Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Churchfunding: 2021 Year-End Report

At the turn of every year, as an act of thankfulness and accountability, I like to give a report on our house loans. This year I’ll try to keep it short!

(Background: As many of you know, we purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. Since this crowdfunding effort was the work of Christ’s church, we coined a new term: “churchfunding.” Here is the post that officially launched this adventure.)

At the beginning of 2021, we owed $28,782.50 in house loans. By the end of the year, we owed only $21,232.50.

Here is how that $7,550 difference breaks down:

  • We repaid $7,000 in loans, at more than the promised rate of $500 per month.
  • We were forgiven an additional $550 in principal and interest by a generous lender.

In total, our house debt declined by $1,550 more than we expected in 2020.

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within about 3-1/2 years—by about July of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator and prayer to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, let us know and we’ll see what we can do!

In Other Developments…

In many ways, 2021 was a pretty ordinary year for us (apart from you-know-what). We didn’t do any significant repairs or improvements to the house, getting distracted in part by vehicle needs. Our van passed 250,000 miles this summer! Repairing a leaky portion of the roof is apparently next, hopefully followed soon by that leaky shower.

Besides my work, most days our family stays busy with homeschooling, driving the girls to their weekly string classes, taking hikes with homeschool friends, hobbies like reading and music, and doing things with our church family. I’m still responsible to schedule church musicians, and I lead music about once a month, usually helped by our oldest daughter (now a teenager!). I’m also in the rotation to preach a sermon every several months.

In our local neighborhood we aim to be good neighbors for Christ’s sake. Lately this has included taking a neighbor a Christmas meal, having a neighbor boy come over to play basket ball, and helping another neighbor look for a missing family member. We’ve also been reminded recently of the crime that occurs around us, praying for those who have been touched by tragedy.

I’ll mention two trips. In July our family spent a day at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina. It was our first family trip to the ocean since moving to Georgia, and we really enjoyed it!

A highlight of the year was finally visiting my mother again, in Canada. It was our first time seeing her since the start of COVID–the first time since our trip to my dad’s funeral. The trip was an answer to many prayers. Family ties are so precious!

In Blogging (Lack of) News…

As you may have noticed, I haven’t done much blogging lately. I got stalled on reporting the history of Mennonites and divorce, and now I’m wrestling more deeply with my own understanding of the biblical teaching on the topic. Recently I read a long book chronicling a journalist’s attempt to solve a murder case. The web of leads he got sucked into, some helpful, some dead ends, reminded me of the many exegetical rabbit trails I’ve run down as I’ve waded through varied interpretations of all the relevant biblical passages.

I invite your prayers as I continue to study—that my heart will be open to God’s truth, that I will be granted insight, and that God will guide my desire to serve the church by writing more on this topic. Maybe, at some point, a book? Surveying Anabaptist history and also sharing my own biblical exegesis and pastoral reflections?

Meanwhile, here’s a quick completion of my answer as to why American  Mennonites adopted a stricter no-divorce position. I’ve already suggested that a spirit of separatism lended itself to adopting increasingly rigid doctrinal positions, that American Mennonites had lost touch with early Anabaptist documents affirming remarriage in case of adultery, and that the switch from German to English may have affected their interpretation of Jesus’ divorce sayings.

To complete the picture, I’d want to discuss at least these additional points:

  • The topic of the “divorce evil” was in the air across the nation at the end of the 1800s (very much like “social justice” has been recently), troubling everyone from the President on down, so the Mennonites simply joined a larger political and ecclesial conversation, some of which was moving in a stricter direction.
  • New Mennonite periodicals, founded by John Funk, alerted them as never before to differences in their own ranks on the question of divorce and remarriage, leading to brisk debate.
  • In the periodicals there were calls for annual conferences, partly to resolve such matters of difference; it was at such a conference that a stricter position was officially adopted in 1905.
  • Before this conference some Mennonite leaders, especially some activist younger leaders like Daniel Kauffman, began to say that the only sufficient response to the “divorce evil” was to give no exception whatsoever. This stance seems to have been adopted for pragmatic reasons as much as for biblical ones, for it was only after the 1905 conference that more fully developed doctrinal explanations were published in support of the stricter position.

That’s a quick survey! Each of those points deserve a book chapter, and I’m sure I should add several more.

(And, to be clear, none of that history proves whether the adoption of a stricter position was good or bad; that would require a separate conversation about exegesis, theology, and pastoral care.)


