Monday, November 10, 2008

The Unknown

The unknown is the ultimate fuel for anxiety. I remember experiencing deep anxiety in 1982, when we were preparing to move back to the States from Scotland. We had been given an offer to stay with the church I was serving in Edinburgh. The Church of Scotland had offered me a pastorate in a small church on an island near the arctic circle (really!) I had made appointments to interview for positions back here in the USA. There were a lot of conflicting desires and no little anxiety.

One thing we knew: we were supposed to go back to the USA. Yet, it was more complicated that that. We are native Californians, and we still owned a house there. Audrey, who was 11 at the time, let us know in very certain terms that we were moving back to our old house and neighborhood. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to move back to our old church, so it wasn’t a given that we’d be able to stay at our old house, even if we moved back to California. More anxiety.

Then there was this guy—Ed Hurley—whom we had met in Scotland. He moved back to the USA and had written that there was an associate pastor position open in his church. The problem was that the church was in Tulsa. I had clearly marked on my UPCUSA dossier that I would serve a church anywhere but in Oklahoma or Texas (bigoted Californian that I was). I actually felt sorry for him when he moved back because he was going to Oklahoma!

As a “favor” to Ed, I agreed that we’d interview at Kirk of the Hills in Tulsa. Travel logistics made it the first stop home and my first interview. We fell in love with the Kirk people. We discovered that Oklahoma is greener than California by magnitudes. We liked everything we saw. We knew at that moment that we were called to come to the Kirk. Audrey was quiet. More anxiety.

It wasn’t until we took off from Tulsa airport that Audrey spoke. She simply said, “I could live in Tulsa.”

That was the beginning of a love for a church family that has never dimmed (okay, it’s flickered at rough spots in the mid 1980s, but still held). Chrissie found professional fulfillment as a teacher at ORU, where she is now a full professor. Audrey met her husband-to-be in the youth program at the Kirk. She got a wonderful education at Jenks, ORU, then graduate work at OU medical school and finally her medical degree from OSU. Our granddaughter, Emily, was born at Hillcrest and was baptized by me here at the Kirk.

All of our anxiety was replaced by repeated, resplendent blessings. I shudder to think of what would have happened otherwise.

We’re all experiencing anxiety over the unknown regarding our place of worship. We have highly-skilled, great people working on both negotiations and appeals. God is still sovereign and guiding us, whether or not we feel it at the moment. We are in good hands.

Great blessings are around the corner. God is good and will provide all that we need in order to minister to each other, to minister to our community, and to live out Jesus’ mission all over the world. I certainly hope that our ministry, whatever it grows into, will include the facilities here on 61st street. How that will happen is in the Lord’s hands.

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Psalms 128:1, 2

Whatever the future holds regarding property and litigation, we stand at a new beginning because we have chosen to walk in His ways. I remember how excited I was in June of 1982 as I first stood here at the Kirk. We all will soon feel the same thrill as God reveals His perfect will for our congregation. Until then, let’s let Him soothe our anxieties.

Keep praying, keep the faith,

Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm Back

I’m back on line—for good, I hope. There have been a couple of frustrated efforts in the last few months to resurrect the blog, efforts that were defeated by my lack of energy combined with extraordinary stress at this time in the life of the Kirk.

Two surgeries and many months later, my healing has progressed now to where I have normal energy; the stress continues. In fact, that’s part of why I’m writing again.

One of the greatest stresses is not knowing what is going on. I know that this is true for Kirk members, and this blog should help. I also believe that the members of EOP have largely been kept in the dark as to what exactly is happening and why. “Kirk Updates” from the EOP office are necessarily one-sided (as is this blog), but they also are filled with so much spin that they should be blurry to the normal eye.

So much is happening at the Kirk that it is almost impossible to keep up with it in normal channels. These things include:

  • Ongoing legal issues with Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery (EOP) and the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA)
  • A judgment on September 9 that EOP used to make an ultimatum against us
  • A change of the judgment on October 6 to some kind of order that is not a judgment
  • A pending decision from the Judge about the proper wording of the September 9 and October 6 rulings.
  • A razor-thin congregational vote to settle by paying EOP $1,7500,000.
  • The train-wreck of our settlement when the PCUSA added a new demand after our congregation and EOP approved a specific list of terms.
  • EOP had told us that the PCUSA would abide by any agreement reached between KOH and EOP

Add to these things the normal life of a healthy church and you begin to realize just how complicated life can get (they never taught us these things in seminary).

  • We are excited about the formation of Joppa. a new church.
  • Old ministries thrive and new ones are gearing up as we speak.
  • We continue to worship five times each Sunday
  • A congregation united to begin with (even though we can disagree on some votes), but never more united, due to the scrapping of the settlement by EOP or PCSUA.

One housekeeping item:

When I previously blogged, almost any comment was allowed, so long as it used decent language. Even so, comments morphed into attacks and/or debates between a couple of commentators. That won’t happen here. My staff will carefully vet all comments, allowing only reasonable and helpful ones on. You’ll be able to judge for yourselves if we are even handed in this.

Keep the faith. Keep praying,