Regional Assembly 2022
Regional Minister Rev. Pamela Holt
Saturday, April 30, 2022
(Video link below)
A Glorious Good Morning to you all! As I said last night, I am very pleased that we are celebrating this Assembly both in-person and online. Thank you for your presence as Disciples! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen, indeed!
I would like to offer our gratitude to Harvard Avenue Christian Church for their hosting of this 2022 Regional Assembly in their beautiful and sacred space. To their ministers, David Emery, and Kevin Howe, and Darlene Martinez, and to Marsha the building facilities manager, the other staff and all of the volunteers who have helped with registration and offered hospitality and to the tech team, to the pianist, to the HA choir . . . If you are here on behalf of HACC, could you please stand and let us thank you!
Every Assembly I am asked to share a story of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma. We are a part of the the body of Christ and the denomination in the US and Canada who are truly seeking healing and wholeness in a broken and fragmented world. I can, without a doubt, share with you today that the Oklahoma Region is strong, resilient, faithful, and vibrant. We have several measures . . . one is your presence here! Another measure is your ministry through through your congregation as you will see glimpses of in the photos! Another measure is your generous giving which Tom Stanley, our treasurer will share with you later! Let me share with you a few others!
The Region continues to have a strong and resilient, faithful and vibrant staff. I am honored and proud to do this ministry alongside Rev. Michael Davison, Ellen Spleth, Marla Hensley, and our newest employee, Carrie Cobbs. This team of very talented and very dedicated people work endless hours supporting the ministries of the Regional Church through a variety of technology. And I am so grateful. Just like you all, we have found new, creative ways of working together with you over the last two years!
The Regional Church also has a strong, resilient, and faithful Regional Executive Committee. This group of dedicated folks from around the Region have held the Regional Church together monthly for the last two years without meeting in-person one time, until today! This is the first time they have seen each other face to face!
Regional Church Board has also continued to meet by Zoom to make decisions concerning the Region and to carry on ministry in the midst of a pandemic and the many crises that have emerged from it. These folks have been steadfast and flexible in all that has come before them. We have worked together through a lot of life’s varied circumstances in some extraordinary ways which has revealed our strength, our resilience and our faithfulness as a Region. Thank you so much.
Realizing that many of our stories can be found on our website or our Regional Roundup Newsletter, I want to shine a flashlight or focus our attention on some, some of the ministries of the Region.
In the last two years, Commission on Clergy continued to provide oversight over all our clergy, retired and active, pastors and chaplains. Members of our Commission were trained to teach Healthy Boundaries online and we powered through several classes last fall and winter to catch up from a year of grace. The Commission on Clergy continued and continues to walk alongside twelve candidates for ordination and commissioned ministry. And, remarkably and beautifully, congregations in our midst ordained and commissioned Coy Remer, Cece Jones Davis, Kelsey Cobbs, Nancy Hodgkinson, and Karen Hess. New clergy have been called and installed all across our region. And, we have four clergy who have had babies in the last six months, one of those being here at Harvard Avenue. And we have two in our midst who presented their story in 2018 who are now engaged, Kelsey Cobbs & Colton Lott!
The Commission on Children, Youth & Young Adults have continued to have camp, safely, and we are very grateful to our leaders and our counselors who participated as we make safe space to nurture and shape young Disciples. We can report that in 2021, our region hosted in-person camps and there was not one case of COVID. International Affairs resumed this spring with six young men traveling to DC and NYC. And 80 children and adults came to the recent Day at the Zoo. Michael and his team are planning for a big camping season this summer. It is time to encourage parents to register their campers.
The Commission Faith in Action continues to be strong and courageous in its ministry with anti-racism training and with Caminante, our Global Mission Partner. While all travel with Global Ministries ceased, Caminante continues to raise dollars to support Caminante and its ministry. We are still connected. And, Faith in Action has just granted to congregations over $10,000 to some very wonderful and unique reconciliation ministries.
The Commission on Refugee & Immigration in the past two years has welcomed a Congolese family. They have provided all kinds of support with some congregational help and just this last week, this family was granted US Citizenship. Also, this commission is working ecumenically and continues to be resourceful for the many Afghan refugees who have entered Oklahoma. All the donations were sorted and moved from a mess of a collection place to now at New Covenant Christian Church in OKC.
A primary place where the Region is strong, resilient and faithful is you all . . . and your congregations. These last two years have been unbelievable and remarkable, full of sorrow and grief and transition as well as creative, beautiful, and exhausting! Thanks be to God for your pivot and your determination to continue to serve NO. MATTER. WHAT. As you can see from the photos, our congregations are reaching out to the vulnerable in their communities with resources and love.
