Thoughts and reflections from Liberty’s Pastors

December 3, 2020

Hello, Liberty Church!

I remember watching all the children’s TV Christmas movies with my brothers and sister when we were children. The ones that grabbed my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat all had a similar theme. Christmas was in trouble! If something didn’t happen or someone didn’t do just the right thing, Christmas would be cancelled!

Now, I loved Christmas (I still do!) and I would be so anxious about Christmas not happening and the idea that Christmas could be in jeopardy, was enough to cause me to come unhinged! And then, when everything turned out well in the end, it was such a relief that I would jump and shout with joy!

I look at this year and I wonder what Dr. Seuss would title his Christmas story for 2020…maybe, “The Virus that Stopped Christmas”? I have seen newspaper articles and online articles proclaiming, “Christmas is Cancelled!” It almost sounds like one of those children’s Christmas movies.

In my life, there have been many Christmases that, because of circumstances or life events, weren’t exactly like we would have scripted them. But, I am here to tell you that never once was I ever concerned about Christmas being cancelled! There may have been some traditions or special events that we missed, but no matter what was happening in our lives, Jesus, Emmanuel, was present. No matter what life event was changing our Christmas, we still celebrated the birth of a King unlike the world had ever known, a King born in a stable and laid in a manger.

And so, as we journey through Advent and edge ever closer to Christmas, rest assured that no matter what it looks like, no matter how it takes place, no matter where we celebrate; Christmas is not cancelled! We will thank God for the perfect gift of His Son and we will sing with the Heavenly Host, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all people!”

Together, let us journey through Advent and toward this glorious celebration of the birth of our Savior!

In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Kemper
P.S. SEE BELOW FOR IMPORTANT WORSHIP INFORMATION

Sunday Worship: Because of the rapid rise of local COVID-19 cases and in an effort to keep the church membership, staff, as well as the community safe, the Session has made the decision to forgo any in-person Sunday worship in the Barn through the second week of January (at least). The Session wanted to take away the anxiety of going week-to-week making the decision about Sunday worship. We encourage the church family to continue to participate through our online time of worship.

Christmas Eve: The Session also affirmed the Worship Committee’s plan to hold Christmas Eve Services at the church.  Much like the very first Christmas, this service will not be inside!  Our plan is to have a parking lot service that will include the elements of the Christmas Eve services we all love: the music, the Christmas story in Scripture, a short Christmas message, and of course, some form of sharing the light of Christ. The Worship Committee and Worship Team are planning and working to make this possible. Stay tuned for the details and how you can make this special time of worship part of your celebration of Christmas!

November 26, 2020

Hello Liberty Church!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
~Psalm 105:1 (NLT)
I love Thanksgiving! It is probably my favorite holiday (maybe a tie with Christmas).

I enjoy the food, the football, and the time with family. I like Thanksgiving because, for me, it is the beginning of the Advent / Christmas season. I like Thanksgiving because it is a reminder, in the hectic times that are coming, to slow down and give thanks for all we have been blessed with. Janet tells people who ask her that the reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I was born on Thanksgiving. That may be part of it, but my birthday only falls on Thanksgiving every 4 or 5 years.

My father never let me forget that I messed up his Thanksgiving the year of my birth because mom was in the hospital, not home cooking his turkey!

Maybe that was the year that my father decided to take over some of the Thanksgiving preparation. Dad experimented with different ways to cook turkey over the years. He decided we needed an oyster stuffing (he made this every year even though most of his family didn’t like it) and of course, at our house, there had to be a leg of lamb that he would prepare.

His love of cooking rubbed off on his children and his grandchildren. Our youngest son, Ben, attended culinary school and is a chef. He and his brother, Andy, took over experimenting cooking turkey and one of their favorites (mine too) is a bacon wrapped turkey! Can you tell I love Thanksgiving?

And along with all the food, football, and family, a big part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition was giving thanks. We not only thanked God for the many blessings we were showered with, but we remembered others who were less fortunate. It was a time to, as the Psalmist proclaims, “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness.”

It is also true that the celebration of Thanksgiving is also a reminder (at least to me) that we fall short when it come to giving thanks every day.

