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2021 Advent Devotionals

God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down 
mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may stand in 
awe and wonder
before your marvelous deeds.

Advent Greetings!

Long before this season of Advent begins, youth from Oklahoma and Regional Ministers have pondered over the scriptures and began reflecting about what these upcoming Advent days hold. In this season of preparation for the birth of Jesus, we are presenting you with two resources to guide your journey down Advent Road. One resource has been created by the Oklahoma Regional Youth Council. A second resource has been created by Regional Ministers from our 31 regions and ethnic ministries.

We hope you enjoy these devotions. May something from them stir your heart into awe and wonder of God’s marvelous deeds.

Peace & God’s Grace,

Pam Holt Signature

Regional Minister Pamela Holt

2021 College of Regional Ministers Advent Devotional

ENGLISH VERSION
SPANISH VERSION

2021 Regional Youth Council Advent Devotional

CLICK HERE to visit our Dropbox and download the ebook in PDF format.

2021-11-23T11:26:11-06:00Nov 23, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Pumpkin Patch Celebrates 25 Years of Outreach Ministry

Happy 25th Anniversary to the Pumpkin Patch at Southern Hills Christian Church, Edmond. The annual fundraising event draws families from across the city, some who’ve shopped for the perfect Halloween pumpkin for 15 years.

The church purchases the organically grown pumpkins from the Navajo Tribe in Farmington, New Mexico, who grow and sell to churches nationwide. Two separate shipments assure customers have high quality products. The congregation’s Disciples Men organizes and runs the stand along with a host of volunteer church members.

This year the profits were divided equally between the church’s Breakfast Ministry and Youth & Children’s Ministry, plus Central Christian Camp & Conference Center. The popular drive-up hot breakfast and sack lunch ministry feeds 50-60 people each Saturday and Sunday morning. In tandem with FCC Edmond’s weekday breakfast program, Edmond residents are assured a meal 7 days a week.

Congratulations Southern Hills CC on this fun outreach ministry!

2021-11-08T10:13:52-06:00Nov 8, 2021|Congregations|0 Comments

2022 Ministerial Standing Form

The 2022 Ministerial Standing Application Form is now available for download. Full explanation of how to complete the form and requirements for standing may be found here.

Active Clergy

Download a Fillable PDF Form for Active Clergy

Download a Print Form for Active Clergy

Retired-Inactive Clergy

Download a Fillable PDF Form for Retired-Inactive Clergy

Download a Print Form for Retired-Inactive Clergy

2021-11-02T10:33:36-05:00Oct 27, 2021|Clergy News|0 Comments

Disciples Supporting Afghan Families

Loving and Helping Our New Neighbors

Soon Afghan families will be our new neighbors as they move into the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma. Some of our Disciple congregations are already making preparations to help welcome them. As you might imagine, the needs to help one family relocate are tremendous, and there will be many families who need our help. If your congregation would like to join this ministry and work together, please contact Mary Heath, Chair of the Region’s Refugee & Immigration Commission or the Regional Office. Please note there are many resources to help understand the needs of our Afghan communities. The resources below are just a start!

Disciples Hospitality & Welcome

These links will take you to the most comprehensive resources to learn about Disciples hospitality and welcome of Afghanistan refugees into our midst. You are welcome to use any and/or all of these resources in your congregation.

Disciples Statements on Refugees and Immigration

Share this video from Rev. Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President, and this video from Week of Compassion on Afghan Welcoming.

Disciples Refugees & Immigration Ministries (RIM)

These links will direct you to many resources for your congregation to learn more about the Afghan refugees.

Web Resources   Facebook Resources

Week of Compassion

Refugees and Displaced People

Church World Service

Church World Service is an organization in the US serving the Afghan resettlement program. There are twenty-one CWS offices around the US. Just recently, CWS approved the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program to make it possible for CWS to provide resources to communities who want to partner with CWS who are further than 100 miles from a CSW office, places like Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Please follow the links below to help your congregation learn about the CWS Afghan Resettlement ministries and worship resources.

5 Ways You Can Help Welcome Afghans Video

Resources and Worship Guide for Reflecting and Praying for the Displaced

Oklahoma Congregations Already Preparing

The Region of Oklahoma has eight congregations already preparing to help in the resettlement of Afghan families.

