Two local churches complete pastoral searches

Two Hillsboro churches successfully ended long searches for new pastors this month.

Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church had been looking for almost two years since the resignation of Dennis Fast. The search at First Mennonite Church lasted about a year after longtime pastor Keith Harder left.

?We were not going to panic and just fill the job,? said Daryle Baltzer, chairman of the search committee at HMBC. He said they wanted to be sure the person they found was called there by God.

Baltzer said two years was not an overly long time for a church the size of HMBC, which has around 600 members, to search for a pastor.

?It was good for us in that it provided an opportunity to have several interim pastors and, as a church, to process what we wanted in a pastor,? Baltzer said.

Over the course of their search, the committee explored 30 potential candidates.

Last November, the committee brought one of those candidates to the church for consideration. Bruce Porter and his wife, Janice, received a favorable vote of 85 percent from the congregation.

?We felt that was a strong affirmation,? Baltzer said.

But it was not strong enough for the Porters, who declined the invitation.

Following the Porters? decision, the committee began pursuing other candidates

?At the end of February, we got word Bruce was having second thoughts about his decision not to come,? Baltzer said.

After the committee had concluded contacts with several other candidates, they revisited the possibility of having Porter as their pastor.

In early June, the Porters came back and spent a week in Hillsboro.

Members were given the opportunity to meet and visit with them in a variety of informal settings.

?We just wanted people to get to know them on a more personal level and for them to get to know us,? Baltzer said.

The congregation reaffirmed its earlier decision to call the Porters with a vote of 90 percent. This time the Porters accepted the call.

?They are excited now by that opportunity,? Baltzer said. ?But more importantly, they are convinced this is what God had for them. If God?s called them here, I think we can expect great things.?

The Porters will move to Hillsboro in mid-August. Bruce will begin his pulpit responsibility Sept. 1.

They are coming from Fresno, Calif., where Bruce has been the director of alumni at Fresno Pacific University. They are members of the North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church, where Janice has been serving on the pastoral staff in the area of children?s ministries.

Bruce has been a senior pastor in Visalia, Calif., an associate pastor at Lodi, Calif., and a youth pastor in Reedley, Calif.

He has a bachelor of arts in contemporary Christian ministries from Fresno Pacific College and a master of arts in Christian education from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno.

Meanwhile, the First Mennonite Church found its next pastor in Illinois.

According to David Mathis, a member of the search committee and chair of the deacon board, the search committee was formed last August to start looking for a pastor.

The Western District Conference provided the congregation with more than 15 resumes to consider.

?We had a number of ones we wanted to focus on,? Mathis said.

One of those pastoral families was Ken and Carol Peterson, from Flanagan, Ill.

Mathis said they had an initial telephone interview with the Petersons and felt they would fit well with the church.

?We saw them as people who seemed to enjoy living in a town the size of Hillsboro,? Mathis said.

He said the Petersons believe in a natural form of outreach.

?He also believes in enabling members of the congregation to be effective in outreach,? Mathis said.

This is a renewed focus for the congregation with a membership roll of about 160 people.

The Petersons visited Hillsboro twice. The first time they met with the search committee and deacons. The second time they met the congregation.

?We had a very positive vote affirming them, over 91 percent,? Mathis said.

Ken Peterson has been in the pastoral ministry for 27 years. He and his wife have had permanent pastorates in four congregations, two of which lasted 10 years.

Mathis said their previous congregations spoke highly of the Petersons? ability to bind a congregation together. He said they have a genuine friendliness and a sense of humor and warmth.

?We had a long pastorate with Keith Harder and we?ll miss Keith. We think this will be a nice continuation of what we had with Keith,? Mathis said.

Peterson received a bachelor of science degree from Northwest College and attended the Western Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Ore.

He will begin his pastorate here Nov. 1 when his interim pastorate is completed at Waldo Mennonite Church.

During the past year, Ruth Penner has served as interim pastor at First Mennonite.

Mathis said a congregation needs a buffer time with an interim pastor to provide an easier transition from the former pastor to the new one.

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