I’m from the South, born and raised in Arkansas. Deb grew up in Tennessee, just south of Nashville. We attended southern schools, southern churches, ate hominy grits, sweet tea with gallons of sugar, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried chicken, fried fish. We even had fried ice cream! If we couldn’t fry it, it wasn’t worth eating. We blessed everyone’s hearts, invited complete strangers with a “ya’ll come over sometime” cordiality, endured the hot humidity of sweltering summers, and loved the St. Louis Cardinals.
College in western Tennessee and Alabama, “Roll Tide!”, followed by acting like adults in Arkansas, Alabama and Texas. Marriage, two daughters, sons-in-law, four grandchildren and looking toward retirement in the hills of Northwest Arkansas just as soon as we could arrange for it. Then “stuff” happened!
Our family came to Creswell in July of 2012. We had just experienced a very tough time; me being odd man out as our church in Texas went through terrible financial struggles, but mainly the death of our younger daughter, Beth, on Christmas Eve of 2011, adopting her children. Katie and Corbin went from grandchildren status to children and Deb and I returned to parenthood of young kiddos. The call from Creswell and the move to Oregon, adjusting to life in a small town rather than in a metroplex with millions of people, enrolling the children in a school full of strangers, everyone talks funny here, going from fiber-optics to an internet the speed of a turtle, coming to a church with very few children and lots of retired people, and I was not allowed to even pump my own gas!
And I was asked to lead this church going forward! They had their traditions, different from mine. They had a church governance I was not used to. They had a culture of which I was ignorant. They had church doctrine somewhat out of sync with my own view. They wanted to call me “Pastor,” while I wanted them to call me “Minister.” They had a set way for people to place membership. I doubted the validity of that way, and of that type membership in general. They had a specific view of women’s roles in church. I had other views.
Yet I was expected to lead them, to pastor them, to love them, and ask for their love and respect. I felt a calling from God to be here but a complete fear about my own competence and worthiness to lead. So, I began to study leadership and how I could join them and get them to want to follow me.
We began to trust each other. I listened and so did they. They tolerated my preaching as we began to explore. I asked the church this question, adapted from Will Mancini, founder of Auxano, “What would Creswell miss if our church ceased to exist?” That question kick-started our journey, an odyssey that has thrilled and frightened, challenged the very core of who I am, and helped us discover so much about our role in God’s kingdom and how we lead each other.