  • Edmond Trinity
  • Norman FCC – working ecumenically in the Norman community
  • OKC Crown Heights
  • OKC Western Oaks
  • Ponca City FCC
  • Stillwater FCC – working ecumenically in the Stillwater community; OSU has contributed housing
  • Tulsa Harvard Avenue – working ecumenically in the Tulsa community
  • Weatherford Federated

How Your Congregation can Participate

The needs of resettlement are great. Here are some of the many ways your congregation can be a partner in this ministry.

1. Pray for these Afghans who have been displaced from their home and are seeking a new home — here.
2. Partner with a larger congregation who is already in motion.
3. Designate a point person in your congregation to contact one of the congregations noted above to see what the needs are and report back to your board to determine the best way for your congregation to partner. Some of the needs include:

  • financial support for rent, utilities, legal services
  • medical care
  • transportation
  • furniture and home goods
  • appropriate seasonal clothing for adults and children
  • language interpreters for Dari and Pashto
  • volunteers when the time comes

4. Make a financial contribution to the Region’s Restricted Fund: Refugee & Immigration Afghan Resettlement.

We cannot do this ministry by ourselves. We work best together. Let us welcome and love our new neighbors with joy and gratitude!

Peace & God’s Grace,
Rev. Pamela Holt

2021-10-12T14:52:18-05:00Oct 12, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Regional Minister Travel Update

The Regional Executive Committee has taken into consideration the Regional Ministers’ Travel during this continued pandemic, and especially during the surge of the Delta Variant of COVID-19. The Executive Committee created the following protocols for our Regional Ministers who long to be with congregations, but who also recognize the risks as they move from congregation to congregation. This new protocol is designed to remain effective until further notice.

Regional Ministers Travel During a Pandemic
09.16.2021

The mission of the Regional Church is to connect, equip, and empower Disciples of Christ across the Region of Oklahoma. The attendance and participation of Regional staff at various services and events across the Region are vital to the continued ministry of the Regional Church. Yet in the midst of a global pandemic, Regional staff must take into careful consideration everyone they may come into contact with during their ministry, including a significant population that is unable to be vaccinated.

As such, the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Regional Church (Disciples of Christ) of Oklahoma have instructed Regional staff that attendance and participation in such services and events will only be permitted so long as all participants at the service or event will be following CDC guidelines, including but not limited to wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

Should the Regional Ministers arrive and participants are not adhering to the expected CDC guidelines noted above, the Regional Ministers are instructed to leave the service or event immediately.

2021-10-07T15:58:14-05:00Oct 7, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Diana Butler Bass Speaking at FCC Norman

The Oklahoma Region and First Christian Church Norman invite you to welcome Dr. Diana Butler Bass this fall. The award-winning author of 11 books, a popular speaker and inspiring preacher will share about how faith intersects with culture and politics.

Event Schedule

Please join us at FCC Norman, 220 S. Webster, Norman on the following dates.

No Registration Needed • Masks Required • Social Distancing Encouraged

Friday, November 5, 2021
7:00-8:30 pm  Lecture: Jesus: The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever?

Saturday, November, 6, 2021
9:30-11:00 am  Lecture: Jesus: The Story and Our Stories

Sunday, November 7, 2021
8:40 am worship – preaching, Q&A 9:30 am
10:45 am worship – preaching

About Dr. Bass

Diana Butler Bass (Ph.D., Duke) is one of America’s most trusted commentators on religion and contemporary spirituality. Her bylines include The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN.com, Atlantic.com, USA Today, Huffington Post, Christian Century, and Sojourners. She has commented in the media widely on CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, CBC, FOX, Sirius XM, TIME, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and in multiple global news outlets.

You may follow her at dianabutlerbass.com or on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. She writes a twice-weekly newsletter, The Cottage, which may be found on Substack.

For information or questions about the event call FCC Norman at 405-329-2192. Download the flyer.

Books Available for Purchase and Signing

2021-10-13T14:37:11-05:00Oct 7, 2021|Congregations|0 Comments

2021 Charitable Contribution Changes

2021 Charitable Giving Tax Benefit Changes

The following information has been compiled from the Oklahoma Disciples Foundation for informational purposes only. It is recommended you check with your accountant or a tax advisor for details regarding this new tax benefit and your charitable gifts.

