2017 was a year of Transition and Anticipation. Much of the Transition came in the form staff changes. In April, we said good-bye to Jan Ingerson, Commissioned Ruling Elder (Commissioned Lay Pastor) who had been serving the congregation in the areas of Congregational Care and Spiritual Nourishment. Jan, having served Santa Fe for more than 5 years and the Church for nearly 40 years, decided to retire with her husband to their home state of South Dakota. We also said good-bye to Youth Director, Bill Jones in October, who moved on to pursue other opportunities.
These changes have brought some transition to my ministry responsibilities. However, these staff changes have also been part of a few key decisions that mark important transitions in the life of our church that bring with them great anticipation.
With the exit of Jan and Bill from the ministry staff of the church, the Session has begun to move in the direction of calling a new, full-time staff position. In 2018, an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC) will be formed for the purpose of creating a full-time position for either an ordained or non-ordained person. The position will be responsibilities will breakdown to roughly 50% youth ministry, 25% Children and Education, and last 25% more or less according to the individual’s gifts and the ministry needs of the congregation.
In addition to this, the Session began a new campaign in the summer of 2017 called vision 2020. The vision was to have a small capital campaign in the summer to pay-off our remaining debt and take care of a few key repairs to the church building. This was successful, and we are currently debt free.
We have taken a bit of a breather at the end of 2017, but now as we move on into 2018, we must get to work. Vision 2020, you will remember, has a second part. In 2018 and 2019, or task is to build up the congregation’s membership and financial base in anticipation of breaking ground in 2020 for the construction of expanded ministry space.
On a more personal note, in addition to four funerals, and three baptisms, and three weddings, my role within the broader life of the Church has expanded. Much of this began when we had a fuller staff, but there are commitments that I feel I must maintain. I continued to serve as Teaching Elder Commissioner to the Synod of the Sun representing Indian Nations Presbytery, but more so as the vice-moderator of the Synod Stewardship Committee and as a member of the Synod Leadership team. Additionally I am serving on the Synod of the Sun Presbyterian Foundation Board.
I currently continue to serve as a member of the Board of Urban Mission, and on the staff of Trinity Youth Conference. As Indian Nations Presbytery (INP) continues to work through this season of transition, my work continues as a member of the Presbytery Transition Task Force. As a member of the Task Force, with the concurrence of the INP Mission Strategy Group, I was asked to join two others in representing INP and members of Cimarron and Eastern Oklahoma Presbyteries to explore how we can work together in the future as Presbyterians in Oklahoma.
I am also serving INP as a member of the Nominating Committee, and the INP Foundation Board. I believe much of the work I have been asked to do and the leadership role I find myself fulfilling in INP is in large part the result of Santa Fe’s success and stability. This has more to do with your Spiritual discipline and work and support of me as members of the congregation, than what I bring to the table.
My role of leadership in INP is not a lonely one. I serve INP alongside of Malcom Champlin a member of the Mission Strategy Group (the Presbytery Council), Tracy Reed who is a member of the INP Permanent Judicial Commission, Martin McNeese who serves as moderator of the Committee on Ministry, and my wife, Leigh, who is now moderator of the INP Youth Council. Truly, on behalf of the presbytery, I thank them and all of you. Indian Nations has needed the faithful leadership of Santa Fe Church, and when they sought it, we have responded. But the need for our leadership and participation is by no means satisfied, and I hope that some of you will consider joining us in serving as members of Indian Nations Presbytery.
Once again, I must tell you how truly blessed and honored I am to serve the Lord with you as your pastor. Your grace and support and patience over the last eight and a half years is difficult to put into words. It has been brought to my attention recently that not only have I served this church beyond the average 7 year pastorate, I now stand as Santa Fe’s longest serving pastor. I trust and hope that God has much more in mind for us to accomplish in the service of his Kingdom on Earth in the years ahead.
Yes, 2017 was a year of Transition and Anticipation, now we must make 2018 a year of Transformation and Expectation. The coming year is one that could see wonderful things happening in the life of our church. We can expect new staffing and with it new ministry opportunities. We expect to have discussions of what our new ministry space should and could look like and the new ministry opportunities it will bring. However, let us never forget that our expectations will be frustrated and curtailed if we do not actively pursue the transformation of our congregation.
2018 must be a year of growth. We need to focus on person Spiritual growth, a renewed sense of evangelism and hospitality, and the development of deeper financial commitment. But above all else we must remind ourselves and discipline ourselves to be thankful for what the Holy Spirit has accomplished through us. And we must be vigilant in maintaining our focus on the ultimate goal of bringing glory to God in Jesus Christ though our words and deeds.
May the Lord bless and keep us all in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Yours in Christ, Mitch