Our family remains deeply grateful to everyone who helped us buy our Atlanta home, and to all who have supported us in so many other ways. Thank you! 

God is faithful! Please pray we, too, will be faithful, and that we can bear fruit for him in 2022.

For Christ and his church,
Dwight Gingrich


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Churchfunding: 2020 Year-End Report

It’s time again to give witness to God’s faithfulness in providing for our housing needs. As many of you know, we purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. Since this crowdfunding effort was the work of Christ’s church, we coined a new term: “churchfunding.” (Here is the post that officially launched this adventure.)

At the beginning of 2020, we owed $35,062.50 in house loans. By the end of the year, we owed only $28,782.50.

Here is how that $6,280 difference breaks down:

  • We repaid $5,180 in loans, at a little more than the promised rate of $500 per month.
  • We were forgiven $1,100 in principal and interest by several generous lenders.

In total, our house debt declined by $280 more than we expected in 2020.

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within five years—by about October of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator and prayer to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, however, let us know and we will consider prioritizing your repayment as possible.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Ironically, given the coronavirus economy of 2020, our cash flow was slightly bigger than previous years. A temporary end to piano lessons and slowdown to my Choice Books work were both offset by government stimulus efforts, and after I transitioned to teaching piano online (mostly), my student pool has ballooned to 35 as I head into 2021.

A nearly-empty Concourse A at “the world’s busiest airport” during the height of the coronavirus scare in spring of 2019. I used to service Choice Books displays two days each week at the Atlanta airport. Currently I go there one day every two weeks, though more stores are gradually reopening.

On the other hand, our vehicles are now 15 and 18 years old (go, Toyota!) and we are still years away from having saved enough for a dreamed-of western trip as a family. But, as I often pray with thanksgiving, God is meeting all our needs, which he identifies as food and clothing/shelter, and much more besides. We are grateful.

Our main house improvements this year involved windows. First, I used my spring coronavirus “vacation” to finally strip and repaint the big original steel window in our living room.

We also got the windows replaced on the northern side of the house, in the piano studio and the laundry room.

The originals were single pane and one was broken.

Other projects included painting the front door and some exterior trim…

…building a cabinet in a bathroom…

…and painting the laundry room and installing coat racks for the girls.

Next projects? Well, a dishwasher is on order. Perhaps after that we’ll get the shower in the master bedroom working? Or build more closet shelves? Or make the basement entrance functional?

Meanwhile, we’re thankful for what we have–and that God protected our house in October, when we saw the worst flash flood in our backyard that we’ve seen yet.

Water pouring over our backyard bridge. The manhole in our side yard was spewing hundreds of gallons of dirty water down our driveway, too.

Other News

Our public and private lives continue much as last year. We continue to worship with Cellebration Fellowship, where I am now responsible for scheduling music leaders for each Sunday. I take my turn leading, too, sometimes with the help of my daughters. This year we have met variously in a building, online, and in a campground.

I am thankful for the devotion to Christ that is evident in the words and actions of so many in the “Cell Fell” group. Here’s a photo of most of us from a little over a year ago:

On our street we aim to be good neighbors in Jesus’ name. Sometimes that means sharing food (which Zonya often does) or tools (as I just did now). Over Thanksgiving we loved our neighborhood by spending several hours clearing a nearby hiking trail.

Often our service is through the ordinary means of faithfulness in raising children, loving students, selling Christian books, and writing the occasional blog post.

I’ll end with four 2020 happenings that were noteworthy for our family.

First (in every way), my father passed away in February. Though we have not traveled back to Canada since his funeral (thank you, coronavirus), I miss him. He left a legacy of gentle integrity, hard work, and dependence on God’s mercy. I especially think of him while working with my hands around the house, since he was a master craftsman.

Here is a photo of my family, taken at Dad’s funeral, which happened about two weeks before the Canada-USA border started shutting down.

Second, we finally managed to go camping somewhere besides our backyard. Here is an amazing sunrise we saw from our north Georgia campsite.

Third, we got our first pets! We raised chickens from eggs this spring and bought the girls a cat for Christmas. Having animals around complicates life, but is good for all four of my girls.

You could say our pets have been babied just a little.

Fourth, my wife’s brother got married in December, and my daughters and I provided the special music. Preparing for this occupied much of our time for a couple months.


We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters.  We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2021. Please pray we will walk faithfully in the Spirit of Jesus. May God bless you and make you salt and light in your own community!