Expanded tax benefits have been enacted for individuals and businesses through the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, last December.

In 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) expanded the deductibility of charitable contributions in 2020 allowing up to $300 for cash contributions to charity in 2020 to taxpayers taking the standard deduction.

2021 Charitable Contribution Deductions

In 2021, the charitable contribution deductions is $300 for individual taxpayers taking a standard deduction and married couples filing joint returns can deduct charitable (cash) gifts up to $600.

The requirements for deductibility:

  • Donations must be in cash (or by check, credit or debit card). This does not apply to contributions of property, marketable securities, real property, or otherwise.
  • The donation must be to a public charity. Donations to donor advised funds or most private foundations will not qualify.
  • Cash contributions carried forward from prior years do not qualify.

Charitable IRA Rollovers

Eligible taxpayers (those over 70½ years of age) have a beneficial way to support their favorite, qualified charities, including your congregation and the Regional Church, through the Charitable IRA Rollover, which has been in effect permanently since 2015. These charitable gifts can replace the required minimum distributions (RMD) that are required annually from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

If you are an IRA owner over the age of 70½, you can make charitable gifts directly from your IRA totaling up to $100,000 per year. These contributions will not be included in your adjusted taxable gross income for that year. Your IRA manager will be able to provide you with the paperwork.

If you are interested in making a gift to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma through an IRA Charitable Rollover, please contact the Regional Office at office@okdisciples.org or 405.528.3577.

Deductions

For individual taxpayers who itemize deductions: Individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions may now deduct certain charitable contributions up to 100% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (“AGI”). Prior to the CARES Act, taxpayers were limited to deducting certain charitable contributions up to 60% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

The requirements for deductibility up to 100% of AGI:

  • Donations must be in cash (or by check, credit or debit card).
  • Donations must be made to a public charity (not to a donor advised fund or most private foundations).
  • Donations must be made during 2021.

If a donor gives more than 100% of their adjusted gross income, the donor may carry forward excess deductions for up to five subsequent tax years; although this deductibility may be set to expire after 2021.

Additionally, corporate limits for charitable cash deductions has increased from 10% to 25% of taxable income. Businesses donating food inventory in 2021 may also qualify for increased deduction limits.

Have you made a charitable gift this year?

You can easily make online gifts to the Region here or to the Oklahoma Disciples Foundation on their website to one of the funds supporting the ministries and missions of the church. Click this link “Together We Touch Lives” to see a list of endowment funds that support church ministry, missions and grant funding. Gifts to Disciple Club, Endowments or the Grants Program may be made in honor or memory of an individual. If requested, the Foundation will send a gift acknowledgement on your behalf. For information call (405) 525-6530

2021-10-12T14:02:53-05:00Oct 6, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Wonderful! Restful! Fruitful!

This summer, the Region granted me a three month sabbatical.  I was hungry for some rest, yes, but I was also very hungry to find a deeper, stronger, more resilient faith.  After a wonderful, restful, and fruitful sabbatical, I am pleased to return to the call to serve the Regional Church!  I am grateful for the Regional Executive Committee and the Regional Board for their encouragement and support for this sabbatical time.  And I am also grateful for the Regional Staff and Rev. Paxton Jones for their dedication, knowledge, and wisdom to continue the ministry as expected.

So what did I do on this sabbatical?  Several things.  On May 1st, Randy and I moved temporarily to a cottage on a sizable horse ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.  We brought our cat, our dog, and our two horses with us.  While there, we also welcomed a feral cat, a longhorn, and a crawdad!  The month of May was a muddy mess.  It rained every single day!

I began this sabbatical by taking the Faith Institute’s “Teaching Healthy Boundaries 101 & 201.” While this course was intended for me to join our other trainers in preparation for teaching Healthy Boundaries to clergy, it really helped me understand more fully why self-care boundaries are so important for clergy, even during sabbaticals.

Randy and I both were refreshed in our souls by sharing many evenings with friends we have not seen in several years. Around many tables, we broke bread and drank wine. We laughed and we wept with one another as we shared our joys and lamented our sorrows we had experienced over the last several years.

