My days are a fairly even balance of presbytery work and baseball at this point. For the last three years, our family has emerged from the cold of winter into the heat (and rain) of baseball season. Odds are good that if I am not on a Zoom call or preaching somewhere I am at a baseball field coaching or watching one of my sons play. A recent baseball meme I saw had a baseball family gathered together and said “We have baseball tonight. Do you want to eat dinner at 4:30pm or 9pm?” I felt very seen in that moment.
I enjoy baseball. I enjoy the kids enjoying it even more. One of the great rewards of the last few years has been seeing kids grow and develop. They are just learning and make a lot of mistakes, but when the breakthroughs come, it is a true joy. I am the head coach for my youngest son’s team and an assistant on my oldest son’s team. Many of the kids on my eldest’s team have been together for three and four years now. They have progressed a lot from the first tee ball game in 36-degree weather in 2018 when they were so bundled up, they could not move their arms to field the ball or swing the bat. The coaches, players, and parents have spent countless hours together in the last years and they have become an extended family. I was at a game this weekend when a child we have had on the team for the last two years caught a fly ball in the outfield for the first time in a game. It was an important and opportune time, as well. The opposing team had jumped into the lead and his catch ended the inning. I could not have been prouder of him, especially knowing all the hard work and missed catches he had over the last year. It was a joyous moment. Baseball is very different than ministry. One is a game and one has real life and eternal ramifications. One is a fun escape and one is a holy calling. The one point of comparison is the process nature of what we do in the church and subsequent joy. Now these are orders of magnitude different, but to see churches struggle and then overcome difficulties is one of the best parts of my job. To see ministers lead congregations through challenging waters and to come out on the other side is joyous. To see pastors skillfully disarm conflict is heartening. To see sessions wisely and prayerfully discern their future is hopeful. There have been a lot of those moments lately. Many of them the presbytery will learn more about at the upcoming June 5th meeting:
The Administrative Commission that was formed last year to deal with the conflict at First Presbyterian Church of Sapulpa has requested that the presbytery dissolve the commission at the June 5th presbytery meeting. The church has made tremendous progress and is ready to face the future without the assistance of the Administrative Commission. This is a major milestone following such severe strife only a year ago.
The Coordinating Council is requesting that the presbytery create a Native American Church Fund with a starting balance of $200,000 to begin to support our fifteen Native American Churches and their ministries in more robust ways. The $200,000 would be seed money anticipating future donations from churches, individuals, and the sale of closed church buildings. This request follows listening sessions with Native American Church leaders, the work and report of EOP’s Native American Church Work Group, and two reports from the 224th General Assembly (2020) of the PCUSA.
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, twelve to eighteen pastors meet weekly for the Tuesday Afternoon Roundtable as they connect, support, and resource one another. Nine pastors will be participating in the EOP Pastors Backpacking Retreat in June in southern Colorado. Others have expressed interest in convening other times for spiritual renewal at retreat centers. I look forward to the Regional Ministry Councils restarting as we move into the second half of the year. In these and a number of other ways, we are moving from a presbytery where churches/ministers are siloed in their own ministries to a truly connected presbytery.
Those are some of the big examples of why I am so proud and joyous for Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery. It is a lot of little things too. I worshipped in a beautifully decorated First Presbyterian Church – Sand Springs for Pentecost. I participated in a heartfelt installation for Rev. Olivia Lane at Southminster Presbyterian Church. I have had a half dozen emails and conversations with churches and moderators simply reporting things were headed in the right direction on this side of the pandemic. We thoughtfully restaffed the committees and are starting to see the fruit of that work. It is a hundred small milestones of ministry, as well. My sons ask me about my job from time to time. They understood pastor. General Presbyter is more abstract to them. Sometimes, it is like being a coach. More times, it is like being a cheerleader. Most of the time, it is simply being proud of the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love of a great group of people seeking to follow Jesus Christ every day through all the ups and downs of life. Blessings, Rev. Tim Blodgett General Presbyter