In last week’s blog I wrote about “Giving Honor to Whom Honor Is Due” and talked about the people we honor at our Annual Awards Breakfast. I didn’t plan it this way (I wish I had that much forethought!), but this week is a continuation of that same theme, as I have the opportunity to honor a local pastor.
On Sunday I attended Rockside Church in Independence, where Donna Barrett serves as the Founding Pastor. After 15 years of successful ministry, Donna has recently resigned to accept a very prestigious position as the General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, out of their national office in Springfield, Missouri. One thing that makes this appointment significant is that she is breaking the proverbial glass ceiling by being the first woman to serve at the highest level of ecclesiastical leadership of this denomination. Since I wanted to honor Donna’s work and to express my congratulations, I chose to attend a service the week before her farewell service, which is this Sunday.
It’s customary when a pastor leaves a congregation that nice things are said in appreciation for their ministry, but most of the time those comments come from the congregation. Although the Rockside Church family is doing many things to say thank you to their beloved Founding Pastor, Sunday I witnessed something I wish could be said of every pastor and congregation. Present in the worship service was Angie Zidanic, Clerk of Court for the City of Independence, who was given an opportunity to say thank you on behalf of the citizens of the city.
Many times when this kind of expression comes from the mayor or a government leader, a formal proclamation is read with all of the “whereas” and “let it be resolved” jargon on display. This presentation was different, and the speaker’s comments were anything but formal but rather were very heartfelt. Pastor Barrett and Rockside Church are both highly visible and highly valued by the city leaders, and their accolades were impressive. I wanted to share just some of what was said as we honor Donna and the work of her church.
Ms. Zidanic made it very clear from the beginning to the closing of her remarks that Rockside is a church that doesn’t just operate within the four walls of their building.
In today’s world, people don’t seek a church like in years past, so it is important for churches to seek out people. The church cannot spread the gospel and plant seeds of hope and love if it stays within its walls.
That being said, she also recognized that programs operating within the church can be outreach-focused as well and mentioned two she had attended at Rockside, which were helpful to her- Financial Peace, which helps individuals and families clear away debt and remain out of debt and Relational Wisdom, which is like Emotional Intelligence with the “God factor” added in.
In talking about Donna specifically, Angie said, “From the moment Donna came to Independence, she was visible; she was approachable; and she brought a new brand of faith and prayer to the city- not only an opportunity to serve the community but to grow the church.” Then she went on to discuss specific ways Pastor Barrett and Rockside ministered outside of their four walls. Interestingly enough, many of these centered on community prayer opportunities, such as National Day of Prayer observances, Seek God for the City at the Lenten season, monthly prayer at Old Town Hall, Power Lunch Prayer for business professionals, and Christian Women’s Business Connection, among others.
That in and of itself was quite a tribute, but the accolades didn’t stop there. Also mentioned was the church’s work with the 25 & Alive program, which brings together the city, schools, churches, local businesses, teens, and parents to help the teens and their parents make healthy, positive decisions to get to the age of 25. Other critical issues Rockside and Pastor Barrett help to practically address include: schools, addiction, and human trafficking.
In her concluding remarks, Angie shared how she personally was touched by the life and ministry of Donna.
I cannot count the times I’ve called Pastor Donna’s cell phone and asked for a minute of her time to pray, sometimes for a defendant on probation, sometimes for the mother of an addicted child, and sometimes, for some personal situation I was facing in my own life. And guess what, she ALWAYS had the time, and it was MORE THAN A MINUTE!
Without question the contributions this pastor and congregation have made to the City of Independence is a model for all churches to follow. Just imagine what impact Christ’s Church could have on our communities if every congregation would follow the example of this amazing pastor and congregation.
To the pastors and leaders and congregants of churches of the Greater Akron Area, be both encouraged and challenged regarding the impact your church is leaving in this community. I leave you with this final quote from Ms. Zidanic’s remarks. “The tentacles of Rockside Church reach long and wide, outside its walls, outside its city, right up to heaven itself. She has woven these together into a beautiful tapestry, which will be the indelible legacy she leaves here in Independence.”
To Donna and Rockside, thank you for showing the City of Independence what the love of Jesus looks like. May your kind increase. To you, specifically, Donna, I say what an honor it has been to have had you be part of our Northeast Ohio Church family. May God bless you and keep you as you step into your new role.