I want to take this opportunity to celebrate the pastors I work with, my friends who serve NFC so faithfully.
When Lecia Retter resigned as children’s pastor in 2008, she told me it wasn’t really her place to choose her successor but that I would be crazy to not seriously consider Michelle Akins. Michelle was already volunteering in so many ways in our children’s ministry, and her passion for children was obvious. The search committee so easily came to clarity to ask Michelle to join our team, and I laugh when I think of all the things Michelle said to me then: “I’ll do this, but only children, just cause I love kids, I’m not really a pastor.” “I’m never going to speak in front of adults.” I’ve watched God transform her dramatically, taking her love for people and her willingness to serve, having it lead to where we are now. She offers pastoral care to so many; speaks God’s truth with conviction; oversees family ministry and women’s ministry; volunteers for and encourages others to serve with Compassion International, and helps lead our church’s ministry to care for marriages. She has offered her many gifts to God, even the vulnerable parts of her life, and we have all benefitted from what God has done with her offering.
Steve Fawver has faithfully served the people of this church since 1991! For many years, he led our youth ministry, and there are many from his youth groups who still are part of our community (many now with children of their own). His calling has always been to listen to Christ and to help others do the same. I am truly amazed at his integrity, the way he practices what he preaches. He takes time to listen, time to read scripture, time to journal, time for sabbath. His job description has changed several times, and that reflects his willingness to serve and to offer himself for the good of the community of Newberg Friends. Students in George Fox’s Psy. D. program have benefitted from his teaching and spiritual leadership for years, and spiritual formation “gurus” from around the country know and respect Steve. I’m so grateful we have him serving here with us all the time.
When we needed to find a new pastor to seniors, I had one of those God nudges that led me to call Cindy Johnson and ask if she would be interested. I didn’t know her work situation at the time, but I knew she had the skill set we needed. It turns out the timing was perfect, and she had already been thinking about it. If ever there was a person born for pastoral visitation, it is Cindy. I cannot tell you how many times people have spoken of her presence, her smile, her care…and the many times she has gone so far above and beyond by organizing people to help “her people” move or help them work out legal and health care issues. Her servant’s heart is a true gift to our community.
I’ve said several times that Eric Muhr delivered on his interview promises better than anyone I have ever known. I vividly remember him holding his hands up, like he was carrying two big bags. “I can’t promise you I won’t make any mistakes. But I can say after years of ministry, I’ve made a whole bunch of mistakes already that I’ve learned from and will never make again.” When our committee asked him about his philosophy of youth ministry, he said he would work to see that every youth was noticed by an adult. Not necessarily by him, but that it was his responsibility to create an environment where students did not go unnoticed. I have watched him implement exactly that kind of ministry. Students trust him, and he empowers them. The relationships he builds last long after they graduate, and he remains a connecting point to church for so many young adults. Very few of you would believe how many people he is able to stay connected to in a meaningful way, and our youth ministries have grown numerically and in their depth of relationship every year for several years now. We celebrate what God does through Eric.
In 2006, I walked out to our church parking lot and asked Elizabeth Sherwood to consider applying for the brand new interim administrative pastor position. She wasn’t sure she had the right gift mix, but she was committed to serving our church, so after thinking and praying she applied. After a year in the interim role, she told me she loved it but that she wasn’t going to apply for the permanent position because she didn’t trust her ability to be a good administrator…and then changed her mind because she so wanted to be part of serving this community she had grown to love. It is not an understatement for me to say that she has faithfully taken on so many difficult things that could have sunk our budget and the church. She invested countless hours in making our cemetery financially viable. When we lost C.S. Lewis Academy as a renter, she worked diligently to find ways to have that space used and rented (and it is full of use now, even when I told her it was impossible!) She’s done thankless work with tax codes and insurance, sidewalks and elevator permits, supervised our office staff and buildings managers and has saved huge amounts of money in our office budget while improving facilities. She has had to walk through difficult things I can’t share, brought Christ’s love to horrible situations. And then sort of “on the side,” she passionately shares Christ’s love with individuals and is one of the best preachers I know!
And finally Nolan Staples. Being responsible for music at a church is sort of like asking to be a training partner at a boxing gym…you’re expected to take punches! Not only that, but he had to follow a gifted and faithful worship pastor who had served our church for 33 years. I remember telling our elders when Mauri retired, “We just are not going to be able to find someone who can arrange music for brass, we are not going to be able to have a bell choir.” Yet here we are with someone who grew up among us, who knows our heart and our style, and who has the musical ability to learn enough about bells to lead rehearsals and who not only can arrange music for brass, but can arrange for all kinds of instruments for people at all skill levels. Nolan has exceeded our expectations at the most important thing we’ve asked of him: he’s brought many new people, including youth, into music leadership. He’s uniquely qualified to serve us as worship pastor, and I’m grateful.
Sometimes it’s easy to take for granted the people who are around you week after week. I want to ask you to celebrate these amazing people we have as pastors. Take the time to tell them thank you, and to share with them what you notice about how God is at work through them!