The overall health of the region is good as are our congregations. Many of our 134 congregations are flourishing. Some are struggling. A few have made very difficult decisions to close their building, and create legacy ministries that will provide support for a variety of ministries in their communities, the region, the denomination, and the world. We keep hearing that the church is dying. That is just not true. People are dying. In the last two years, over one million people have died just from COVID. Brene Brown said in a recent podcast that studies have revealed that for every death, an average of seven people are affected with deep grief. If one million people have died in the last two years, that seven million people who are in deep grief. While this has certainly affected the church, I’d also say there are many people who need to experience deep and abiding love and a word of hope. Seems like that’s our department!
But enough looking back. We must also look ahead. David Emery said to me yesterday that “we, as the church must believe the church has a future before it can have one.” Let me say that again, because it is important as we look ahead. “We, as the church must believe the church has a future before it can have one.” I certainly believe the church has a future, but can we believe that? Is that part of OUR story? That we have a future? We just celebrated Easter ~ you know the story. Jesus died and was placed in the tomb. Early on that morning, the women and the disciples discovered he was gone — resurrected. This is part of OUR story. Do we believe it?
We believe in the past because we have experienced it. We are called to believe in the future which we cannot yet see.
Dr. Linda Hill, a Harvard researcher, a professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the Chair of the Leadership Initiative, is regarded as one of the top experts on leadership and innovation. In her curiosity, she is discovering that the skills to lead innovation are different than the skills to lead change. She works on a large scale about becoming a digitally mature organization and in a recent interview with Brene Brown, she describes the difference between vision and innovation.
Here’s what she said: “when you are trying to do breakthrough innovation, you actually have no vision. You don’t know the answer. You can’t communicate it to anybody, and you can’t inspire to go there because you don’t actually know.” What you do have is a purpose and a purpose is different than a vision. A purpose is sort of why we’re going and what we’re trying to do together, it’s not where we’re going. So, you’ve got to be clear about your purpose and who you’re trying to serve or the problem you’re trying to solve and that’s very different from having a vision . . . when you look at leading innovation, it’s really about the fact that it’s not about individuals having aha moments, it’s about collaborations amongst people who have very different perspectives and you know how to do discovery-driven learning, so really what innovation or leading innovation is about is how do you get people to co-create the future with you, not follow you to the future. So that is a very different process.” Leading With Purpose in the Digital Age, Brene Brown podcast with Dr. Linda Hill, April 18, 2022.
Sounds interesting, right? Jesus did ask us to follow him to the cross, but . . . after resurrection the disciples had to be innovative.
The Region does not exist without you. And the way we serve the Lord best is when we do this work together. Food, shoes, meals, backpacks, school supplies, clothing, dollars, soup kitchens — everyone of those ministries is exactly in line with what we are called to do . . . to serve the most vulnerable in our communities. Maybe we are also called to be innovative . . . work collaboratively to listen carefully, still, to how God needs us. We are called to be compassionate and caring with the places in creation and in people’s lives who need healing and goodness and grace and love. We are called to re-imagine how we create and nurture and build communities that are just and fair, and how to come together to praise God for this wild and precious life. We know that there is not one way but a myriad of ways. What is important is that we work together creating a way for all to discover and experience the love and grace of God, creating a way for the most vulnerable to be safe and to find strength and courage in their own story to belong to a community that shares a remarkable and extraordinary story . . . the one that we know so well. And, we are still called to recognize people’s gifts and to help shape leaders who are called to do ministry in a variety of ways.
Before I sit down, I want to recognize and celebrate two new exciting ministries that are beginning in our Region.
Yale Avenue Christian Church is busy being innovative. In the last year, Rev. Andy Campbell has begin The Village Fosters. He became aware of the astounding numbers of foster children and families in Oklahoma and began to explore and collaborate with others about how to address this very vulnerable community with support, encouragement, education, and resources. Thus, The Village Fosters begins.
Rev. Sei Touthang, also a minister at Yale Avenue, is beginning the LOVE ministry with children of Refugees, another very vulnerable community in the Tulsa area. This ministry provides support and resources specifically for refugee children to help them be better prepared for the dramatic culture shift and to be equipped to be successful in school.
Both saw a need in the community — the most vulnerable and begin to imagine and collaborate with others on how the church and its people could support, equip and empower these families. The Region has produce podcasts on the Village Fosters and we soon will have one for LOVE and you can certainly visit the websites for both of these ministries.
I am deeply grateful and very pleased to serve as your Regional Minister alongside Michael Davison. We do this work with joy and love of each and all of you. Thank you for being a part of the covenant that we share in this work together. We are strong. Sometimes we are vulnerable, but we are also courageous. We are scarred but so resilient. We are not perfect but we are faithful and resourceful. In all of life’s circumstances!