HELLO FROM COKIE
We have three sons with two married and one planning to get married in the near future. Christopher and Beth live in Greensboro with Christopher employed in the field of computer science and Beth, an attorney who left practicing law to become a teacher and is now teaching in Greensboro. Dr. Biff (Jonathan) and Dr. Brenna Bristol met at Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, are employed as pharmacists and live in Greenville, NC. Benton is attending grad school at VCU, pursuing his doctor of pharmacy and will have completed the program in spring of 2018. He is engaged to a beautiful young woman, Hayley Bradley who is in real-estate and property management.
I have had the privilege of serving five appointments since 1982. Please feel free to view them on the conference web site. Along with other clergy in our conference, I have enjoyed many continuing education opportunities including three that have greatly influenced ministry. One of them was Paul Nickerson’s “Boot Camp for Churches” which I attended with a team of nine people. Another was a “Change Conference” where laity and clergy came together for a conference and I managed to garner 12 people to attend with me. Some wonderful ministries were born out of that. The third was with Duke University’s Center for Creative Leadership with Russ Moxley and Janice Virtue.
Funded by the Duke Endowment for twenty-four participants it was one of the best experiences personally and professionally. We met one week every quarter for one year and followed outside reading assignments. The four weeks we were together, we participated in lecture, social and psychological evaluations and feedback; reading, group participation and simulation. It nourished my soul and equipped me in ways that continue to be a blessing to this day.
On the conference and district level, I have served as chair of the District Committee on
Building and Location. Later, I would serve as the facilitator of the Statesville Missional Network. We were guided by two questions: “What is the greatest need in our community?” and “Where can we have the greatest impact for Christ.” At first, those of us who were clergy began meeting together. Before we discussed vision or made plans, we decided we needed the laity involved as well. We realized anything we did had to be a grass roots effort. We began various ministries with laity and clergy from 13 local churches. We discovered power in numbers. Smaller churches with limited resources could invest and be a part of something greater. We were also able to do things even larger churches couldn’t begin to do alone. Clergy and laity enjoyed working together, supporting and getting to know each other. We met with other leaders in the Appalachian District and learned about faith partnerships with schools and found out ways we could become involved with children. Churches joined together with one of our poorest schools and began a reading, tutoring and mentoring program. Then in fall 2014, I was approached by fellow ministers to be the executive director of a Back-to-School Bash for Statesville. Our missional network began meeting about that and we decided it was a go. The first year, we raised approximately $55,000 including cash and inventory and supplied 1,500 students in eleven schools who were the poorest of the poor with free socks, tennis shoes and school supplies. I did not realize how much it helped until we spoke with working families with two or three children. The beginning of school places a financial burden on many working poor. Our goal was to help children have a good start for the beginning school year. Some unexpected results were the ways in which this event pulled our community together including churches across denominational lines, as well as business and industry, and school personnel. This ministry is now in its third year. It is taking wings of its own now. It is amazing to see a community come together in such a significant way.
To sum this up would be to say all good things that have happened in my life happened because of good people like you. It all boils down to faith, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and a broader community in the body of Christ and participation in the kingdom of God. I think about those of you who have loved Christ, the church and people through the years, who have made personal and professional sacrifices, oftentimes against all odds even dealing with and rising above failure and disappointment continuing the good fight due to a greater love for Christ and the Kingdom of God. That is exceptional! This ability is based on the possibility and hope that Christ affords us all. That is all any of us have really, the hope that something good will come through him. And when we work toward that end, we experience joy. Like the great hymn of the church, “O Church of God United” the most joyful way forward is together with hope and possibility at the bow and fear astern. This is my prayer for us all.
Grace and peace!