August & September 2019 ·

Don’t Drown

The Small Groups Life Raft

1000 Carl T. Jones Drive | Huntsville, Alabama 35802

(256) 882-3085 |

Christine Betts Assistant Director, Youth/Families

Robert Blevins Director, Community Development

Daniel Brown Print & Digital Media Specialist

Niña Cash Director, Nursery

Shannon Clark Administrative Assistant

Ron Clegg Associate Pastor, Discipleship

Ty Commons Youth & Family Intern

Janice Crowson Director, Facilities/Finance

Kim Delchamps Administrative Assistant

Terri Good Accountant/Bookkeeper

Derrick Harris Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families

James Parker Chief Musician

Peter Render Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families

Wyketa Shipman Executive Assistant

Angela Sierk Director, Children's Ministry

Will Spink Senior Pastor









Pastor's Note

The Finer Points

2019 PCA General Assembly

Connecting at Southwood

Small Groups and Connect Communities

Don’t Drown

The Small Groups Life Raft

The Summer of One Another


Southwood Men Fall Retreat

Fall Service Opportunities


Southwood Kids Upcoming Events

Partner with Us!


Christine Betts

Robert Blevins

Ron Clegg

Derrick Harris

Peter Render

Angela Sierk

Will Spink


Daniel Brown

Kim Delchamps

Will Spink

Southwood Members


Ricki Tri


We want to hear from you! Please send

your suggestions and comments to

Cover Photo

Southwood Kids on

a Sunday Morning

Upcoming Events

Aug. 4–25 Small Group Sign-Up

Aug. 4 Southwood Kids Parent Preview

Aug. 4 Southwood Kids Volunteer Training

Aug. 11 Southwood Kids Family Picnic

Aug. 25 High-Life Parent Meeting

Sept. 20–21 Southwood Men Fall Retreat

Sept. 24 Parent Café

Featuring Veggie Tales “Silly Song” writer

Randall Goodgame

August 23 at 6:30PM

The Southwood Sanctuary

$10 per person · $40 per family 4+

Purchase tickets at

Keep Summer Going

As the first day of school, the kickoff of football

season, and other fall events rapidly approach,

my family is trying to hang on to some of the

joys of summer. The ability for kids to sleep

later in the morning has given us leisurely nights

together at the pool or on the tennis court,

playing games or talking and laughing together

before bed. Even though next week we won’t

be able to stay up until 10:00 on Tuesday nights

anymore, we want to stretch summer into fall,

as it were, and figure out how to make margin

for these leisurely times together that are so


I’d like to suggest the same for our church

family – that we all think together how to stretch

summer into fall. What I mean is that we’ve

focused this summer on “One Anothering,”

on investing in Gospel Community together.

We’ve seen over and over how intent God is

on answering the loneliness in our lives and

in this world with the life-giving relationships

in his family. But as life gets busy again this

fall, it would be easy to leave those nice

thoughts behind and have nothing change, no

relationships develop, no Gospel Community

actually grow.

OR … we could each take a step toward

prioritizing what God calls us to prioritize. My

first suggestion is one you’ve heard all summer:

We want everyone at Southwood in a small

group and/or a Connect Community. Trying one

out is a great step toward Gospel Community. So

is serving one another. Your small group may be

with children or youth, where you learn alongside

and from them as God works in their lives and

yours. There’s a place for you there! Maybe your

step to take is actually moving toward that one

person you committed to move toward earlier

this summer. Imagine how community would

multiply if we all actually moved intentionally

toward another brother or sister!

To be clear, I’m talking to all of us. Particularly

on my heart in calling us to invest more deeply

are longtime Southwood members who have

drifted from deep connection with their church

family, new people at Southwood just trying

to make this place a home for themselves, and

some of you who have been members a few

years but have not yet moved beyond that initial

commitment. Please let us help you engage in

the life-giving community Jesus died to welcome

you into! But I’m talking to those of you who feel

deeply connected already, too. You need a small

group, too, and someone else needs you there.