Family Time

We spent two weeks of this sabbatical time in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where we gathered with our children, our three year old grandson, and Randy’s sister and brother-in-law. This time was absolutely delight-full as we ate together and played together. Our adventures included fishing, hiking, shopping, and exploring through the eyes of a three year old! We also gathered as family at Lobo Lookout at Wolf Creek Pass to finally spread the ashes of our son Brook who died in December of 2018.

We also gathered with my family to finally join the ashes of my mother, Shirley Green, with my father in Arlington, Texas.

Sorrow permeated my sabbatical when Rev. Dr. Don Pittman died. And that same week, my favorite professor from TCU, Dr. Ronald B. Flowers died, and Rev. Bob Stewart died. All three of these men influenced my call to ministry in profound ways. I cling to the joy of knowing them and remembering them in simple and profound ways.

True Connection

The pinnacle of my sabbatical was a surprise invitation to participate in an eight day horse conference north of Dallas, Texas.  The leader would be a woman I had never heard of, Ingela Larsson Smith, a professional horsewoman from Canada, who was offering an opportunity to have “True Connection” with your horse.  I had one hour to decide and pay to reserve my place.  I had the time, the horse, the trailer, and the money, and a very supportive husband!

Of course, I went with one set of expectations and came away awed and fulfilled . . . let me explain, very simply.  In the first lecture, Ingela shared that she was a professional dressage rider and horse trainer around the world. She has trained the Queen of England’s horses and horses for the Sheik in the Middle East. Impressive, right? But she continued to say that her performance path left her heart yearning for something more, something deeper. So she turned to the Christian faith. She shared with her twelve students that we could never have “true connection” with our horses unless we had a “true connection with God.”  Full stop, right?  In other words, we as humans can make horses perform and work, but for a horse to choose us as a leader, and choose to be in relationship with us, we have to find a way to be fully present.

Before we ever got to the arena with our horses, she invited us to consider our relationship with God.  God’s deepest desire, or hunger, is that we will choose to be in full relationship with God.  That is easier said that done and where we often get confused. For a visual, Ingela placed three chairs in front of us.  One of the three chairs represented the unbelievers in the world.  People who have not yet heard the good news or choose not to believe it.  A second chair represented all the believers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, all those who believe in God and have a faith tradition.  This is a good place to be, of course, but it is a place where we are also driven by the cultural demands of society . . . achieving, doing, ladders to success, demands. It becomes a place where we begin to hunger for more and more only to discover exhaustion and depletion.

The third chair represented God — the full, unconditional, steadfast love of God, who is fully present to us and lavishes us with love and grace when we choose to be in God’s presence, every time.  This is the place to gently push aside and silence the many voices that question our goodness and to trust that you will hear a voice of blessing, and most importantly to realize that God walks with us, together.  Ingela asked us, “In which chair would you like to sit?”

Of course, we all opted for the third chair because we are deeply hungry for this true connection with God, but we realized that we all, even as the best disciples of Christ, find ourselves in the second chair most often, distracted by the demands of our culture and daily work/tasks, and often lured by the critical voices in our head.  To have true connection with your horse, Ingela said, you must find your way into the chair of God for yourself, to be loved without any distraction, to be fully and truly accepted for all that you are created in God’s image, and to be anointed over and over again with goodness and mercy. This, Ingela said, is the kind of presence you will need to be with your horse — fully present in your mind, in your heart, in your soul.  At that moment, your horse will find true connection with you and you will walk together.

In the afternoon practical applications of Ingela’s lectures with our horses, all twelve of us found that magical and mystical moment of true connection with our horses. As you might imagine, holding on to it is another challenge!

I was on the edge of my seat for every word Ingela uttered about faith and relationships. And, feeling truly inspired and connected, equipped and empowered, I have discovered a new level of servant leadership both with my horse and with ministry. What I know for sure is that it is not all about me, it is about “we” and what we do together.

Again, I am deeply grateful for this time of rest and renewal to discover a deeper, stronger, more resilient connection with God, and I am equally as grateful to return to you as we do ministry together!

