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Silent Night, Holy Night

Images from congregations that streamed Christmas Eve worship.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman. “The Work of Christmas.” The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations, Friends United Press, 1985

2022-01-10T13:40:05-06:00Jan 10, 2022|Congregations|0 Comments

Help! Our Church Insurance Premiums Are So High!

In December, the Regional Church was shocked when we received the 2022 Insurance Premiums. The premiums have increased a lot! Several congregational leaders have called us asking “why is our insurance so high?”

Timothy S. Harris, President and CEO of the Insurance Board published this article in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of The Steward. Here is the explanation in part: (Read the full article here.)

I’ve received inquiries from customers and agents alike as to why insurance premiums have increased during the pandemic. After all, many churches have not been conducting in-person services which some have translated to suggest fewer and less costly claims. Unfortunately, while the incidence of certain types of claims has reduced during the pandemic, the notion that the cost of claims has subsided is far from accurate. Property claim costs in 2020 were up 31% over 2019, on top of a 14.5% increase the prior year. In fact, despite the pandemic, 2020 property claims were among the highest in the Insurance Board Program’s history. Property claims at the end of 2020 were more than double the claim costs in 2015 yet we have not doubled the premiums charged to policyholders.

Additionally, during the pandemic, supply costs and materials used to repair damaged churches have increased. All of these factors add to the costs of claims. Premium costs charged in the Insurance Board Program are a direct function of the claim costs paid. Churches are experiencing more frequent and more costly claims. Because Insurance Board only serves churches and their affiliated ministries, these costs are all attributable to church claims. For the 6 years ending 12/31/2020, the top IB church property claims were as follows:

As the chart illustrates, water damage claims (frozen pipes, appliance leaks, sprinkler leakage, water intrusion from weather, sump pump failures, etc.) accounted for nearly a third of all property claims and more than a quarter of all property claim dollars spent. Over a six-year span, water damage claims alone have added an average of more than $1,000 per church, per year, or nearly 10% to insurance premiums. Water damage claims are largely preventable and are often the result of deteriorating infrastructure and lack of adequate maintenance.

We’ve all heard the axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true when it comes to church insurance. Some effort and, yes, cost expended on the front-end addressing building issues (leaky roofs and pipes, improper drainage, caulking, broken or clogged gutters and downspouts, etc.) can have a material impact on not only improving church properties, but also in significantly reducing insurance premiums. While not all insurance claims are preventable (the very reason insurance exists), many are, and others can be mitigated. Somewhere along the way, however, building maintenance has become less of a priority. I’ve heard parishioners say, understandably, that they want their stewardship going to missions, i.e., sheltering the homeless, feeding the poor, caring for the elderly, etc., all while the roof leaks, the walls are stained from water intrusion, the gutters need repaired, pipes and appliances are dripping. Yet, the church is often mission headquarters and the gathering space for God’s work and people. The risk management techniques communities of churches employ within their ministries (including resources that can be utilized at no charge) can go a long way in reducing the premiums this same community pays for insurance. Please reach out to us or visit our website to learn how you can improve risk at your ministry.

2022-01-10T11:23:51-06:00Jan 10, 2022|Congregations|0 Comments

Midwest Blvd. CC Leaves Beautiful Legacy

In 1954, Midwest Boulevard Christian Church in Midwest City came into being. Two and a half years ago the members begin the prayerful discernment process of closing their congregation. When COVID-19 hit in March of 2020, they determined that April of 2020 would end their time together as a worshiping community. In September of 2021, they sold their building to another congregation who was needing more space. We lament that a church with faithful, hard working Disciples has closed, and yet we celebrate that their ministries continue in a variety of ways.

Throughout this process, the remaining members have worked together to create a beautiful legacy story for Midwest Blvd. They followed the Christian Church Foundation‘s resource called “Sacred Story,” and they met regularly with Eric Gray from the Oklahoma Disciples Foundation and Pam Holt, the Regional Minister. They prayerfully and thoughtfully determined how to disperse their assets, both physical and financial, and they have been quite generous to the church in many ways and to the local charities they have supported for years. They gave 10% of the sale of the building to Disciples Mission Fund to close the covenant they have had for years with the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). They gave a generous contribution to the Oklahoma Christian Church Commission who originally granted dollars to purchase the land for Midwest Blvd. to build their church upon.  They gave a generous contribution to the Oklahoma Regional Church, some undesignated and some designated for youth ministries. They also will establish an endowment fund with Oklahoma Disciples Foundation to continue to support the Oklahoma church and its ministries.