You may feel relationally full, but your brother

or sister next to you on Sunday is lonely, so

God says you’re not full yet because WE aren’t

full yet! (If you need any more motivation, read

Christine’s beautiful “Don’t Drown” article in the

middle of this issue of Branches.)

Those are practical steps we can all be taking

right now to pursue what God has called us to

together and stretch summer into fall. Another

way summer will stretch into fall is with our

upcoming sermon series. We’re finishing up “One

Another” passages and turning our attention to

some Minor Prophets. They’re going to hit many

of the same themes we’ve seen this summer

with perhaps a bit more of an edge that may

hurt (for our good). They’re going to be calling

God’s people together to repent – that is, to

turn our hearts back to the God who made us

a family in the first place, whose Word is to be

our life, whose glory is to be our passion. In

other words, they will keep asking us week after

week whether the Gospel is what is defining

our community. They will challenge us in many

places where it’s not. They will offer to us the

beauty of a community that actually is learning

to have Jesus at its center.

So even more importantly than taking that first

practical step to put yourself in a small group

or Connect Community, join me in asking Holy

Spirit to put Jesus at the center of your heart

and life – and then to let you experience with

those you’ve locked arms with that disruptive,

uncomfortable, glorious life with Him.

Will Spink

Senior Pastor

If you would like to contact Will, use

the following:

The FINER Points

2019 PCA General Assembly

by Peter Render

The 47th annual General Assembly (GA) of the

Presbyterian Church in America was held this

year from June 23 – June 27 in Dallas, TX. More

than 1,000 voting commissioners (ruling and teaching

elders from across the denomination) and hundreds

more families and visitors gathered to do the business

of the denomination. If you attend a PCA church, you

should care about what was discussed and voted on

over the course of this week. This article is an attempt at

positively identifying the finer points of that week.

The PCA functions somewhat differently from other

denominations. Each church belongs to a group of local

churches called a Presbytery. Each Presbytery belongs

to the national GA. Commissioners are designated by

Presbyteries to serve on committees as well as to vote in

business meetings. Much of the business accomplished

at GA happens in committees of commissioners, who

deal with both the mundane and exciting issues involved

with Covenant College, Covenant Theological Seminary,

Interchurch Relations, Mission to the World, Mission to

North America, PCA Foundation, Ridge Haven camp,

Reformed University Ministries, PCA Retirement &

Benefits, the Committee on Discipleship Ministries, and

the Administrative Committee. None of these primarily

budget and vision-casting conversations produced

much controversy this year, but the Word

of God will continue to move forward

through ministries and missionaries

around our country and the world through

the labors of these groups.

The more discussed matters of GA

come out of the Overtures Committee,

which reads and hears arguments from

individual presbyteries concerning

constitutional items (items referring to the

Westminster Standards or the PCA Book

of Church Order) or cultural items that are

not clearly covered in those places. This year, the main

discussion points receiving action were based upon 1)

domestic and sexual abuse and 2) human sexuality.

The staggering prevalence of domestic abuse and sexual

assault, especially in church culture, is well documented.

In an overwhelming vote, the GA voted to create a study

committee to equip churches with resources on topics

related to child abuse and sexual assault, domestic abuse

and sexual assault, and domestic oppression in order

to help care for both those who sin in these areas and

especially those who are sinned against. Additionally,

we will look to this committee to provide information

regarding best practices and guidelines that could be

helpful for elders, Sessions, Presbyteries, and agencies

for protecting against and responding to these sins.

This year, the main

discussion points

receiving action

were based upon

domestic and sexual

abuse and human


Regarding human sexuality, two overtures were

discussed and passed. One of these overtures

affirmatively answered the “Nashville Statement” on

Biblical Sexuality as a “biblically faithful declaration.”

