m not a hero. They are my heroes. They got the hard part,” he said. “I’m honored to be a teeny part of God’s plan to reach the world.

Calendar MUSIC, ART AND ENTERTAINMENT m Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 815 W. 16th St., will present the Art Porter Singers in a performance of Handel’s Messiah at 5 p.m. Sunday. (501) 374-2891. m Christ Episcopal Church, 509 Scott St., will present “The Nativity in Art,” the Christmas story as portrayed by a variety of artists, at 9:15 a.m. Sunday. (501) 3752342. m Collegeville Church of the Nazarene, 124 Hilldale Road, Alexander, will present a children’s Christmas play, If Christ Hadn’t Come, at 10 a.m. Sunday. (501) 847-2655. m Evangelistic Baptist Church, 902 Atkinson St., North Little Rock, will have a Christmas celebration at 11 a.m. Sunday. Dinner will be served after the service. Red and black dress is requested. (501) 588-7330. m First Assembly of God, 221 N. Elm St., Jacksonville, will present a dramatic play, When He Cometh, at 6 p.m. Sunday. (501) 982-5018 or m First United Methodist Church, 723 Center St., will present Christmas on Center Street, a concert featuring the Chancel Choir, The Ensemble, The Sanctuary Bells and members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, at 2 p.m. Sunday. Donations will be accepted for tickets. (501) 372-2256 or m The choir and orchestra of Immanuel Baptist Church, 501 N. Shackleford Road, will present The Glory of Christmas, a free program of traditional, classical and contemporary music, at 7 p.m. Sunday. Nursery is provided. (501) 374-7464.

m Ironton Baptist Church, 14718 Ironton Cut Off, will present the Christmas cantata Come, Let Us Worship the King at 11 a.m. Sunday. The children’s Christmas program will be at 6 p.m. (501) 888-2693. m Lakewood United Methodist Church, 1922 Topf Road, North Little Rock, will host a free “Ring and Sing Musical Celebration” at 6 p.m. Sunday. (501) 753-6186 or m Lee Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 421 W. 22nd St., North Little Rock, will present a Christmas cantata, Come to Bethlehem, at 6 p.m. today. (501) 663-8133. m Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 1823 S. Cedar St., will present And We Beheld His Glory — The King of Kings, a dramatization of the birth of Christ, at 6 p.m. Sunday. (501) 663-1423. m Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 8815 W. 34th St., will present a Christmas cantata, And We Beheld His Glory, during the 10:45 a.m. service Sunday. (501) 224-7288. m Mount Zion Baptist Church, 908 Cross St., will present The Best Christmas Present Ever! Happy Birthday, Jesus at 6 p.m. Sunday. (501) 374-5832. m Perfecting New Life International Ministries, 1717 N. Mississippi St., will present a Christmas cantata, The Shepherds, at 6 p.m. Sunday. (501) 353-0275. m Pleasant Hill Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 3104 E. 38th St., College Station, will present a Christmas program and mini-musical at 4 p.m. today . (501) 490-2267. m Shiloh Baptist Church, 1200 Hanger St., will present Angels on Assignment — The Christmas Story at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. (501) 954-9304.

m Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 310 W. 17th St., will present the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 5 p.m. Sunday. (501) 3720294. m Union African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1825 Pulaski St., will have its Christmas program, Night of Nights, at 3 p.m. Sunday. (501) 374-3528.

CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY m Christ Episcopal Church, 509 Scott St., will have a family Eucharist service at 5 p.m. and Christmas Carols and Lessons at 10 p.m. Thursday and Christmas Day Eucharist at 3 p.m. Friday. Childcare is available. (501) 375-2342. m FaithSpring United Methodist Church will have a communion service at 10:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ferndale 4-H Center, One 4-H Way, Ferndale. (501) 821-2919 or m First Lutheran Church, 314 E. Eighth St., will have a Christmas Eve service at 11 p.m. Thursday and a communion service at 10:30 a.m. Friday. (501) 372-1023. m First United Methodist Church, 723 Center St., will have Lessons and Carols at 5 p.m. and a candlelight communion service at 10:30 p.m. Thursday. (501) 372-2256 or m Grace Lutheran Church, 5124 Hillcrest Ave., will have a candlelight service at 7 p.m. Thursday and a worship service with communion at 9 a.m. Friday. (501) 663-3631 or m Grace Presbyterian Church, 9301 N. Rodney Parham Road, will have a candlelight communion service at 5 p.m. Thursday. (501) 225-3274 or m Lakewood United Methodist Church, 1922 Topf Road, North

