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Paxton Jones: Peace Offerings

When our younger daughter was 2½ years old, her pediatrician advised us that she needed tubes put into her ears to combat a series of infections threatening her hearing. Arrangements were made; on Sunday I informed my congregation from the pulpit that I would be out of the office the next day and why; and too soon morning arrived.

In terms of medical procedures, putting tubes in a child’s ears is relatively minor. But this was my child, my baby, and though she marched down the hall to the surgical suite like a trooper, I was a nervous wreck. My anxiety was compounded by the absence of anyone waiting with us—no elder, no deacon, no one from the congregation, though it was obvious the previous day in church how anxious their young pastor was.

My wife and I were lonely and scared…and then the district minister of my region walked into the waiting room. He was the answer to a prayer I was too afraid to voice. He knew, when no one else seemed aware, that even pastors need pastoral care. And I swore to myself then and there that given the chance I would be “a pastor to pastors” whenever and however I could.

This episode is a foundational piece as to why I went into regional ministry and why, when my friend Pam Holt called, I came out of retirement to serve as your Acting Regional Minister for three months while she’s on a well-deserved sabbatical. I’m happy to be here—happy to minister with and to you, and to and for her—until she returns, hopefully renewed and refreshed, on August 1st.

I hope to encounter you soon, somewhere along the journey, here in Oklahoma!

Paxton Jones
Acting Regional Minister

2021-05-05T15:23:33-05:00May 5, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

FEMA Funeral Assistance for Covid-19 Deaths

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020.

Assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or District of Columbia

How to Apply

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number: 844-684-6333 TTY: 800-462-7585
This dedicated toll-free phone number is open Monday-Friday 8 am to 8 pm CT. Call this number and FEMA’s representatives will help you complete a COVID-19 Assistance application. The interview should take about 20 minutes. Multilingual services are available.

Visit the FEMA Funeral Assistance website page HERE

Eligibility

To be eligible for funeral assistance, you must meet these conditions:
• Death must have occurred in the United States
• Death certificate must indicate the death attributed to COVID-19
• Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020.
• No requirement for deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien.

Covered Costs

• Transportation for up to two individuals to identify the deceased individual
• Transfer of remains
• Casket or urn
• Burial plot or cremation niche
• Marker or headstone
• Clergy or officiant services
• Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
• Clergy or officiant services
• Arrangement of the funeral ceremony
• Use of funeral home equipment or staff
• Cremation or interment costs
• Costs associated with producing and certifying multiple death certificates
• Additional expenses mandated by an applicable local or state government laws or ordinances.

Further Information

Funeral Assistance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and a Video:
“Providing Financial Assistance for COVID-19 Related Funeral Expenses” can be found HERE

2021-05-05T14:34:29-05:00May 5, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Donate to 2021 Spring Annual Fund

April 12, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

Christ has risen! Christ has risen, indeed! Like the disciples, I hope you can feel the joy of the resurrected Christ!

Thank you for being a generous donor to the Regional Church’s Annual Fund. Your gift is an important way to be a “witness” that Christ is risen, forgiveness is offered, and hope is everywhere. We are grateful for every gift which helps us stay connected and together serve those in our communities who are broken, suffering, and/or most vulnerable.

This past year, love has looked and felt like sacrifice in so many ways. And yet, despite the sacrifices, our loving and serving like Jesus and the Disciples has been extraordinary. Your gifts to the Regional Church have brought some unimaginable joy!

Your gifts have provided the Region with resources so that with up-to-date technology, we have found our way, like you, through the closed sanctuary doors into windows filled with prayer, music, preaching and sharing in the Lord’s Table. In these moments of connection, whether it be a church in our neighborhood or one across the state, we have experienced the love of God embracing us like never before. Albeit different, the Regional Church has not missed a beat connecting with clergy and congregations in all of the various circumstances of the life of the church.

With your generous gifts, we continue to provide clergy and leaders with education and confidence that there are many resources for caring in crisis and long term recovery from any storm that arises.