Peace & God’s Grace,
Pam

2021-08-10T12:40:35-05:00Aug 10, 2021|Pamela Holt Blog, Regional News|Comments Off on Wonderful! Restful! Fruitful!

To Be As Generous and Loving as Children

By Rev. Mary Heath, Chair
Commission on Refugee & Immigration Ministries

On July 23rd, 2020, I received a text at 8:07 from my friend in Del Rio, Texas. We had been emailing and talking for about a year. I started connecting with border organizations when the Oklahoma Commission on Refugee and Immigration Ministries began. This organization in Del Rio at the time and for some time had been the busiest.

My friend asked if she could call and of course I said yes. She asked if Oklahoma Disciples were ready to take in a family. She had a large family that would be more difficult to place but thought about us immediately. When she told the family, it might be a little difficult to be placed, their reply was “God is good, God will provide.” My friend believed this family was just right for us, and we for them. I told her we would sponsor this family and she was thrilled! She knew she had called the right organization and that they would arrive at 11:45 pm that evening. I told her I had to get busy and would text when the family was safe in our care.

The fact my friend cares so much about the people she helps is the main reason I developed the friendship. She works hard without pay to give men, women, and children a chance at a new life and hope for a future. She takes photos with them, remembers them, and checks in on their progress and wellbeing. My friend has been working night and day lately.

I frantically began making phone calls, that is the way processing works. The organizations have to get the families sent to sponsors very quickly. I began thinking of everything I needed to do and everything the family needed. I wasn’t exactly panicked, but close to it.

Thankfully, many Disciples stepped up immediately and offered assistance of all kinds. One particular Disciple did more for me and the family than I could have imagined. The apartment for the family was not ready and we could not have taken them so late at night anyway. In only a few hours Jennifer Gallaway and her family arrived at Edmond Trinity Christian Church with air mattresses, along with complete bedding and a stuffed toy chosen especially for each child. Jennifer’s amazing family with huge hearts also brought toiletries and snacks for everyone. (The teenage girl’s favorite lotion is still guava body lotion from Bath & Bodyworks that was bought especially for her.)

But this was not all. There are many special moments in ministry, and there are some moments in ministry when God’s presence is fully recognized. There are moments when people know what it is to follow Jesus and it brings me to tears. This was such a moment.

Jennifer’s grade school-age daughter and nephew broke into their piggy banks to bring the family money. I stood there for some time before I could say anything. And I wasn’t the only person standing in our church nursery with tears. God is good. God will provide.

It was hard to find the words that could express how that kind and generous act by children made me feel. I will remember that moment for as long as I am on earth, and maybe even after. Part of the money given by the children went to buy a dress for the refugee mom. She was so exited to own another dress! This is the dress she wore to church at Edmond Trinity on their first Sunday in Oklahoma.

When we picked up the family at the Oklahoma City bus station, they were exhausted. They had taken a 13-hour bus ride with three children ages 12, 4, and 3. Just imagine that. And the mother was almost eight months pregnant. She had not yet seen a doctor. So, my husband Don and I picked them up with two cars and borrowed car seats.

They did not know us. They did not know the place they were. They did not know what to expect or what would happen. They did not know how they would make it in this place or to what extent we would help. I finally got around to asking them if it was scary to have to trust in total strangers? They replied, “Yes, but God is good, God will provide. We trust in God.”

This is still the response when we have hit a bump, and there have been several. The system is not set up to help families who want to live here. In fact, it is set up specifically so that it is very difficult and frustrating.

Our family has great faith and are devout Christians who are so interesting to talk to on subjects like religion, politics, faith, and the Bible. Everyone in the family is really sharp and funny. Time with them is very enjoyable. They believe everything will turn out the way in which God wishes, and they trust this, and they are quite right.

God will provide, and it is through good Disciples with kind and compassionate hearts like Jennifer, her family, and you. We have had wonderful support throughout our Region, however more is needed. This family has to be totally supported by us and a couple of small African churches in Oklahoma City.

Donations to the Region for the care of the family is greatly appreciated. Volunteers to help out with the family are greatly appreciated. Please prayerfully consider the situation they are in as are many families, and give what you are able in funds and time. And God will indeed provide, when we can be as generous and loving as children. Click here to learn more about Oklahoma’s Refugee & Immigration Ministries.