Our blessings don’t come just once a year and we should practice the discipline of gratitude every day. “Let the whole world know what God has done” we read. May we live every day with thanksgiving in our hearts demonstrating God’s love and grace in everything we do and with everyone we meet.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Pastor Kemper

November 12, 2020

STEWARDSHIP STORY FROM LEN & CONNIE ZUGA 

Dear Liberty Church Family:

It seems like “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” that the Top of the Hill Gang (TOHG) joined each other in Sunday school class, gathered after church for Sunday brunches, shared pizza on monthly movie nights, and traveled on adventures to explore central Ohio and beyond.We have jointly or individually participated in many Liberty activities, but probably the one that has had the greatest impact on our lives is the Top of the Hill Gang (TOHG). You may think of TOHG as Liberty’s “seniors” group, but this group is ANYTHING BUT a rocking-chair cohort living in the past. They travel. They have a book club and a card group. They definitely enjoy eating – trying new restaurants or pot-lucking at each other’s homes – and most of all, they communicate and support each other.

Stewardship takes many forms that contribute to the health and welfare of others and now, more than seven months into a new world of social distancing and face masks, we take solace in the relationships we previously formed.  Phone calls and emails enable us to stay connected and to be there for someone needing a morale boost or sense of not being alone. As we stay in touch with TOHG members, we repeatedly hear how members did not realize just how important the TOHG gatherings were to their church and social life until curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions.

Just as we nurture TOHG relationships knowing that someday we’ll be able to meet again in person, so we want to nurture our commitment to Liberty Church, knowing that the activities and missions and worship still go on, perhaps in a different way, but confident that Liberty is there for us. We continue to send our pledge offering to Liberty every month and to watch the online service every Sunday. We are grateful for Pastor Kyle and Pastor Don, the musicians, the staff, and the Transitional Pastor Search Committee. Perhaps what we have all realized during this pandemic time is that stewardship and participation take many forms, and that when we’re forced out of our rut of habit, we can find new ways to be stewards of the blessings God had given us.  Liberty’s future is bright, TOHG’s future is bright, and our individual futures are bright.

Let’s use this time to nurture our commitments to God, to Liberty, and to each other, as well as to look forward – not to a return of the old normal days – but to a time of even greater blessing.

Like many of you, we find comfort in Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you  hope and a future.” 

November 5, 2020

\Re·​mem·​ber·​ing\: to bring to mind or think of again

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family:

As I approach my last week with you, I want to thank you for your kindness and hospitality while I have been here. I park in front of the cemetery every time I am here, and I can’t help but celebrate all the saints that have gone before. We are also thankful for the ministries of David Redding and especially for Becky and John Hart—and for the legacies they have left this community of faith.

Remembering, the ability to recall and look back at the past, is a wonderful gift.

It reminds families of what holds them together, such as playful times, goals achieved, obstacles and hardships overcome, pain and struggle given meaning because it is shared. Somehow, in remembering, we are pulled back together. Our relationships are strengthened and we are reminded of who we are. Deprive someone of their ability to remember, and they become confused, lack motivation and direction.

Remembering is what we do on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, All Saints Day, and Memorial Day. It is what we do on birthdays and anniversaries. It is also what we do in our rituals.

In communion, we remember Christ in the bread and in the juice.

Around the table, we call to mind the lives of the people who have come here for worship and nurture, for fellowship and faith, for comfort and challenge. In that remembering, we “re-member” – we reconnect again as members, reconnecting to each other and to God, in the “Barn” as well as in online worship, in gatherings and in Zoom meetings, in ministries that heal the heart and bring healing to the world.

This next week, as this church moves forward in this new chapter, Kemper Huber will be stepping in as the Transitional Pastor, providing continuing leadership as this church discerns its calling for its future ministry and the next pastoral leadership who will share the future with you. As events unfold, you will have additional memories to celebrate that connect you to the pas—and prepare you for the future.

I thank God for you and all you have been in the past and look forward to witness, from the sidelines, what you will yet do in God’s name in the future!

Grace and peace,
Don

October 29, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family:

For years we’d dreamed of owning our own home. We lived in multiple church manses until we moved to Hilliard. I admit that there are some advantages to living in a church-owned manse as we had all these years. When the roof leaked, we didn’t have to wonder how to fit the unexpected repair bill into an already tight budget. But we always knew that the house was the church’s and that the decisions we made would affect future pastors and be subject to the church’s current board and financial situation. It made us cautious.