While the vote earned a roughly 60/40 split, those

negative votes were not necessarily denying the biblical

faithfulness of the document. On the positive side,

the overture was widely considered necessary as the

overture “sends a strong word that the PCA loves people

who are struggling with same-sex attraction so much

that we are willing to tell them careful, faithful, biblical

teaching on sexuality.” Many also affirm the internal

use of the document to those who need assistance

pedagogically, those who work in these areas, and those

who fear that culture is influencing the Church, rather

than Church influencing culture.

On the heels of that discussion, it was also affirmed

that the PCA needs to do its own work on engaging

the current cultural conversation surrounding human

sexuality. In another overwhelming vote, the GA

passed an overture to create a study committee with

particular attention to the issues of homosexuality,

same-sex attraction, and transgenderism. The result of

this committee will be resources on sexuality to help

pastors and sessions shepherd congregants who are

dealing with same-sex attraction. It will

also address the nature of temptation, sin,

and repentance. It will consider the use of

terms like “gay Christian” when referring

to a believer struggling with same-sex

attraction. It will consider the status of

“orientation” as a valid anthropological

category while considering the practice

of “spiritual friendship” among same-sex

attracted Christians. This committee will

also include an analysis of Westminster

Larger Catechism questions 138 and

139 regarding same-sex attraction, with

careful attention given to the compatibility of the 7th

commandment and same-sex attraction and the pursuit

of celibacy by those who are attracted to the same sex. It

will also consider the original language of 1 Cor. 6:9 and

consider if a denominational statement beyond these

prior items is necessary.

Needless to say, the seven members of these committees

can use much prayer as they seek to assist our

denomination on delicate yet serious issues. If you need

clarification on any of these issues or any others that you

have heard about, please come and seek out a pastor or

an elder for conversation. We would love to hear from

you! A


Connecting at Southwood

Small Groups and Connect Communities

by Ron Clegg and Derrick Harris

At Southwood we believe

strongly that gospelcentered

community is vital

for our health and development

as believers. We cannot thrive as

followers of Jesus apart from gospel

community. How is that expressed at

Southwood? Primarily through two

similar but different vehicles: Connect

Communities and Small Groups.

Connect Communities are the

gateways for folks to enter into

significant relationships. They are

larger groups, typically between

20-50 adults. Unlike the traditional

Sunday school, they are not designed

to be classrooms. There will be an

instructional element, but primarily

they are designed around building

relationships. We want them to

be a place where adults of all ages

can get to know one another in an

environment around the truths of the


How does one become involved in a

Connect Community? Every Sunday

morning you simply take a short

journey from the end of worship into a

Connect Community gathering. These

gathering places are clearly marked

outside the doors of their meeting

room. The different communities are

divided into four general age groups,

so there is a group for every adult.

This also allows us to connect with

those in our general stage of life. You

will get to meet others, hear of how

their faith is being lived out, and have

opportunity to care for one another.

So, if you are not currently connected

in one of these communities, please

come and see what you have been


Gospel-centered community

provices a harbor of safety in

a hurricane world. It’s a haven

where people can be known

for who they are as opposed to

what they have to offer.

Small groups at Southwood also

exist to help us find gospel-centered

community as we connect to God,

to each other, and to our neighbors.

Gospel-centered community provides

a harbor of safety in a hurricane world.

It’s a haven where people can be

known for who they are as opposed

to what they have to offer. Though

small groups share a similar purpose

with Connect Communities, they are

different in practice.

Small groups are called “small” for

a reason, and that reason is fewer

people together providing the context

for more sharing and thus deeper

relationships. Groups usually consist

of 12-14 people and meet in different

places. Small groups are a place to

take the time intentionally to go

deeper in community. They are not

so much a program we want people

involved in as they are a way of life for

which God designed us. Relationships

in a small group are fertile ground for

people who know and understand

some of our sins and struggles to

remind us of God’s grace, to pray for

his work in our lives, and to urge us to

see all of life in the light of his Word as

we live out the Gospel together.