With your generous gifts, the Region continues to reach out to provide courage and strength and dollars for those who are in need. Since the first of 2021, the Region has helped clergy and families who have been sick and yet recovered from COVID-19. We have partnered with Week of Compassion to provide financial relief to families who have struggled with paying their rent and utilities, and even more financial relief to families and congregations who suffered damages from the frigid, sub-zero winter weather.

As we look forward, we are cautious and excited for the Region to offer in-person camp this summer for our youth. We are also already making plans for the 2022 Regional Assembly to be held in-person at Harvard Avenue Christian Church in Tulsa. We know it will be a grand celebration of gathering, worshiping together, and making a joyful noise throughout the land!

Your gift is important. And, we are grateful for every gift which we turn right back around to help you and your church to love your neighbors and serve like Jesus.

Please give generously to the 2021 Annual Fund of the Regional Church! The depth and breadth of love in your gift truly makes a difference. Again, thank you for your part in the meaningful, life-giving work of the Regional Church.

Stay safe! Stay well! Stay hopeful!

Peace & God’s Grace,

Pamela G. Holt, Regional Minister

To learn about your Regional Church read the 2020 General Board Report or watch the video.

God has not caused the current breakdown of our world.
But here is what I know about Easter:
God is creating in us something more beautiful for having been broken.
Crucifixion to resurrection.
That’s how God works.

Rev. Cameron Trimble, author of
“Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight”

Gifts may be given securely through Givelify or online here or checks may be made payable to Christian Church in Oklahoma, noted Annual Fund, and mailed to 301 NW 36th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73118-8661.

2021-04-12T13:44:38-05:00Apr 12, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Ready? Set? Go! Wait, I’m not ready!

Remember the children’s game, “Ready?  Set?  Go!”  These are the words I’m hearing in my mind as I prepare to depart my Regional responsibilities for a long awaited three month sabbatical. Am I “ready?”  No, I’m not!  Am I “set?”  Wait! I’m not ready!

I entered into the work force when I was 15 years old, and I have worked every year since with only two weeks vacation most years. In the latter years, four weeks but I never took all four at once. I was eligible for a sabbatical in 2007, but I gave it to my colleague instead who desperately needed it. I was eligible for a sabbatical again in 2013, but I chose to forego it so I could apply for this current position. I was supposed to take this sabbatical last year, but COVID-19 came. This year, I’m going, ready or not!

I have created a list of things to do while on sabbatical! After being trained to become a Healthy Boundaries trainer, my list includes rigorous exercise, playing with horses, reading a long list of books, writing every day, volunteering at a local community garden or food pantry, burying my mother’s ashes and spreading our son’s ashes, and reconnecting with family and many (vaccinated) friends.

My executive coach, Rev. Cameron Trimble, has advised me to set aside this long, too-long, list of things to do. Rather, she says, I need to make a list of ways “to be” ~ to rest and reclaim the person God has intended. Robert Saler in Planning Sabbaticals reminds me of the same wisdom in four important points:

  1. He recommends taking the “joy vs. obligation test.” Is the activity on my list going to bring joy or is it an obligation? Sounds a bit like Marie Kondo!
  2. He cautions not to make the mistake of creating a bucket list rather than balancing energy. The goals of a renewal leave all depend upon a deliberate pace with lots of “downtime” for reflection and processing built in.
  3. He encourages reveling in unplanned detours, surprises, or other deviations from the “script”. In other words, make space for improvisation or the Holy Spirit.
  4. Most of all . . . dream.  Breathe. Give yourself over to the vulnerability of showing the world what it is that feeds your soul. That trust is the cornerstone of sabbaticals that renew and delight. Robert Saler, Planning Sabbaticals, (Missouri: Chalice Press, 2019) 39-48.

I think I will listen to these two wise, experienced mentors who are both encouraging me to practice being and not doing. I truly pray my time away will be filled with the grace and mercy of God to be renewed and prepared for a new season of shared ministry and mission with you all.