Little Rock, will have candlelight communion services at 6 and 10 p.m. Thursday. The sanctuary will be open from 2-4 p.m. for prayer and meditation. (501) 753-6186 or m The North Shore Ecumenical Church Fellowship will have morning worship and breakfast at Disciples in Christ Ministries, 5402 Young Road, North Little Rock, at 7 a.m. Friday. (501) 838-8696. m Park Hill Presbyterian Church, 3520 John F. Kennedy Blvd., will have a service of lessons and carols at 5 p.m. Thursday. (501) 753-9533. m Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn Drive, will have communion services at noon and 8 and 11 p.m. Thursday. (501) 664-3600. m St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, 8300 Kanis Road, will have three services Christmas Eve: 5:30, 8:30, and 10:30 p.m. Thursday. (501) 614-6061. m St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1000 N. Mississippi St., will have two services: Holy Communion and a Children’s Christmas pageant at 5 p.m. and Holy Communion with choir, bells, and incense at 10 p.m. Thursday. (501) 2254203. m Second Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, will present Once Upon a Night, performed by the children’s choirs, at 5 p.m., and traditional candlelight communion services at 7:30 and 11 p.m. Thursday. (501) 2270000. m Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 310 W. 17th St., will have a family Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m., a Choral Prelude at 10:30 p.m., and a Mass at 11 p.m. Thursday. (501) 372-0294. m Zion Hill Baptist Church, 11923 Zion Hill Road, Cabot, will have

a candlelight service at 7 p.m. Thursday. (501) 988-4989.

GATHERINGS m Cherry Street Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 800 Cherry St., Pine Bluff, will feed the homeless from noon3 p.m. today. (870) 357-2723. m First Assembly of God, 221 N. Elm St., Jacksonville, will have a Christmas-themed service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday and a candlelight communion service at 7 p.m. Wednesday. (501) 982-5018 or m First Christian Church, 2803 E. Kiehl Ave., Sherwood, will have a Christmas sing-along at 6 p.m. today. There will be refreshments and an ugly Christmas sweater contest. (501) 835-5505. m First Presbyterian Church, 1220 Pine St., Arkadelphia, will offer an Advent service with seasonal music at 5 p.m. Sunday. (870) 246-4421. m Grace Presbyterian Church, 9301 N. Rodney Parham Road, will have a Lessons and Carols service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. (501) 2253274 or m Lakewood United Methodist Church, 1922 Topf Road, North Little Rock, will have a “Longest Night Service of Hope” at 6 p.m. Monday. The service is especially for those dealing with loss, grief, divorce or other struggles. (501) 753-6186 or expandingthelight. com. m Perfecting New Life International Ministries, 1717 N. Mississippi St., will have an appreciation service to honor judges, bailiffs and other court personnel at 10 a.m. Sunday. (501) 565-2186. m Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn Drive, will have a worship ser-

vice for those who are grieving or experiencing anxiety, sadness and loneliness at 2 p.m. Sunday. Transportation is available. (501) 664-3600.

CLASSES AND CONFERENCES m The Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas is sponsoring a serenity retreat Jan. 8-10 at Coury House, Subiaco Abbey, 405 N. Subiaco Ave., Subiaco. Retreat fee is $50. Cost of housing varies. (479) 9344411. m St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, 8300 Kanis Road, will begin classes for the spring semester of the Anglican School of Ministry on Jan. 15. Registration ends Monday. (501) 801-3410. The deadline for Religion Calendar submissions is noon Monday for Saturday publication. Addresses are in Little Rock unless otherwise indicated. Items must have an address and a phone number and be open to the public. To submit a news release, fax (501) 372-4765 or e-mail the information to

Religion Religion Editor Frank Lockwood (501) 378-3471 Mail Arkansas Democrat-Gazette P.O. Box 2221 Little Rock, Ark. 72203 Calendar Robin Ward (501) 399-3611 Fax (501) 372-4765

First Assembly of God, NLR AR  
First Assembly of God, NLR AR  

NLR church grows with ‘planting’ dare. Article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette December 19, 2009.