So where to start? If you’re interested

in connecting in community at

Southwood, please join us for

“Creating Connections” on Sunday,

August 25, during the Connect Hour?

We’ll focus on the year ahead

and provide opportunities for you to

interact with our communities and

leaders. We hope to see you then. A


me, I’m drowning! Can

anyone hear me? Can


anyone help me?” This is a

cry from my heart to yours, so please

listen. I try to believe the lies I tell

myself: “I’ll be fine in a little while”, “If I

ignore it, it will go away”, and “No one

understands what I am going through.”

If those things sound familiar to your

own thoughts about your loneliness,

stress, and trials, then maybe we can

dive into the deeper issue together. I

am in desperate need of community,

relationships, to know and to be

known. Unfortunately, my heart fights

against seeking community and I hide

from it. I flail my arms and legs as I

try to save myself in these depths. I

can sense someone close to me –

“Maybe they can save me!” I think

to myself, and I see that it’s you!

The only downside is you’re

drowning, too. I do not know

what is weighing you down

and pulling you away

from me – your busyness,

family, work, sickness,

anxiety, or your pride – I

only know that they are

drowning me. So here

we are, both drowning,

both knowing that God

can save us from our

loneliness by using us in

one another’s lives, and

both still fighting against

the lifeguard saving us.

Help us!

Social situations have not

always gone swimmingly for

me. I’m awkward, anxious, selfreliant,

and selfish. Since my teenage

years, I have felt different from my

peers as though I do not belong with

them; therefore, I told myself that I had

no need for them. They were popular,

weird, extroverts, makeup-wearers,

and we did not care about any of the

same things. My parents forced me

to attend small groups at the church

we attended, and even though I was

surrounded by peers who did not

care about soccer or know what it

was like to be homeschooled, it was

in those groups that I learned I was

needier of others. As desperately as I

tried to isolate myself and be a loner I

kept needing my peers: their prayers,

insights, ears, stories, and their hugs.

Through depression, anxiety, loss of

loved ones, college decisions, and

illnesses, my leaders and my peers

in my small groups were with me in

prayer and in person. I needed small

groups growing up; otherwise, I

would’ve sunk into myself so deeply

I never would’ve been seen again.

This is why I so desperately want

your children, the youth in Huntsville,

to join small groups. Our youth are

being water boarded by bullying,

expectations, and social media. They

need small groups filled with other

young believers who can urge them to

see Jesus.



The Small Groups Life Raft

by Christine Betts

My need for life-giving

community did not end

there. Andrew and I learned

quickly as we moved to Huntsville

that our lives required more people

than just us. A newly married couple,

both in school and working, away

from all family, and with no friends,

it was apparent that we needed to

find community and we needed it

fast. As we both started to collapse

under the flood of work and school, I

began drowning in tears of loneliness.

There was a deep need inside of me

for community, but on the surface, I

did not want any. I was tired of being

with people all day long, of talking,

of caring, and of using so much

emotional effort in everything (even

grocery shopping in a new store was

exhausting). When small group signups

at Southwood started in the fall

of 2017, Andrew suggested we get

involved. I’m not sure what I said in

response – probably something like

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” but what I

felt was something more like “Please,

no more strangers!”

Joining a small group feels like

being hit by a tidal wave. You

think for a minute that you are

going under the wave of new names

and faces and that this may be your

demise, but then you come up on

the other side laughing – because

hey, you survived! We were

invited into our leaders’ home

and given a place at their

dinner table. I needed that.

I needed someone to tell

me that they wanted

me to be involved. I

needed someone to

ask me for my story

and not settle for the

two-minute version. I

needed someone to

invite me into their

home, but more than

any of those things I

needed to be invited into

someone else’s story. The

Southwood staff invites

you to be a part of our

story, but our church needs

you to invite others to be a

part of yours. I urge you to join

a small group. Mine would invite

you, but our row boat of people who

were dying for community might start

to sink if we add too many more. I

encourage you to reach out your hand

and hold onto the one that extends to

you pulling you out of your busyness

and pride and into the safe haven of

gospel community.