So, it felt good to make an investment of our resources and ourselves into a house, property, land. Places become holy spaces to us as we eat around the kitchen table, as we spend quiet fall evenings by the fireplace, or as we rake leaves in the backyard.

Churches also become holy spaces, not because of wood and glass and brick, but because of people. There are the people, past and present, who have left their imprints in the fabric of this congregation with their participation, worship and work. Couples have been married, children baptized, prayers said at times of sickness and struggle, tears shed at funerals and memorial services. Liberty Church is not just a building but a space where we share joys and sorrows, where, every week, our congregation joins with others across time and around the world.

Now, while COVID is limiting our opportunities to be together physically, we need to remember that the Church had its beginning in homes! We will continue to thrive as long as we remember that the message of Jesus Christ has been adapted and spread by whatever means were available. For now, we will care for each other with more distance. We will worship virtually or in smaller in-person numbers, but we know that the day is coming when we will all gather together in “the Barn” to worship again!

Grace and peace,
Don

October 22, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family:

A couple of Sundays ago, my wife and I were walking near the Griggs Reservoir on the Scioto River. We were on a particularly difficult trail with low hanging tree limbs, a narrow passage, and huge trees with roots on top of the ground. I was fascinated with these ugly, stringy, knotty, twisted roots. Some hung below an eroded ledge of rock and earth. Others were brutally ripped out of the ground and hung lifeless from a once giant tree.

Gnarled tree roots poked out of the ground, tripping us as we crossed their path.

These roots reminded me that much of each plant and each tree remains hidden under the ground and yet that hidden part—the roots—sustains life They are the foundation, holding the plant or tree or bush to the earth. In a way they are the heart of the plant, sending nourishment along the pathways, through trunk and stem and leaves.

These roots reminded me of a trip to Missouri.

We were visiting my family and it was time to decide what to do with “the home place”. Some years after my dad died, my mother decided to leave her home and was now living with my sister; we had begun the job of sorting out the accumulation of the generations that have lived there. The process was slow and tedious, actually it was horrible and wonderful at the same time. It was a treasure hunt of sorts.

It was finding the roots, brutally ripping them out of the past and claiming what we were going to carry into the future.

I was reminded of a verse from Jeremiah 17:8:

“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Grace and peace,
Don

Greetings from Pastor Kemper Huber

Hello, Liberty Church!

My name is Pastor Kemper Huber, and I have accepted the call to serve Liberty as your Transitional (interim) Minister. My wife, Janet, and I are excited to come and be a part of your church family. We look forward to getting to know you in the coming months (it may be a little more difficult with everyone wearing masks) and worshiping and serving with you side-by-side.

I was asked to share with you a little about myself and my background. I spent most of my life in a small town in Wyoming. I have an agricultural background. My family (5 boys and 1 girl) had a farm, ranch, and a feedlot. I spent my youth, and most of my adult life, tending sheep! Yes, I am a Shepherd who became a Shepherd.

I met Janet in this small town (she moved there to work for a couple of years and I never let her leave), and we raised our two sons there. When the younger graduated high school, he left for college and I left for seminary. I attended seminary (Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary) with the belief that God was calling me into Transitional Interim Ministry. After graduation, Janet and I have traveled to and served at seven churches in this capacity.

Janet and I enjoy the outdoors, and traveling to places we have not seen before. We both play golf—badly, but we enjoy it. I am an avid reader. Also, we love spending time with family, especially our three precious grandchildren. Our younger son just got engaged (much to his mother’s delight) and we are looking forward to a wedding celebration.

I know that this COVID pandemic has changed a lot of things in our lives, including how we “church.” We are finding new ways to stay connected and united as a body of believers. I am confident that no matter what the world throws at us, we are not facing it alone. We stand together united in the knowledge that God is with us and that no matter what tomorrow holds, we know WHO holds tomorrow.

In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Kemper

 

We welcome Pastor Kemper as our new Transitional Pastor
in online worship on Sunday, November 15.

Pastor Kemper will be preaching beginning November 22.

October 15, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family:

Kyle’s sermon this past Sunday on Philippians 4:1-9 spoke to us powerfully about the presence of joy in our lives, even in life’s most challenging situations. It reminded me of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which confirmands in the Presbyterian Church used to have to memorize.

I never learned the whole catechism by memory, but I do remember:

The first question of the catechism that asks, “What is the chief end of humanity?”
and answers, “Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.”

