The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 12, 2012

CrossWalk United Church will mark 5 years at service

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — CrossWalk United Church will host a special celebration service Sunday to mark five years as a congregation and look forward to what direction the church may take in the future.

The celebration service will begin at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Faith Lutheran Church, 201 S. Oakwood.

Sunday will be CrossWalk’s last service in the sanctuary of Faith Lutheran, where the CrossWalk congregation has had its Sunday evening services for the past four years.

Sunday also will be the last service at CrossWalk for pastor J. F. Wickey, who has led ministry for the congregation since it was founded.

Wickey said it is “time to move on” for him personally, and he is looking for another congregation.

He said CrossWalk currently is in a transition period, as the congregation establishes priorities and direction for its future. Wickey said the congregation was founded to offer people of all backgrounds a place to worship in a welcoming, accepting environment.

Building the congregation and spreading its message in Enid has been a challenge, Wickey said.

“That’s probably the place where we have the most challenges, is getting people to come and just getting the word out,” Wickey said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re in transition now, to shake things up and see if something new comes up.”

Wickey said whatever direction the congregation takes after his departure, he hopes they will “continue to be an inclusive and welcoming place, where all are encouraged to worship God.”

Martha Hatt, a trustee at CrossWalk, said the congregation will continue as a member of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ, because of the denomination’s open and accepting policies.

“It’s an open and affirming denomination that took a stance years ago for welcoming people of all diversities,” Hatt said.

While the congregation’s UCC affiliation likely will remain unchanged, the particulars of how, when and where it meets are open for discussion.

After Sunday’s celebration service, no more services have been scheduled, and it is uncertain where the congregation will meet in the future.

Hatt said the congregation is “pulling back ... to see how we might better serve the Enid community.”

She said the congregation will be looking at ways to better serve people who have become disconnected from mainstream churches.

“There’s a lot of talk, even among mainline churches, about the ‘emergent church,’” Hatt said. “So many younger people seem very interested in spirituality, but not so much in the institution of church, at least as it has functioned for generations.”

Lynne Bussell, secretary-treasurer at CrossWalk, said the congregation needs to step back and see where it is most needed in Enid.

“We want to have a period of discernment and evaluation, to know where the needs are, and think and look to see where the missing pieces are,” she said.

Bussell said the congregation may continue its video and forum series, which has covered a wide range of topics over the past four years, using scripture to explore faith, social issues, ethics and justice.

Bussell said she will host a roundtable discussion at her home, 3209 Neilson Drive, at 1 p.m. Jan. 1, for anyone interested in “brainstorming the continuation of CrossWalk’s ministry in new forms.” A potluck meal will be served.

Bussell said while the particulars of CrossWalk’s ministry are uncertain, the core principles behind the congregation remain the same.

“The main reason we formed CrossWalk was to have an open and affirming church in Enid, and we still are very interested in having a church that does welcome all people from all walks of life,” she said.

Wickey said CrossWalk’s temporary “period of discernment” is necessary for the congregation to grow.

“There’s a wonderful hymn that says, ‘In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree.’ Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, you can’t have new life. You have to plant the seed ... and I think that’s where the church is right now.”

Wickey said the congregation will continue to move forward, “with a firm belief in the hope that God is awaiting us in the future.”

For information, call Bussell at (580) 233-7061 or Hatt at (580) 242-0487.