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight Gingrich


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A Song: “Before All Things (Colossians 1:15-20)”

Our church is enjoying a sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. At the start of the series, it was suggested that the musicians in our midst might want to compose new songs based on the letter. I immediately thought of the “hymn” in Colossians 1:15-20 and decided I’d like to put it to music. This task has proven difficult however, since the passage doesn’t follow the rhythms or rhymes of English poetry, despite being full of other poetic features.

This week I meditated on the passage again (in Greek and English) until I could more or less say it by memory (in English). On Wednesday some musical lines finally started to come, but I wasn’t very impressed. Thursday morning my wife recalled and played Andrew Peterson’s fine arrangement of this passage (“All Things Together“). Hearing Peterson further opened my musical streams and also gave me the idea of beginning each verse with questions. Finally better music started to come, and that day I composed most of this song.

After a couple more days of adaptations and valuable feedback from my family, I am content with the result. Today–the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection–my family and I recorded the song. Special thanks to my daughters for sharing their pleasant voices, which made the song so much better, and to my wife for willingly overseeing lights and camera.

I do not pretend this is great music, but I am happy that it meets my original goals of sticking closely to the biblical text and yet being singable by a congregation. I envision a soloist singing the questions at the start of each verse, with the congregation responding. The rest of each verse could be either sung by the soloist or, with a little practice, by the entire congregation. The chorus and bridge are simple for all to sing.

In writing this song I tried to follow the text of Colossians as closely as possible (using the ESV translation), with minor adjustments to ease the rhythm and retain clarity. I also tried to follow the original structure of this “hymn,” which has two stanzas (1:15-16 and 1:18b-20–the two verses of my song) tied together by several transitional lines (1:17-18a–the chorus of my song). There is an “extra” line in the second stanza of the song that breaks the rhythm–an exclamation that Jesus is preeminent (first) not only in the original creation, but also in the new creation. I saved that line for the bridge of my song.

Here is this passage in Greek. This note was written by me in June 2014, when I first became fascinated with the literary structure of this passage. I knew very little Greek at the time, but I shared it on Facebook with this comment: “Sunday school thoughts: Here, from today’s CLP lesson, is the central ‘Christ poem,’ Colossians 1:15-20–in Greek! Even those of us who don’t know Greek can see something of the poetry of Christ’s firstborn status both as creator and as re-creator.”

Bible students may recall that this passage is sometimes called a “Christ hymn”; it is often praised for its “high Christology.” While it is true that this passage describes Jesus in terms fitting for an anointed king, the word “Christ” itself is conspicuously missing from the passage and its immediate context. Instead, we find the language of sonship: “the Father… delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:12-13). This sonship language ties directly into the firstborn imagery in the hymn.

These observations explain the answers I provided to the opening questions in each verse. Who is the One whom the song discusses? “Jesus, God’s own Son”; “Jesus, the Son of God.” 

Here are the lyrics to the song:


BEFORE ALL THINGS
(Colossians 1:15-20)

Verse 1:
Who is the image of the invisible God?
Jesus, God’s own Son
Who is the firstborn of all creation?
Jesus, God’s own Son

For by him all things were created,
In heaven and on earth,
Visible and invisible.

Whether thrones, dominions, rulers
Or authorities
All were created through him and for him.

Chorus A:
And he is before all things
He is before all things
And all things in him hold together
He is before all things
He is before all things
And he is the head of the body, the church.

Verse 2:
Who is the beginning?
Jesus, the Son of God
Who is the firstborn from the dead?
Jesus, the Son of God

For in him all the fullness
Of God was pleased to dwell
And reconcile through him all to him

By the blood of his cross
Making peace with all
All whether on earth or in heaven.

(Chorus A)

Bridge:
He’s the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things he might be first

And the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things he might be first

You’re the firstborn of all creation
The firstborn of all creation
That in all things you might be first

And you’re the firstborn from the dead
The firstborn from the dead
That in all things you might be first

Chorus B: (2x)
And you are before all things
You are before all things
And all things in you hold together
You are before all things
You are before all things
And you are the head of the body, the church.

You are the head of the body—You’re first!

Optional ending: (Repeat as desired)
Jesus, you are first
In all things you are first
In all things you hold first place of all

Jesus, you are first
We worship you as first
We worship you as first over all

Copyright April 9, 2020 by Dwight Gingrich. To be freely used for nonprofit uses only by the church of Jesus. All other rights reserved.


Is there a passage of Scripture that you have wished was set to music? Do you have any feedback on my efforts here? You may share your thoughts in the comments below.


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