But do we enjoy God? Have we enjoyed God today?

Sometimes the word “forever” lures us into thinking that we can put off enjoying God until at least tomorrow when we have more time to be attentive. Do we enjoy God daily? It’s easy to forget that God is a playful God, that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”  Life isn’t much if there isn’t any enjoyment and what is there to enjoy if we don’t know how to enjoy God?

But just how do you do that?

Reaching out to enjoy one another is a precious way of enjoying life and the God who created us all. And what about loving ourselves, wrapping ourselves in the calm of doing nothing for a few moments, so that we can enjoy what God has already done in creating the sun that streams in the window, the song of a bird that’s just audible over the hum of the furnace if we stop and listen.

Enjoyment takes awareness.

It takes selfish protection of those moments when we push away the thoughts of what’s yet to be done, what might happen, what someone else is thinking.

Enjoyment also takes gratitude, for what is, for who we are, and most of all for who God is.

Let’s help one another to sharpen our awareness and to uncover our gratitude so that each day we can enjoy God.

Grace and peace,
Don

Introducing Liberty’s New Transitional Pastor

By:  Doug Benoit, Transition Pastor Search Committee Chair

It is my honor to introduce you to Pastor Kemper J. Huber, Liberty’s new Transitional Pastor. He was approved by the Session at their September meeting based on the recommendation of the Transition Search Committee.

Pastor Kemper (as he prefers to be known) was chosen from over twenty applicants from all over the country. Their final choice was based on factors such as preaching and worship style. It is believed that Pastor Kemper will be able to successfully relate to our congregation with all its various needs.

We were also impressed with the range of experiences Pastor Kemper brings to Liberty. In addition to this being his second career (he spent over twenty years managing a family farm operation), he has served in seven different Transitional Pastor positions between 2006 and 2020, suggesting he will bring a wealth of positive leadership to Liberty’s immediate future.

Pastor Kemper and his wife, Janet, will officially join Liberty on November 15, where his first major challenge—besides getting to know us—will be to help organize the next important step in Liberty’s search for our new permanent pastor.

October 8, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family,

I was sitting at my computer thinking about what I should write about today. My mind went in all kinds of directions wondering what I wanted to say. Then, I remembered the article I read that criticized the mainline denominations for their inability to change, their focus on survival and tradition, and lack of attention to community issues and mission. This author claimed churches were no longer relevant in our society, and specifically named Presbyterians. How do we plead our case? Guilty. Guilty as charged.

As I look back over my life and my ministry, I still love the church, this slow moving, myopic monster. I know we hold back, we wander in a wilderness of our own making, we juggle power and politics, we pour lots of energy into things of little significance. Yet for all these faults, we are still a community of faith redeemed by Christ and sent out into the world. When I think about the church, I remember how it has worshiped with me and for me when grief has left me numb. When I was recovering from surgery, the church was there along side of me, caring for me, loving me. This community stirs the longings that wrestle inside of me. It confronts me with the truth that turns my face red one minute and sets me free the next. It’s sent me out to sites of poverty and need that have challenged my prejudices and my comfortable life style. I love this church.

I’ve lived too long with the predictions that the church is going to die, to panic at this latest forecast that we are no longer significant. While the institutional church may not always be what it is today, I believe there will always be those who gather around the table to be fed, to be the community of believers. There will always be believers who call us to care for the strangers, to treat all as equals, and to bring God’s love to all corners of the world.

Whenever we have the chance, we need to run, walk, crawl, whatever it takes to get to that table. Maybe there we can again see a way to use our brokenness to care, to change our comfortable ways, to hear the needs of our communities and the cries of people around the world.

Grace and peace,
Don

October 1, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family,

This past Sunday, we went out for a car ride down by the river at Griggs Reservoir and watched all the boats on the water trying to capture a few more trips before it’s too cold. This beautiful weather beckons most of us to get in just a few more of those special activities, like golf or sailing, time at the lake or playing tennis, or one more trip to the zoo. For farmers like my nephew though, it’s time for harvest—those long hours in the fields.

For most of us our jobs are no longer tied to the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet, still we think of fall as that harvest time, when the crops are brought into the barns, when the last produce of the garden is canned or frozen. One of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns begins, “Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home: all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.”

