In November of 2015, Norva and I accepted, an opportunity to serve this Grace Communion International church circuit in Northridge (West Valley Congregation) and Ventura, California. It was to be a six month stint as Interim Pastor while the Church Administration staff conducted a search to hire a new full-time pastor.
Well, the best laid plans… That six month plan has now passed through 18 months and it looks like it might go a few more. We now have a pastoral candidate who is interviewing and if all goes well, we will make the transition before the end of 2017.
Many of my friends have asked what it is like to go back into pastoral ministry after so many years of other duties within our denomination and ten years of retirement. The best answer to that question is: “It has been gratifying.” But before I get to that, here’s a brief background of our work experience.
Most of my career I worked at the Ambassador College campuses in Texas and California. Then for several years I worked in the Editorial Department and Norva went to work part time in Mail Processing. It was her first venture into the out-of-the-home workforce since she taught school two years before our marriage. With five children and following her husband on many trips, she didn’t have time to even think about work outside the home (which she reminds everyone really is a lot of work and a full-time job!) What a wonderful blessing it was that she could enter the workforce for more than ten years and qualify for a small Social Security benefit and more importantly qualify both of us for Medicare.
After some time in Editorial I was asked to become the day-to-day Financial Manager for the Worldwide Church of God International Headquarters. Ambassador College had closed and plans were underway to sell the Big Sandy campus and the Headquarters facility in Pasadena. That took place for a period seven years. After the campus sales were complete we entered into retirement.
We enjoyed our retirement by traveling to visit family in Texas, and our daughter and grandchildren in Colorado. That travel was supplemented by a new hobby – Landscape Photography. We focused on the natural wonders of the Western U.S. and the National Parks.
Then the call came to return to pastoral ministry. But with one major difference.
For most of my ministry, I focused on the doctrinal positions and beliefs of the WCG. In the early 1990s, the Leadership Team of the denomination embarked upon an intensive study of the historic teachings of our church. Many rejoiced, along with Norva and me, in the greater understanding of God’s Grace versus the written law. Those who internalized the doctrinal changes found a deeper and more personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.
That’s why I use the word “gratifying” to describe our experiences with the two congregations we serve. I have the opportunity virtually every week to bring messages relating to Christ, his part in each of our lives, his unfailing love for us, and the power of God’s incredible, inconceivable grace. I told the congregation up front, if you accept Ron Kelly as your pastor, you will get a whole lot of Jesus and absolutely no predictive prophecy. And I thank God frequently for the opportunity to preach Jesus and him crucified, resurrected and our living savior.
I give special thanks to the congregations in Northridge and Ventura for accepting us and growing with us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.