It is gut-wrenching and terrifying

to watch a small child go into the

deep end of a pool without the

appropriate floaties; this is also how it

feels when I watch our congregation

greet one another on Sunday

mornings. It is terrifying because I

do not know if any of us really know

how to swim, I mean, have meaningful

relationships in the one minute of

interaction. This is why I am convinced


that you, yes you, need to be in a small group or at least

a Connect Community. As much as I need you to help me

when I am feeling overwhelmed by work and discouraged

by sickness and family problems, you need me, too. You

need a group of believers who will sit down with you. You

need to hear their stories and their insights. You have so

much to learn from them and from God as you spend time

together reading Scripture and discussing life (Acts 2).

Your small group is there to encourage you; they want to

be your people so that when you walk into Southwood

on Sunday morning you see a familiar face that you know

goes along with a kind and caring heart. Your small group

should be a group of people who encourage you, who

admonish you through

God’s Word, and who will

pray for you (and if you are

in our small group, you will

definitely be forced to play

games and maybe even try

banana balls). I apologize

if this sounds harsh, but I

just cannot bear to watch

us keep doggy paddling

and thinking we’re fine in

the shallow end when we

all truly desire a deeper

connection. You need me

– or at least a small group.

You need to know how to

swim before going deeper,

and in order to learn, you

need practice and people

who will teach you.

It was dark and silent.

I couldn’t breathe for

what felt like hours

but perhaps were only

seconds. I struggled and

tried to free myself with all

of my might, and finally I

made it out from under the

canoe that had capsized.

The sunlight never looked

so beautiful, and I had

never felt more alive. I

want to tell you that your

small group will make you

feel alive and so much

more, but that is up to you

and the Holy Spirit. You

should know that small

groups are not supposed to be clinical. You should not

walk in with a problem and think that you will walk out

with a prescription. Nor should anyone go into a group

trying to fix others rather than listening to and loving them.

Southwood is not a Starbucks – you cannot come to our

pastors requiring a small group that fits all of your tastes

perfectly. That is no excuse to not join one. Your leader is

not there to be your travel agent telling you how to live

your life; they are more like your raft guide, knowing some

of what might be coming, but they are going through life’s

rapids with you (Derrick’s illustration). Your small group

is likely to be a group of sinners and failures who are in

desperate need of a Savior and a friend, and that is exactly

what you need. At its best your group will be focused

on Jesus and be able to be a group of honest, open,

vulnerable listeners. At its most heavenly it will be like the

early church in Acts 2 who were devoted to God’s Word

and to fellowship, praying, sharing everything they had

with those in need and “They broke bread in their homes

and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising

God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord

added to their number daily those who were being saved”

(Acts 2:42-47). They sacrificed their agendas and their

budgets and even their

lives – what are we willing

to sacrifice for communal


My head has

gone under, my

breathing is frantic,

my thoughts are screams

of terror, I am dying. I feel

an arm around me and

I begin to struggle even

more, “What if it drags

me down? I have to save

myself, or I will surely die!”

Why do I fight against the

one trying to save me?

We know we need each

other, so text the person

who’s on your heart as

you read this. We know

we need to be in a group

of people who live like

the early church, so sign

up for a small group or

invite others into yours.

I know that I need Jesus,

so why do I fight Him? He

doesn’t text me “Have a

good Monday.” He doesn’t

hold me when I cry. He

doesn’t eat dinner with me.

He doesn’t play games or

laugh with me, and I need

someone who will. He

already did and continues

to do much more than

these things. He gave me

life when I had drowned in

my sin. He gave me hope when the waters started to rise

again. He gave me peace when I saw the sea was beyond

my control. He showed me love by never giving up on me.