While fall is a time for us to “gather”—to collect, amass, accumulate; for nature, it is quite a different time. For nature, it is a time to scatter. With complete abandon, nature flings its seeds, it’s very life to the wind in the hope that some will fall on fertile ground and life will begin again.  And, of course, there are no guarantees.

Maybe we can learn from nature.

Maybe we can be “scatterers”. Maybe these especially beautiful days will inspire us with such appreciation for life that giving will be a joy. Not cautious giving, reluctant and measured, but joyful, putting our faith in God that some spirit-filled wind will carry our gifts of life and love to just the right place and life will bloom anew.

God, teach me again the wisdom of your creation. Teach me to scatter.

Grace and peace,
Don

September 24, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed.  They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.
Isaiah 40:31

Dear Liberty Church Family,

This passage is one of my favorites because it speaks so clearly to the tired, burdened feelings that can creep up on us at anytime. Maybe the pandemic has made us especially vulnerable. I read a meme that read: “2020 has been and unusual Leap year. There were 29 days in February, 300 days in March, and 5 years in April.” We have been separated from our church family, in isolation from each other, and without so many of the rituals that give us meaning.

We need wings.  

Isaiah says that those who place their hope and confidence in this God will rise on wings of eagles. All around him, Isaiah saw people giving up their faith in God. They were exiled from the land they loved, separated from the temple and rituals they depended upon. They thought God had lost power and was no longer faithful to them. Alone and lonely, they didn’t have the strength to go on. Against this background, Isaiah believed that God had promised faithfulness.

He saw a God who could give him wings to soar spiritually and rise above the limited human perspective.

Can we have such a vision and hope that God will give us wings to face the everyday things, the tiresome, tedious things which have to be done, yet are never finished and must be done over and over again, day after day? Can we have such faith that we can face the irritating things without growing weary; the picking-up-the-pieces-again and starting-over things; the things that could have been easy if they’d only been done right in the first place; the things that nag at us because we know they must be done; the things we resent doing? Can we face the lonesome things and not grow weak; the smoothing over and pouring oil on things; those things that fill us with dread in anticipation when we are stretched and tugged and pulled apart? And can we walk and not grow weary when things demand more of us than we are prepared to give?

The prophet believed that he could because God had made this promise.

This same promise is ours. When we trust in God, we too can find our strength in the Lord. We can rise on wings like eagles.  We can run and not get weary. We can walk and not grow weak. This is our hope. This is our joy.

Grace and peace,
Don

September 17, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Liberty Church Family,

The temperatures are slowly getting cooler and we start dreaming of football. (And maybe even OSU football?) The one faithful movement toward fall is the gradual shortening of daylight hours. With the colder temperatures and shorter days comes less time outdoors and, with the many new cases of COVID-19 each week, that means additional risk. We will soon be moving to inside for in-person worship (with live-streaming) and that means we will have to intentionally make room for each other by keeping social distance and following guidelines. Making room for anything is no easy task. Making room for a new piece of furniture takes rearranging and often cleaning out an area. Making room for regular exercise takes rearranging schedules and maybe, especially, reinforcing our willpower.

Making room for God can be even harder. It means emptying our lives of cluttered voices and demands; emptying our hearts of old grudges, cherished opinions and self-centered concern. There are life-cluttering habits, activities, desires, relationships that are crowding out our ability to find God.

Where are our lives so full that there is no room for God? Where is there emptiness that only God can fill? As the days get shorter, we’ll use this metaphor to imagine the pouring out that makes room for God’s love and the filling up that brings with it the promise of resurrection.

Grace and peace,
Don

September 10, 2020

September 3, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

Dear Friends:

I have been thinking about relationships and some of the key ingredients that keep us together as a congregation during this pandemic and this period of transition.

  • What is it that we need in order to make it through this time of radical change?
  • How do we get to the place where we can work together, live together, and love each other even from a distance?

I came across a story about a backwoods rowing crew, who in the 1870’s, beat all the great Ivy League rowing crews. You can understand that caused quite a stir in the sport circles of the time. A reporter for a big city newspaper interviewed the captain of this backwoods crew to try to find out the secret of their success.
He said, “Captain, do you use the Harvard stroke?”
The captain replied, “Nope.”
“Well, do you use the Yale stroke?”
“Nope.”
“Then you must use the Oxford stoke?”
“Nope.”
“Well, what kind of stroke do you use?”
And the captain of this unsophisticated rowing crew said, ”I guess we don’t use no particular kind of stroke, except maybe the ‘git thar’ stroke. We just give it all we’ve got till we get thar.”

