This concludes a two-month pastoral search process initiated by RSBC’s former Interim Pastor Garrett Mercier, who assisted the pastor search committee by reaching out to local ministers he felt would be a good fit.
For the past two months, I have been impressed with how much this small congregation loves and cares for one another, and I am honored to be entrusted to lead a church that has such a rich history in the very neighborhood I’ve called my own over the past 10 years--Oneonta’s 6th Ward. The irony is not lost on me that ever since my wife and I moved to Oneonta in 2009, I’ve actively been searching for an organization or established church to partner with. It turns out that the right group was literally in front of me the entire time. In fact, RSBC at 133 River Street is just one block down from my own home/storefront church at 148 River Street--I can even see the church from my own front yard!
Immediate plans for the church include keeping with the job description laid out by the pastor search committee: conduct pastoral duties, oversee Sunday School and worship services, create ministries to reach the community, and oversee committees. All of this pastoral work is to be done “to grow the church, particularly with the youth.” Additionally, the position is bi-vocational, so I will keep my job as Youth Services Coordinator at Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties.
|Pastors Mel Farmer, Frank Westcott, Garrett Mercier, & Kaler Carpenter.|
What’s this Mean for The Redemption Movement?This move is good news for The Redemption Movement, a church plant founded by my wife in I in 2010 and publicly launched in 2013. You see, despite all of the time, energy, and resources invested into keeping the new church open, it became obvious to myself and church members that the work, due to its small size and how much money was committed to outreach, was unable to sustain itself, and thus requires a partnership with an established church or organization in order to continue. For the past two years, members of The Redemption Movement have been praying about this possibility. Pastor Garrett of RSBC was unaware of this when he called me about the open position last month.
Much to my delight, the members of River Street Baptist Church like, and even wish to support, The Redemption Movement’s outreach ministries, which includes the Kindness Station and the designated driving service, #OneontaRides.
The proposal currently being discussed is to have The Redemption Movement and its outreach activities become a ministry of River Street Baptist Church, as well as have RSBC’s Sunday morning worship services and Sunday School take the place of RM’s Thursday evening gatherings. This would effectively be a merge between the two congregations. Moving forward, the specifics of what such a merge would look like will be discussed and reviewed by members of both congregations--in the spirit of doing what it takes to come together as one congregation, River Street Baptist Church.
Therefore, the Kindness Station and #OneontaRides will continue on Friday nights for the Spring 2019 semester as planned, with the Kindness Team serving the community from its outdoor station on Water Street. Only now, the outreach effort will benefit by having more stability that comes from being connected to an established, self-sustaining church. At this juncture, I don’t know what exactly this support amounts to and I don’t wish to burden RSBC with the demands of this ministry if the small congregation is unable to fund all of its needs. However, even if a lack of funds proves to be the case, then just having an established church take on the outreach ministry as their own will allow for support in more ways than what it currently receives, making such a move worth celebrating for anybody that’s ever supported the Kindness Team in one capacity or another.
On a Personal Note…The past 10 years has been quite the journey for me and Laura, moving to New York with aspirations of starting a new church and trying outside-the-box ideas in order to reach the community, and now ending up as Pastor of a traditional Baptist church. Twelve years ago, I left the traditional church world behind and gravitated toward church planting, a decision that was perhaps driven much by my youthful ideals and energy. Today, after going through the crucible of planting a church from scratch, I now have a greater appreciation for traditional churches and I find myself just as excited about the challenges of growing an established church as I was about starting a new church, all those years ago. If anything, I feel my church planting experience in the 6th Ward will somehow assist River Street Baptist Church in its mission in a unique way, and I’m anxious to apply the many lessons I’ve learned.
Admittedly, there was a time when I thought that traditional church buildings, wooden pews, and pulpits all hindered church growth. Now, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the case. Ultimately, if a person feels a strong connection with the Lord and love from the people that belong to a church, then they will consider such a church as their home, no matter if its culture is traditional or modern. And, if letting go of my personal preferences and stepping back into the traditional church world is what the Lord is calling me to, and if that’s what it takes to reach the community, then I am more than happy to obey and embrace once again the same traditional church world that nourished my soul as a teenager and taught me how to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In fact, for the first time in my life I am officially a Baptist. This is a distinction that I’ve grown comfortable with, thanks to all of the wonderful Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ that I’ve met along the way who have shown kindness to me and my family. And while I stand today amazed and pleasantly surprised at my journey from traditional church ministry to church planting and back to traditional ministry, from Pentecostal to nondenominational to Baptist, from Missouri to New York, from a storefront to a chapel, and from 148 to 133 River Street, I also remain excited and hopeful about where the Lord is taking me in the next 10 years, especially in regards to who all I will meet and the kind of servant I will become. So I encourage you to trust in the Lord with me for you past, present, and future. He will set straight your paths in ways that, though may be unexpected, you sure won’t regret!
I’d love for us to journey together on this new chapter of ministry by joining me and my family at River Street Baptist Church on Sunday morning, Sunday School 9:30am, Worship Service 10:30am.