A small Disciples congregation’s generous spirit has nurtured a relatively large number of ministers. Later this month, Bethany Christian Church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will highlight its “Timothys” — former members who have gone into the ministry — as part of its annual stewardship campaign.
The Becoming a Giving Tree campaign was inspired by the popular children’s story, The Giving Tree, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein. The story tells of the friendship between a young boy and a solitary tree. As the boy grows and ages, the tree provides him with fruit, lumber for a house, and eventually, a place to rest.
Silverstein’s book suggests “that our sacrifices actually become our greatest joys,” says the Rev. Don Lanier, a retired minister and church member who created the campaign materials. While the stewardship campaign will help meet the congregation’s financial needs, “more to the point — we need to be generous givers if our faith is to grow,” says Lanier.
Campaign materials include a bulletin insert with photos and updates on former members who grew up in the church and went on to religious studies and ministry careers. One is the Rev. Todd Adams, the Disciples’ Associate General Minister and Vice President. Another is Captain W. Kyle Fauntleroy, director of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center and Commanding Officer of the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center. Fauntleroy oversees the training and education of chaplains and their support personnel in the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps.
Also listed in bulletin insert are 11 men and women whom the congregation nurtured as they pursued a call to ministry.
The Rev. Nancy Thomas, associate minister at Waukee Christian Church in Waukee, Iowa, began attending Bethany Christian while studying at nearby Phillips Theological Seminary. She sang in the choir, involved her Sunday school class in a seminary project, and was given opportunities to preach. The congregation co-sponsored her ordination at First Christian Church in Casper, Wyoming, and several members attended. “They provided a lot of moral support,” says Thomas.
The congregation’s first Timothy was the Rev. Terry Ewing. He was in high school in the late 1960s when his family was among a group sent by Tulsa’s Yale Avenue Christian Church to plant the Bethany congregation. He went on to the University of Tulsa with plans to become a history professor. But a call from Linda McMurray, one of the church’s youth, set him on a different path.
McMurray wanted to know if he would come back and lead the youth group. He agreed. His conversations with the Rev. Eddie Taylor eventually led him to enroll at Phillips Seminary and become an ordained minister.
Ewing recently retired after serving with a number of Disciples congregations and as chaplain at Eureka College. More than any individual at Bethany Christian, Ewing credits the congregational culture for nurturing him and others. “It’s the environment of intentional care and intentional faith that creates the place,” he says.
By Rebecca Woods