Our Interim pastor Rev. John Helgeson has accepted a new pastor position in Perry, Florida. His last day at FPC will be January 21, 2018. The following week he will use vacation time to pack and move.
It is our hope and expectation that after the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry meets on January 9, 2018, we will have an exciting announcement for the church about the next pastor to replace John.
A message from John:
Dear Friends in Christ,
Well, as you may have heard by now, I am leaving First Presbyterian Church of Lawton at the end of January. My time as your interim minister is coming to an end. Actually, my last day in the church will be on Sunday, the 21st. The rest of the time I will be on vacation, preparing to move. I have been looking for another position for some time, and now I believe I have found one that will be good for me and for the church to which I am going. To be precise, I am going to Perry, Florida, near Tallahassee and rather close to Jacksonville. I did have a surprising number of churches interested in me, but I feel this is the best place for me to go now.
Be that as it may, I have enjoyed, appreciated, and loved being here for my three plus years. It has been the longest interim I have done, but I feel all the time I spent here was necessary. We started out with a lot of anxiety, even fear, but I hope I have calmed most of that down. We started with a lot of anger and emotional conflict, but I hope I have provided the peace of our Lord to make it possible for the church to function as a church. We started out with a lot of doubt and uncertainty, but I spoke up for you and became your best cheerleader. Thus, I am confident in your future, and I believe in your present.
You are wonderful Christians, and you have a remarkable church. You have integrated the best of the military into your lives, as a result of being enveloped by the great Ft. Sill. You have opened your doors to people of all types and accepted them where they are and who they are. You are an open church, and people in the community recognize and applaud you for that. Your music program is in a class by itself. I have only seen such musical authority in a few large churches.
I am thankful for such great Christians, whose faith is real and who give of themselves to the church so generously. I realize not everyone is capable of doing all they would like to do for the church, but what you give of yourselves in so many ways is a blessing to the church and shows what your faith is about in the real world. Most recently the Thanksgiving dinner showed the church at its most caring. Your ongoing fifth Saturday is appreciated by those who have little to eat in our nearby neighborhood. You have had people who have been outstanding on the Session and on the Deacons. I am thankful for them. They have made my job easier. I consider myself blessed to have served with such a caring group of people who took their tasks seriously and worked to ensure the Lord’s will was done at First in Lawton.
This has been a time of physical repairs from roof work to chancel floor work to air conditioners work and so much more. The property committee, which became a standalone committee and so did the finance committee, has had gifted people able to move the projects forward. Your finance committee and foundation have been diligent in providing the finances needed to keep the church going on a steady path. The church investments have allowed us to maintain our investment money, instead of continually drip dripping away our money until we had nothing left. I am thankful for the skill shown in making that happen.
Listen to your people. I enjoy talking to you, because you are so insightful, so thoughtful and so faith-filled. Whether it be in groups like your women’s association bringing in a missionary from Costa Rica or your men’s group faithful Saturday morning ecumenical breakfasts or just one-on-one, you really need to hear each other, because you are really a joy to be around and you make things happen in the Lord. When people are hurting, you are there. Whether it be hospitalizations, nursing home living, family issues, and of course death, you are there. You are a compassionate and caring people, and you need to know how much of a difference you make to each other.
Your committees and your groups and you individually are resources that truly enliven and enrich this church. Whether you are eating together, talking together, worshipping together, being together, or just sharing together, you are the church in practice and reality. You live the church. I have shared weddings, baptisms, holidays, celebrations, and yes, deaths with you, because you opened your doors to me and you opened your lives to me. I became one of you, and I have enjoyed it, I have lived it, I have embraced it.
Hey, I even got my book on interim ministry published while I was with you. And I came to appreciate Ft. Sill, Mount Scott, our wildlife refuge, the city of Lawton, and much else in the area, all because of you.
I have said this before, but I say it again, I believe in you. I came because I believed in you. I leave and I still believe in you. I am convinced the Lord brought me here, and I am thankful to the Lord for allowing me to share with you. I remain your greatest fan on this earth, and I will always uphold and praise you in the future. It is January and a new year, and it will be a year without me in your midst. I can live with that and I pray you will live with that too. Just be the church you are called to be, and I will have done my job with you.
May God’s blessings be upon you now in 2018 and in many years to come. Be the church you are called to be, and you will receive the Lord’s blessings for many years to come.
Your soon-to-leave interim minister,
Rev. Dr. John F. Helgeson