We give thanks for their many years of making Disciples who were joyful witnesses of the Good News in Midwest City, the Region, the denomination, and the world. Thanks be to God!

Pictured left to right: Van Wylie from Midwest Blvd. CC presents checks to (l) Regional Minister Rev. Pamela Holt and (r) Regional Moderator Jacqueline Bass.

2021-12-13T16:29:29-06:00Dec 13, 2021|Congregations|0 Comments

Imagine God’s Love Revealed

We imagine God’s love revealed when Jesus called disciples to follow him
And we imagine God’s love revealed when our Region nurtures persons for ministry preparing them for ordination and commissioning.

We imagine God’s love revealed when Jesus drew his disciples into retreat
And we imagine God’s love revealed when our Region gathers children, youth, and adults in summer camps.

We imagine God’s love revealed when the Apostle Paul cared for congregations and helped them find their leaders
And we imagine God’s love revealed when our Region provides care for our pastors, encouragement to lay leaders, and support in transitions.

We imagine God’s love revealed when the early church found ways to break down racial, political, and economic barriers to form true community
And we imagine God’s love revealed when our Region assists pastors and congregations to honestly confront racism in our own time.

We imagine God’s love revealed when a young couple in Bethlehem, overwhelmed by God’s love, gave birth to one in whom they could see God’s face
And we imagine God’s love revealed when we see the face of God in our neighbor, the stranger, and the refugee.

We invite you to share your gift to the Christmas offering supporting the ministries of our Region as we continue our witness to God’s love in our midst.

The Christmas Offering is received December 12 & 19

2021-12-13T11:54:11-06:00Dec 11, 2021|Congregations|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|Comments Off on Pumpkin Patch Celebrates 25 Years of Outreach Ministry

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|Comments Off on Diana Butler Bass Speaking at FCC Norman

Are You Protected?

In the last month, our Region has become aware of congregations who called non-Disciples pastors who have unfortunately taken steps to lead the long time Disciples congregation out of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This is not a new phenomenon.   It happens in many of our Regions and not just with Disciples of Christ congregations.  To help us be aware and to help Regions navigate these moments, Sheldon Culver and John Dorhauer published Steeplejacking:  How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, Brooklyn, NY:  Ig Publishing, 2007.  This book outlines the history of steeplejacking, eye-opening examples of takeovers.  Two of the most common ways this happens come from (a) families who have been long time members of the congregation who become a part of a conspiracy to destroy their church or (b) by calling a non-Disciples minister.

This is not a time for anyone to panic.  However, it is time for all of our 136 Disciples congregations in Oklahoma to do some housekeeping to insure your congregation is as protected from a takeover as it can be.

The most important strategy for congregations and clergy is to be informed and aware of the dynamics steeplejacking movement.   Because your Regional staff cannot come to every congregation, we are encouraging you to  purchase the book and do a book study with the leadership of the congregation.

A second important strategy is to spend some time reviewing our Disciples Identity and the Design.  What does it mean to be Disciples of Christ, how can we renew our Covenant together, and how can we strengthen our connection to our sibling congregations?

A third important strategy is to review the Constitution and Bylaws and the Deed to the church property.  Does the Constitution and/or Bylaws have a “reversionary clause”?  Does the Deed to the church property have a “reversionary clause”?   A Reversionary Clause includes these words:  If or when the congregation ceases to be a Disciples of Christ worshiping community, the property and all assets will revert to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma.  While these are not fail safe protective measures, it does eliminate some vulnerability and will help the congregational leadership and the Region better protect the congregation if and/or when this issue appears in your congregation.

Steeplejacking or takeovers of congregations are painful and hurtful to the soul of the faith community.  If we can take some simple steps as outlined above, we will continue to be disciples of Christ together continuing to bring the love of Jesus Christ and the healing and wholeness of Jesus Christ to our communities.

