Pick just one
September 13 will mark my 35th year anniversary as your pastor. You can’t do anything for 35 years and not have some difficult moments, and we have. But for me, they are completely overshadowed by the joy and privilege of being part of a body that, I believe, God has used in significant ways to shape our community and even our world.
And if you were to ask me to name the highlight of my time here, it would be hard.
Perhaps the dedication of our new gymnasium and Christian education center in 1991, at a time when our little town had nothing to offer kids in the way of recreational space (I know…hard to believe, but it’s true!). That was pretty cool.
Or November 23, 1997, when we worshiped for the first time in a sanctuary that we had built to serve not only our needs but the needs of a community gathering place…that was pretty cool, too.
Or maybe it was January 3, 2021, when we paid off the last of our $5 million in building debt and unleashed $600,000 per year, every year in perpetuity, to go “Beyond These Walls” in the care of and service to our community. That was really cool…and we are only beginning to see the fruit of your incredible generosity.
All those were epic moments that will shape the future of this congregation. But none of them will have the enduring impact of one courageous decision we made about 11 years ago: the decision to change denominations.
For many years, we had felt as if our denomination was moving away from us. We engaged fully in trying to bring change and reform. But it became increasingly clear that, at least from a human perspective, it wasn’t going to change. Our core convictions about the authority of scripture and the person and work of Jesus seemed less and less essential to our denomination. I still remember returning from yet one more national gathering, complaining about this continued theological drift. One of my friends and elders said, “Mark, for years you’ve talked about changing denominations. Are we ever going to do something about it?” And I thought in that moment, “Yes, we will. Right now.”
That was the beginning of a transition into our new church home, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. It was an honorable process. We refused to vilify our friends in the PC(USA). But after a year of discernment, it became clear that God was calling us to that new place. And, on June 3, 2012, we were received into the EPC.
And that, I believe, will prove to be the single most important decision this congregation will ever make. That day, we joined a larger church family that shared our core theological convictions…but held them in a sweet and non-combative way. The EPC motto, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”, proved to be more than just an axiom. It was true…and it has been a wonderful church home for us.
On June 5 at 10:00 am…June 5 at 10:00…June 5 at 10:00…(repetition helps memory!) we will have one service of worship to commemorate our 10-year anniversary as members of the EPC. Whether you are long-time members…or have come to us recently…it will be an opportunity to celebrate the faithfulness of those who have gone before us to whom we owe so much…and to be reminded of our responsibility to hand on this precious legacy.
June 5…10:00…one service. Please join us for the party!
P.S. – Would you please pray for a daughter of our church (and our daughter) Rachel Toone? She flies out tomorrow to Poland where she will be providing spiritual care and “psychological first aid” for Ukrainian refugees and those who work with them. She might also be going into Ukraine. I’m proud of her, a little nervous for her, and very solicitous of your prayer support. Please.