So, ready or not, I am going! As I walk out the door in a few weeks I am reminded of Wayne Muller’s words:

“Jesus did not wait until everyone had been properly cared for, until all who sought him had healed. He did not ask permission to go, nor did he leave anyone behind “on call,” or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm. When the moment for rest had come, the time for healing was over. He would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray . . . When Jesus prayed he was at rest, nourished by the healing spirit that saturates those still, quiet places.”  Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (New York: Bantam, 1999), 25.

Like Jesus, I am going, leaving some tasks untended. Unlike Jesus, I have permission! And, I am leaving you in the very competent hands of Rev. Paxton Jones, the Acting Regional Minister, Associate Regional Minister Rev. Michael Davison, and Executive Assistant Ellen Spleth, who serve as the Regional Staff, and of course, the Regional Executive Committee and Board are equipped to handle anything that might arise. Thank you all for this privilege of rest and to be nourished by the healing spirit.

2021-04-07T13:43:05-05:00Apr 7, 2021|Pam Holt Blog, Regional News|0 Comments

Stepping Out From Behind the Screen

I hope that celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ brought joy to you and your congregation! Now begins the season where we see the risen Christ at work, not just in the Bible, but also in our lives.

It is a joy to share that your Regional staff are fully vaccinated. This means that we are able to lift our travel guidelines a bit. Still cautious, and still practicing all the safety protocols, Michael, Pam, and Paxton Jones (Acting Regional Minister during May, June, & July) will begin traveling for congregational worship beginning April 11, 2021.

We will continue to join you in worship via Zoom or Facebook, but now we will be able to join you for special events such as installations or retirements or to fill the pulpit as needed. To be present with you in worship, we expect your congregation to also be practicing all the safety protocols recommended by the CDC, wearing masks, washing your hands, watching your distance.

  • April 11, 2021 – Michael preaching in person at Enid Central CC
  • April 18, 2021 – Pam preaching via Zoom at Tulsa Bethany CC
  • April 18, 2021 – Michael presiding at the retirement of Rev. Charles Ragland, Claremore FCC

Camp and Conference will be in-person this summer. And, beginning this fall, we will also be considering in-person meetings at the Disciples Center.

Over the next few months will be scheduling and attending many pastor installations, retirements and ordination services that have been postponed.

Looking forward to seeing the beauty of Spring!

Peace & God’s Grace,

Regional Minister Pamela Holt

2021-04-06T09:19:16-05:00Apr 6, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

Seminary Scholarships from Phillips Legacy Foundation

Phillips University Legacy Foundation is pleased to offer a merit-based Seminary scholarship program for full-time, first-year seminarians who are pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree, are committed to pastoral ministry, and will attend one of the following Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affiliated seminaries or foundation homes:

Brite Divinity School – Ft. Worth, TX

Christian Theological Seminary – Indianapolis, IN

Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt – Nashville, TN

Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago – Chicago, IL

Disciples Seminary Foundation:

  • Claremont School of Theology – Claremont, CA
  • ILIFF School of Theology – Denver, CO
  • Pacific School of Religion – Berkeley, CA
  • San Francisco Theological Seminary at University of Redlands –San Anselmo, CA

Lexington Theological Seminary – Lexington, KY

Phillips Theological Seminary – Tulsa, OK

The purpose of this program is to perpetuate the mission and the legacy of Phillips University by helping educate people who will be future ministers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

For more information about the Phillips University Legacy Foundation Seminary Scholarship Program, please contact Tamela Harsha, Scholarship Administrator, at (580) 237-4433 or email seminaryscholarships@pulf.org. Applications can be accessed online. The application deadline is Friday, May 14, 2021.

New Endowed Scholarship

Phillips University Legacy Foundation is pleased to announce a newly endowed scholarship fund. The Rev. Dr. Jimmie L. and Connie K. Gentle Scholarship was created by the Gentles’ three sons and their families to honor their parents. (Learn more)

The Jimmie L. and Connie K. Gentle Scholarship will be awarded to a Phillips University Legacy Scholar attending TCU.

