Ministry In A Rain Forest

It all started with a steelhead trip planned with Bob Ball. As an Interim Conference Minister in Seattle, circa 2005-2007, a goal, in sharing conference ministry with the best, Hollis Bredeweg, was to visit EVERY church in our Pacific Northwest Conference, spread from Anchorage Alaska, throughout Washington and Northern Idaho.

Our denomination [United Church of Christ] has a church in Forks, Washington, which is the rainiest part of Washington [120 inches/year] huddled in the far NW corner of Washington. This was 2005. Arranged to preach that Sunday, then fish with Bob on Monday. The population of Forks, with annual variance up or down of maybe 30, for over 25 years, is 3,000 or so. Well, when they filmed “Twilight” in Forks the population soared and business went from happy to giddy.

Don’t remember the service—and maybe, blush here, the people didn’t either. I do remember two dynamics—at 9 a.m. before worship the laity led a Bible Study [Circa 2005]. They had a guided book and followed it verse by verse. I was so impressed that the bridge from the Bible passage to the folks’ current circumstance was spot on. Second memory: the Moderator of the church, Warren Johnson, was a Corrections Officer at a state prison near Forks and clear as a shiny day, which happened infrequently in Forks, so very evident, was his faith in Christ…and his yearning to do more as a member of the church.

That gave birth to his calling to seek licensed ministry. He asked three of us to help/guide/encourage him. I was grateful to be part of that trio that includes Con and Judy Edwards.

Warren was lay pastor at church from summer 2008 till summer 2014. In August of 2014 he got his minister’s license and on September 20th was called by the church to be their licensed pastor full time. Currently, per his admission, although bragging has never snuck into his DNA he is a full-time minister along with his employment as a Corrections Officer.

Why all this? Because. A huge BECAUSE. Warren gets the ways in which ministry happens, serving with a wonderful congregation almost hidden within the Rain Forests of NW Washington. The people have linked up with Warren. The image I have of Forks and Warren, which is literal and metaphorical and spiritual, the members at the Congregational Church are a RAINBOW of hope and love and caring. Warren sent me the e-mail and has given permission to share it. I am so grateful for his friendship…even more for the ways in which a small congregation in numbers can be HUGE in values…embodiment of growing where they are planted.

From Warren:

“Held our Free BBQ a couple weekends ago and feed over two hundred with the rest of the food going to Sarge’s place a veteran home and to assisted living home for adults. Plus we have pop and chips for free dance lessons we are starting at Church the end of the month.

The best thing about the BBQ is now everywhere I go someone is saying hi Pastor Johnson. Have made a lot of contacts. Meeting with contractor in morning to plan remodel of restrooms in church and then another contractor to pour cement over at parsonage for new drive way and sidewalks. Having work party this weekend and painting project will start on parsonage.

We are having a study on Psalms and it is very interesting and very insightful. I never knew there were so many different parts to the Psalms and how you can use them in different ways. Been a very rewarding study.

This Pastor thing is working into a full time job. Big Memorial service on the 20th and 4th of July right behind. I am becoming more in tune with the spirit all the time and letting him lead me in my sermons more and more.”

My final note: My prayers give thanks for the relationship with Warren. Even more, for the ways in which his caring presence shares energy, time and great understanding. May God continue to be present with him, within him and through him for each of us.

About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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