I think that is good advice during this interim period between pastors.

We will continue to love each other, work with each other, being patient with each other letting the Spirit of God to work through us. It won’t take a particular formula for “rowing” the church forward so much, but it will take teamwork, and attention to God’s presence, and certainly it will take persistence. I have confidence that by God’s grace we will arrive at just where we need to be.

“We just give it all we’ve got till we get thar.”

Grace and peace,
Don

August 27, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF REV. DON HILKERBAUMER

It is good to be back at Liberty again, even if it is only for a little while. For a brief time in 2014 and 2015, I was privileged to assist your pastors with pastoral care responsibilities and worship. This time I join your staff as a “bridge pastor” after the Harts’ retirement and before an interim pastor steps in to lead you in this important transition.

As I begin my time with you, I would like introduce myself, my experience, and my beliefs. My ministry and my faith grow out of my heritage. I was nurtured in a rural Presbyterian Church where the cross is inscribed, “Gott is Liebe” , and the worship service was still in German until the late 1940s. A strong sense of community, a passion for mission, and a faithfulness through good times and difficult, shaped their life together—and still shape my life and values today. They planted in me an enthusiastic faith, warmth, and a desire to welcome everyone as neighbor and friend.

“Will you come and follow me?” These words have also given shape to my ministry these past forty-eight plus years. I believe we are called to love God with all our heart and soul, to be faithful to the God of history, who has created the world, and in whose image, we were created. In my own faith journey, I have experienced God’s grace and comfort during times of pain, disappointment and loneliness, and that has encouraged me to share with others that we are not alone at these times. Through Jesus Christ we are reconciled to God and to others. In Christ, I have the opportunity to rise above my limited perspectives to see God’s purpose and how I can participate in that kingdom work.

In closing, I would like to share some personal history. I graduated from Lincoln University (Jefferson City, MO) and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where Janice and I met and were married. I have served churches in Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio, retiring from Plain City Presbyterian Church in 2013. Janice is also a retired pastor in the presbytery working as a Parish Associate at First Presbyterian Church, Granville Ohio. Janice and I have two children, Beth who is Pastor of Green Acres Presbyterian Church in Portsmouth Virginia and Jason of Hope, Missouri, where he serves as a Commissioned Elder, pastors two rural congregations and works on the staff of his presbytery. Jason and his wife, Misty, are parents of Tristen and Sydney. My hobbies include golf, fishing and cooking.

I look forward to getting acquainted with you as I share in the worship and ministry of your great church family. It’s more complicated, of course, in this time of COVID-19, but I hope we can find ways to reach out to each other safely. Feel free to be in touch with me by phone or email.

Grace and peace,
Don

THANK YOU NOTE FROM THE HARTS – August 25, 2020

Dear Liberty Family:

We want to thank you so much for the wonderful (wonder-filled) farewell. Such a beautiful painting of Liberty, such a generous financial gift – and, of course, the Buckeyes! And the farewell car parade! We were gratified to see so many of you there – and so touched by the opportunity to say goodbye not only virtually but in person.

Liberty has been a joy to serve, and we feel so blessed to join the long line of Pastors who have shared in the mission and ministry of this great church. What a privilege.

As we head off to North Carolina, we carry you with us in our hearts.

All Blessings,
Becky & John

August 20, 2020

Dear Liberty Family:

As John and I come closer to retirement, we have been reviewing cherished moments in our fourteen years here at Liberty.  Here are a few of mine:

  • Having the great privilege of preaching to you all
  • Digging deep in God’s word to prepare to preach to you all!
  • Steve and David on the pianos, creating uplifting music, and our talented band and singers
  • Children’s Moments with kids racing to the steps and shouting out their answers!
  • Serving at His Place and Street Church – holding hands and praying with folks who are very different than our Sunday a.m. crowd
  • Serving with the Deacons and Stephen Ministry, with so many desiring to care for others
  • Visiting folks one-on-one, from hospitals to homes
  • Starting up Be the Church with Penny Hampshire – and 200 folks coming out, eager to join in this outreach
  • The joy of baptisms and privilege of standing graveside with you
  • And of course, singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve, candles aloft, shining with the light of Christ

I asked John for highlights, and his include: Preaching & teaching, serving alongside our outstanding Church staff and officers, Liberty’s oh-so faithful volunteers, completing all of the renovations on our campus (from the Barn to Fearing Hall), the joyous sounds of 300 children at Vacation Bible School, and any opportunity to weave the St. Louis Cardinals into a message. I echo (almost!) all of these!