Jimmie ’59 Gentle and Connie (Roberts) ’57 Gentle met at Phillips University. After graduation from Phillips University, Jimmie L. Gentle was an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and served congregations in Oklahoma and Arizona. He subsequently spent the majority of his career as the Regional Minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Florida. Connie K. Gentle had a long, successful career as an educator in the Orange County Public School System in Orlando, Florida.

When notified of the establishment of the scholarship, they commented. “Phillips University provided an environment for us to develop a cadre of life long friends. Phillips challenged us to think critically especially regarding the Bible, and led us into an expanding appreciation of the fine arts.”

“Our liberal arts studies helped us mold a global worldview, our lifestyle, and our professional career choices. Now in this conflicted era, more so than ever before, there is still a vital role for the liberal arts university. It should be championed and supported.”

Dr. Donald Gentle said, “Our parents have always believed in the value of higher education. Our family feels that this scholarship is a way to honor their lifelong commitment to education, while creating ongoing support for the education of future generations and continuing the mission of Phillips University.”

2021-03-25T15:27:25-05:00Mar 25, 2021|Regional News|0 Comments

DCEF’s Rick Reisinger to Retire

On January 11, 2021, Rick Reisinger, President of Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), shared his plans with the DCEF Board and staff to retire at year’s end – December 31.

Throughout his career, he has helped DCEF successfully navigate challenges, including high interest rates in the late 70s and early 80s; the Dotcom collapse of the late 90s; the 2007-08 recession; and, the current pandemic.

Through DCEF, Reisinger lives out his faith and love for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by finding innovative ways to meet the financial needs of new and existing congregations and other ministries so they may thrive. Under his leadership DCEF remains focused, not on the past, but on the future of its ministry partners.

2021-01-25T15:55:52-06:00Jan 25, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on DCEF’s Rick Reisinger to Retire

Imagine God’s Limitless Love: Message from GMP Terri Hord Owens

January 14, 2021 – Imagine God’s Limitless Love

Dear Disciples:

Here at the beginning of a new year, there is no doubt that our church – as much of the rest of the world – is in a wilderness season. We find ourselves wandering, longing for the comfort of what we once knew and wondering what the future holds.

I believe that this moment, like all wilderness moments, holds great opportunity for us, if we are brave enough to imagine what might be. I want to invite you to imagine with me.

Several intertwining crises present themselves in this moment, each with a particular opportunity: The pandemic, which has caused the cancellation of our General Assembly and forced so many churches out of their buildings, provides an opportunity to re-envision what church looks like in all expressions and to explore what it means to be a church sent out. The racial justice reckoning happening across the United States gives us an opportunity to revisit our commitment to be a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church; that is, to be the church we say we are.

The economic crisis, in which the wealth gap is widening and leaving many without access to resources, gives us an opportunity to discern how we will love and serve our neighbors, even as we work toward a more just economy for all. The political unrest in the context of American democracy gives us an opportunity to explore what it means to be witnesses to the story of Jesus in a time of such division and change. And the ever-present crisis of climate change provides an opportunity to reaffirm our call to care for God’s good creation, even as we confess and repent our participation in its destruction.

In this moment, then, our calling is clear. As a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, we are called to imagine a church that bears witness to God’s limitless love. We will need to act with courage. We will need to give ourselves permission to change, to let go of processes and structures and practices that don’t serve us well any longer. We will need to let go of fear – the fear of what might happen if we do change, and the fear of the unknown future.

I’d like to share with you some ways we can live into this calling this year by focusing on four key areas: covenant, story, tools, and practice.

Covenant: The Governance Committee of the General Board is doing some important work exploring what it means to live in covenant. They’ve been reflecting on the theological foundations of our governing documents, reviewing possible revisions to the Design, and reexamining how we make decisions and how we speak as a church. As we prepare to hear more about this work later this year, I hope you will pray for those who are discerning a way forward, and for your congregation as it lives in covenant with the whole church.

