Pastor's 2023 Report

This will be my last “Pastor’s Report” that I write for this church and for my ministry. In nine short months, I will have completed my 8th year as pastor of OHFUMC and my 34th year as a full-time, ordained and appointed pastor in the PNWAC. One could say that this report will be my “Swan Song.”

Serving as pastor of OHFUMC has been a great honor, and a great challenge, especially after the losses from covid-19 shut-down, anti-racism intensification, and the ever-present, delayed, looming theological split happening in the greater UMC denomination. Despite these rough challenges, there is a resilient band of people who are still standing and still here. That alone is a work of grace!

2023 has been a year of intensified yearning to reengage our church family and broader community so we can grow the church again. The truth is, very few are able to function beyond just showing up for service and attending to in-house life, so we are mostly re-engaging ourselves right now. Leadership is shrinking and fewer are able or willing to step up to participate. A smaller, single-board governance system is surely going to be a key move in the near future. We must learn to work smaller, smarter, and harder with fewer and diminished leaders and people.

We used to have a fairly healthy small-group ministry which was the hub of our discipleship ministry (outside of teaching and preaching Sunday mornings). Now, after Covid, only three groups. One is my men's Saturday morning coffee Bible-study gathering at a local coffee shop. We have two other groups that meet on campus which are small, one mixed and one women's group. The vast majority of our senior population is "one-and-done" with Sunday morning being their primary participation. Some do come out for our Wednesday night Koinonia Café potlucks
and fellowship.

We also did a series on the book The Externally Focused Quest in an effort to kick start our way back out into the community we live in and find ways of reengaging our city. This was helpful for re-invigorating our mission people back into service.

The most exciting thing we recently did was to join efforts with about four other churches for a four-week Wednesday night dessert and discipleship series in June. We viewed the Francis Chan video series shorts: "Letters To the Church" and shared round table discussions. We also hosted a special joint worship service with three other local African American churches in Oak Harbor in May and celebrated our greater unity in Christ. Our mission team has kept local projects
before us for engagement in our community, but few want to put their hand on the plow personally.

Everyone in our church family and ministry setting needs to understand that transitions are key times for "all hands on deck" operations. That is true for a season like the one coming out of covid, and it will be true for the changing of pastoral leaders in July of 2024. In order for there to be an effective and seamless handoff, people need to be universally involved in engaging and embracing the change that will happen. I will preach and teach and write on transitions (as I did
in my last church), and establish a special prayer focus for a season of time to involve the whole church. Innovating with sustaining and creative partnerships will surely be a key in our future. But we must not hold our breath. We must act and move now. Here are some moves we have been making:
  • We are fresh out of the gate with a rental agreement with another local church start that worships on Saturday nights, called Riverflow.
  • We have been very active with those who are homeless via the housing the SPIN Café on winter weekends, and aiding The Haven shelter program.
  • We have a large UMCOR mission team filled out now and ready for Fall of 2024.
  • Crescent Harbor Elementary is the poorest school in our district. We have covenant partnership to work with them and have been providing books, back packs and shoes. I have been a weekly volunteer there for their first grade reading program.
  • We have just launched a new church-owned ministry called "Memory Café" focusing on ministering to families with loved ones in dementia. It is receiving broad support throughout our local community and beyond.
  • We started hosting a very large AA group Thursday nights this last spring that is filling up the parking lot.
  • We have intentions of exploring childcare partnerships for our downstairs area, and other possible rental agreements for shared space.
  • Our Trustees have focused on important campus projects (selling Scott House, Sealing and striping parking lot, replacing windows in Centennial Hall) and have completely passed muster for our insurance “policies and procedures” audit.

The hard truths are these: We are an aging, shrinking, slowing congregation that has fewer people, finances, and ministries than before covid. It feels like many have been holding their breath to see what happens at the General Conference. Others have decided that devoted personal discipleship is to continue no matter what humans and their religious institutions are doing.

In the span of 5-10 years, this church (if we are still a church) will be populated by a brand new, different constituency. If we continue a post-covid mindset, and practice learned and ingrained during covid (“Shelter in place”), we will become a chaplaincy with personal care-giving ministry until the last of us is gone. The church, if it is to be a church, must never be done with…
  • Imbedding our lives into God’s story
  • Inviting others to become followers of Jesus with us
  • Practicing servanthood ministry to our community
  • Stewarding our resources, experiences, and skills to bless God’s kingdom
  • Launching new ministry initiatives to meet unmet needs
  • Praying and worshipping with enthusiasm and hope
  • Empowering the next generation to become enfranchised in church leadership

It is a tall order, but it always has been. Our culture no longer supports Christian
faith as it once did.

Renewal of Covenant Statement: (Signed by All PNWAC Pastors for reappointment). By the grace of God, I renew my covenant to serve Christ in and through the appointment of the Bishop and Cabinet prayerfully discern, in our shared ministry to equip and reach others with the Gospel, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the World.

Signed by David Parker on Aug-07-2023

No Comments





no categories


no tags