2021-09-14T06:20:41-05:00Sep 14, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Are You Protected?

Disciples Were Virtual And Together

Nothing Can Separate Us

Was it a different Disciples gathering?  Yes.  It was the visible markers of a General Assembly: exhibit hall, bible study, workshops, and worship in digital presence. There was even the exhibit hall scavenger hunt.

Was it a different Disciples gathering?  Yes.  But, occasional tech issues, screens, slow internet, typing chats, video chats, and home communion cannot, has not, kept the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in local congregations, 31 Regions, or the General Church from the work of ministry that God has given us.  That was evident as the Disciples Virtual Gathering moved through the day on August 7th.  Like Regions and congregations have done, our General Ministries have discovered new ways to do their work on our behalf and tell the stories of their work.

It is hard to know how many Oklahoma Disciples participated in the Disciples Virtual Gathering.  We hope to get news of participation in the coming month.  A chat box served as lobby space where you could scroll through name after name to chat with individuals or drop a “hello from . . .” to the entire gathering.  A photo booth for a selfie put faces to names.  There were more workshops than one could attend.  Fortunately, those who paid to attend Disciples Virtual Gathering will be able to replay the recordings which is not something that has been offered, except for worship, at previous General Assemblies.

We offer our thanks to the dreamers and planners who created the gathering out of digital code, organized speakers, and managed the technology during the day.  We give thanks for the workshop (webinar) leaders. We give thanks for the office staff and leaders of our General Ministries.

In her sermon, Rev. Terri Hord Owens reminded us: “Church – Disciples – we don’t need a new identity. We just need to be the church we say we are.”

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.

That kind of church is needed in digital and physically spaces.  That kind of church hasn’t been distant when responding to natural and human made tragedy here in Oklahoma and around the world.  We are masked when necessary to protect community, but not sanitized to suffering that our action can ease or stop.  It just takes a willingness to recognize our neighbor.  “What are we willing to do to participate in intentional Christian community?”  That is what the Commission for Children, Youth, and Young Adults asked and used as a compass when designing the health protocols that would allow the Region to offer summer camp this year.  It is a good question for your congregation, and the Region, to consider however long it takes for this pandemic to mutate from health catastrophe to health nuisance.

Be the church you say you are.  Be a blessing Disciples.

2021-08-10T09:00:10-05:00Aug 10, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Disciples Were Virtual And Together

Village Fosters New Ministry at Yale Avenue Christian Church

Yale Avenue Christian Church, Tulsa, gave birth to a new ministry this summer as they began a support group for foster parents called the Village Fosters. This group will meet to provide support, resources, encouragement, and advice about the foster system. They are partnering with other like-minded agencies to provide as much love and support as possible for these families.

Rev. Andy Campbell, Sr. Minister at Yale Avenue said, “We are all a part of the foster system, and we need the best possible outcomes.” The church has 11 foster families in their congregation.

The first official meeting of Village Fosters will be July 12, 2021 at 6:30 pm. The church looks forward to seeing where this journey takes them as they work to help those families who are going above and beyond to make the village better.

Village Fosters kicked things off with a cookout with all kinds of fun and fellowship on June 25th. Each of the foster families received a Tulsa Zoo Family Membership as a beginning to this ministry. Everyone had a great time!

For more information about Village Fosters email Rev. Campbell at andy@yacc.org or contact the church at (918) 747-1304.

2021-06-30T11:42:32-05:00Jun 30, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Village Fosters New Ministry at Yale Avenue Christian Church

Scholarships for Disciples Virtual Gathering

The Region is pleased to announce the availability of scholarships for Oklahoma Disciples who wish to attend the Disciples Virtual Gathering event on August 7, 2021.

The online event is an opportunity for Disciples to connect, experience Bible study, learn from workshops, worship and imagine new ways of gathering as church.

Apply today for a $25 scholarship to reimburse your cost of Regular Registration. Applications are due no later than August 6th.

2021-06-21T15:02:55-05:00Jun 21, 2021|Congregations|Comments Off on Scholarships for Disciples Virtual Gathering