Story: It is time for us to shape a new narrative for ourselves, particularly in terms of what we see when we imagine ourselves an anti-racist church. Establishing common values and practices lived out in individual contexts will help us shape a vision of a shared future. Every day we must tell our story, share the good news, and make decisions that hold us accountable to be the church we say we are. In the coming months, I will be sharing ideas and inviting others into conversation with me, as together we imagine our new story. Please make sure you’re signed up for my Dear Disciples newsletter and follow Disciples social media so you won’t miss these opportunities to imagine with me.

Tools: There are some new tools already in the works that will help us do ministry together. I hope you have heard about Alex, a new Disciples database that will eventually replace the yearbook. It will provide a real-time directory and help us track churchwide data trends and help our regional and general expressions support congregations more effectively. New communication tools are being developed as well; you can now sign up for email newsletters that bring you the news you want, whether that’s updates on justice efforts, messages from me, news from the whole church, or resources particularly for pastors. In addition, increased collaboration among regional and general ministries are helping us work in covenant with one another. Building relationships across the church, across laity and clergy, and across generations will be key to infusing our church with new energy as we all share our gifts in ministry. You can learn more about Alex at www.disciples.org, where you can also sign up for newsletters and connect with ministries across the church.

Finally, practice: Grounded in spiritual growth and development, we begin with love, letting love lead us into action testifying to the church we say we are. Our faith practices help us understand that love: We share communion at the Lord’s Table as an expression of God’s expansive welcome. We practice baptism and proclaim that we walk in new life. We study and share the ancient stories that point to a new world. We pray together, a practice that reminds us that we are not alone, that we are created and loved by God. We serve our neighbors, acknowledging that we are connected to each other and that we are called to live not for ourselves but for the sake of the world. I hope, as we move into this new year, that you will stay connected to your local congregation, and that you will embrace the practices of our faith that give you life.

Church, we are called to imagine a new world. We are called to imagine God’s reign fully come, and to discern how we can participate in making it so. We call ourselves Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. It is time for us to be the church we say we are: to seize the opportunity of this wilderness moment and to move forward with courage, permission to change, and freedom from fear, to imagine a church that bears witness to God’s limitless love.

I’m glad to be in ministry with you.

Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens
General Minister and President

2021-01-14T10:19:28-06:00Jan 14, 2021|Regional News|Comments Off on Imagine God’s Limitless Love: Message from GMP Terri Hord Owens

Regional Staff Travel Update

Regional Staff to Continue Working Remotely (updated 12/09/20)

On the recommendation of the Region’s Personnel Committee, the Executive Committee of the Regional Board decided it would be best for the Regional Staff to continue to work remotely until the end of 2020. UPDATE: The Executive Committee will meet on January 21, 2021 to determine the 2021 staff travel policy.

The office phones are being managed through technology or by contacting the Regional Ministers directly on their cell phones.

The Executive Committee, also on the commendation of Personnel, determined that it would be best for the Regional Ministers to NOT TRAVEL around the region for worship or large gatherings through December 31, 2020, unless there is a consistent decline in new cases for fourteen days or a vaccine or a miracle. They will continue to be present in worships or large gatherings by Zoom or other social media platforms.

2020-12-09T11:28:02-06:00Dec 9, 2020|Regional News|Comments Off on Regional Staff Travel Update

2020 Christmas Offering Resources

What is the Christmas Offering?

Gifts to the Christmas offering support the work of the Oklahoma Region. It sustains the life of the church by connecting, empowering and equipping Disciples of Christ to love and serve like Jesus. (Received December 13th and 20th)

100% of your gift supports Oklahoma Regional Ministries

Even during this long season of COVID we continue to –

Connect congregations and clergy to each other

Gather Disciples virtually in camps, conferences and assemblies.

Nurture those called to vocational ministry.

Assist churches in calling new ministers.

Participate in the global mission of the church.

Respond to disasters in Oklahoma with dollars and resources.

Walk with those in conflict.

Lead the church to address racism.

Inspire leaders to experiment and create.

Witness to the power of God to make ALL things new.

Click here for Advent Wreath Videos

Click here to download the video

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2020-11-28T09:52:43-06:00Nov 27, 2020|Regional News|Comments Off on 2020 Christmas Offering Resources