(Click here for the sermon preached at the ordination service)
Our former seminary interns and staff members Jonathan and Kristy LaBarge will be ordained by Santa Barbara Presbytery as teaching elders in the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Saturday afternoon in a service at their home church in Ojai, California. On Sunday they will be installed by San Fernando Presbytery as the co-pastors of Canoga Park Presbyterian Church during Lord’s Day morning worship. Both services will be times of great celebration and thanks to God.
I am not sure I had yet warmed the chair in my office shortly after arriving at LPC when a particularly persuasive (and truly wonderful) elder asked if I would be open to serving as Field Education Supervisor for two Princeton Seminary students who had made LPC and its contemporary worship service their church home for the previous eighteen months.
I don’t remember if supervising a seminary field education was at the top of my to-do list as I arrived at LPC, but I had supervised seminarians in previous churches and, well, as I say, the elder was persuasive. So I agreed to meet with Jonathan and Kristy LaBarge, seminarians from Southern California – at least we had one thing in common – and the rest is, as they say, history.
But it is more than just history.
A field study application was endorsed by our Session in March and approved by the Seminary in April. And in May Jonathan and Kristy returned to California. So it wasn’t until September that I began to catch a glimpse of the gift that God had brought into the life of LPC and into my life.
Among Jonathan’s intern responsibilities was leadership of our contemporary worship team. Kristy became a part of the youth ministry team under Barb Chase’s leadership. They both preached and took on whatever other responsibilities they were asked to assume. And I gained two life-long friends. They were and are a wonderful gift of God in my life.
Jonathan and Kristy are half my age. Their parents are my peers. Yes, the roles of mentor and protégé are a part of the mix in our friendship. But Jonathan’s passion for the Word and worship and Kristy’s amazing insight into people, relationships and God’s way in both have sharpened my pastoral skills and abilities, as well. Add a little bit of wry humor, love for mission, lots of mutual respect and deep common faith and you have the makings of a gift from God. I hope that God has used me as much in their lives as he has used them in mine.
On Saturday it will be my privilege to preach the sermon at the service of ordination held at the Ojai Presbyterian Church. On Sunday I will give the charge to the new pastors at Canoga Park Presbyterian Church. Honors like this are just one of the reasons that I was able to tell Jonathan and Kristy that I have and they were preparing for the best job in the world.
In case you are wondering, the text for the ordination sermon will be Jeremiah 32:1-15, and for the charge on Sunday it will be 2 Timothy 4:1-2. I’ll tell you more next week if you think to ask. For now, let’s just say that some folks are entering into a pretty risky real estate deal on Saturday and beginning to tend a vineyard on Sunday.
I will be leaving for Los Angeles Friday morning and will be back Monday evening.