He gave me purpose to know others and to be known. He

gave me a small group where I can feel His presence and

experience His grace. He gave me the opportunity to be

with others and express His grace in countless ways. So,

please let yourself experience this soul-saving relationship

with Him and the life-saving relationship with a small

group. Help is here. A


The Summer of

One Another



Southwood Men

Fall Retreat

by Ron Clegg

Fall Service


by Robert Blevins

Here are a couple of ways to be active and

engaged with some of our local ministry

partners this fall.

How does a man of faith in

Jesus live out his beliefs in our

highly sexualized culture? What

does it mean to be a man of

faith? What does it mean to

be a man? The message we

Guest Speaker are getting from our culture

Carl Stewart

is confusing at best. How do

biblical truth and the gospel of

grace give us greater clarity as

to God’s design for true masculinity and manly

strength? Join us at this fall’s Men’s Retreat

September 20-21 at The Southwood Lodge.

Our guest speaker Carl Stewart will lead us as

we explore these subjects together. Mark your

calendars now. Invite someone else to join you.

We’ll see you there! A

Southwood Men

Fall Retreat

September 20-21

The Southwood Lodge

First is CornerStone’s Jobs for Life class.

This is a program that helps folks who are

struggling with the skills needed to get

a job, like resume writing or

interviewing. The class also

provides training on topics

such as making appropriate

clothing choices and having

a strong work ethic, things

that will help individuals

successfully keep a job or

even advance. Two areas of

need are being a champion and

bringing a meal. Training for champions

will take place each Monday in August, and

classes will meet on Mondays and Thursdays

from September 9-November 7. Meals

will need to feed up to 35 people. Go to to lean more.

The second opportunity is with the Huntsville

Inner City Learning Center. This is a ministry

whose goal is to grow students into Christlike,


learners and







on Biblical knowledge, mentorship, and

academic support. HICLC is seeking tutors

for Monday evenings this fall, and we

encourage you to visit to learn more

about the ways you can be involved in this

ministry. A


Southwood Kids Upcoming Events

Partner with us!

by Angela Sierk

We in the Children’s Ministry have been getting to

know one another and diving deeper into God’s Word

alongside the rest of the church this summer. We have

experienced opportunities to walk with children as they

have come to know God. We have spoken with parents

about their child coming to know Christ for the first

time. We have prayed with and for families in crisis.

Most of all, we have rejoiced together in praise and

worship of the truly amazing Father we serve! We don’t

want this momentum to fade with the summer sun, so

Southwood Kids will kick off August with a number of

special events designed to equip you and serve your

children. Don’t miss these events that will set the tone

for a great year of families coming closer to Christ


August 4

Southwood Kids Parent Preview

Join us in the Gathering Spaces during the Connect

Hour. This is an opportunity for parents to meet

volunteers who will be walking alongside your child. You

can also preview our new Gospel Project curriculum.

This event is for parents of children birth through 6th

grade. Nursery/Preschool children will remain in their

rooms, and elementary-aged kids may be dropped off

in Room 2313.

August 11 - Morning

Southwood Kids Fall Kickoff

K1Worship & KidsConnect classes kick off this Sunday!

Please note: This is Move-Up Sunday as well, so glance

at your child’s check-in label to see which room he or

she should enter.

August 11 - Afternoon

Southwood Kids Family Picnic

Join us at Monte Sano State Park after the Connect

Hour. We have reserved the Large Pavilion for lunch.

After lunch, there is a playground and some nice hiking

trails, and we will bring lawn games! Plan to bring lunch

for your family and a dessert to share. We will provide

drinks! Your parking fee is covered; tell the attendant

you are with Southwood.

BRANCHES 11 AUG. & SEP. 2019

Holding on

to Hope

August 16 & 17

The Southwood Lodge

Join Southwood Women for a time of teaching and fellowship on Friday evening, August 16, and Saturday morning,

August 17. Our guest speaker will be Abby Hutto, the Director of Spiritual Formation at Story Presbyterian Church in

Westerville, Ohio and author of God For Us: Discovering the Heart of the Father through the Life of the Son.

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