What a privilege to serve this great church family.

With all Blessings,
Becky

August 13, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF PASTOR JOHN

Dear friends,

This is our second-to-last Link that we will be writing to you as your pastors. We will greatly miss you and all things Liberty. There is nowhere else like Liberty! After an “extended-delayed retirement”, Becky’s and my last Sunday will be August 23.

A long time ago (in COVID years!)—back in February—we walked you through the slide at the bottom of this letter. It lays out the three stages of transition between now and when Liberty’s new permanent pastor arrives.  Let me review it again.

The first stage is the shortest. Rev. Don Hilkerbaumer will be Liberty’s Bridge Pastor from August 24 until sometime (most likely) in October. Many of you remember Don when he was Liberty’s “Interim Pastor of Visitation” in 2014-2015. Don is a retired Presbyterian minister, having served many years as pastor at the Plain City Presbyterian Church, and as a Bridge Pastor at several local churches. Don will be working part-time, focusing on online worship, supervising the staff, moderating Session, and providing pastoral care. You will enjoy his ministry!

The second stage will last from 1 to 1.5 years – the “Transitional Pastor”. Your Transitional Pastor Search Committee (Heather Burger, Jeremy Carpenter, Bridget Kaltenmark, Linda Kemp, Carlos Lima, and Jim Mohr) are hard at work, sifting through résumés, checking out online sermons, setting up interviews, and checking references. It is hoped the Transitional Pastor will arrive sometime in October. He or she will work full-time, doing much the same work Becky and I do. In addition to serving as Liberty’s pastor, the Transitional Pastor has the special task of experimenting — not making major changes but trying out new ways of doing things for Liberty. An early focus of the Transitional Pastor will be working with Session to run an all-church “mission study” — a multi-pronged process to help Liberty clarify where it’s been, where it is now, and where it believes God is calling it to go in the future.

The final stage is the search for and arrival of your new pastor. Most likely in early 2021, the church Nominating Committee will nominate a “Pastor Nominating Committee” (PNC) to be elected by the congregation, comprised of 9-12 members who will be charged with finding Liberty’s new pastor. Once the PNC is elected and completes the necessary forms and job description, they will read through applications, do research online, set up interviews, check references, and bring 2-3 finalists to Liberty for a final evaluation. This culminates when the nominee will preach at Liberty, followed by a congregational meeting to extend him or her a call. It’s hard to know how long this will take, especially given the changes wrought by COVID, but somewhere between November 2021 and March 2022 should see Liberty’s new pastor arriving.

Liberty is entering a time of transition, which means a time of change. None of us are crazy about change! But always remember we serve a living Lord, who is even now actively leading Liberty into His future for us. So, when you find this transition to be a bit trying, remember this Gospel truth: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Serving Jesus with you,
John

Farewell to the Harts

We invite you to join us in two ways of saying farewell to the Harts as they retire:

  1. Watch worship online on August 23rd.

    During the service, John and Becky will be presented with gifts from the congregation and Session, and a speaker will express our appreciation for the past 14 years.

  2. Following the service on August 23rd from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., we will be having a drive-thru farewell.

    Cars will enter at the lower level of the church parking lot and drive up to the upper level, where John and Becky will be outside to say goodbye. We are encouraging people to decorate their cars and to have signs of well wishes.  There will be a basket for cards for those who would like to leave a written goodbye. Please wear masks!

 

Please abide by the following Liberty safety protocols:

  • Take your temperature to ensure no fever before coming to Liberty’s campus.
  • Wear a mask at all times on the campus, both inside and outside.
  • Maintain social distancing (minimum of 6 ft. apart) at all times on campus, including in the parking areas.
  • Bring your own hand sanitizer and as possible use the bathroom facilities in your own home prior to attending a gathering at Liberty.
  • Do not attend if you have a temperature or a cough, have been ill in the last two weeks, or have traveled out of the country or to a “hot spot” in the last two weeks.