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Church Planting, Staff Changes and Celebrations

May is the time we joyfully witness about 25 6th graders make their public profession of faith. We also send off our high school seniors with blessing prayers. And we get ready to say goodbye to several long-time, faithful staff members.
One of the hallmarks of a healthy church is the tenure of the professionals who work there. Longevity signals loyalty, effectiveness, spiritual vitality and harmonious personality. In the coming year three key retirements are scheduled.
Carol Pruitt will retire as bookkeeper at the end of July. Carol has grown with our church finances. She handles all the financial gifts and expenditures, keeps up with staff medical and retirement benefits, and works cheerfully and confidentially. 
Barry Phillips has been my right hand man in his capacity as ministry executive for 18 years. “Papa Barry” develops the budgeting process, oversees employee relations and supervises care of building and grounds. His anchoring work has freed me to focus on preaching, teaching and vision. Though he will serve in a consulting capacity through year’s end, Barry’s retirement as a full-time staffer occurs August 15.
Our longest tenured pastor, Whitney Alexander will retire January 31 after 26 years on our team. Whitney led our youth ministry for years, then seamlessly transitioned to overseeing city and global ministry. He has connected us to Christ’s work throughout Baton Rouge and around the world. Somehow, he always shows up just where we need him most. 
That’s a lot of change! But your leaders have been planning strategically. Church member Courtney Hilton takes over as bookkeeper this summer after a brief period of overlap with Carol. Courtney brings years of corporate accounting experience along with her deep faith, consistent commitment to church and winsome personality. We will be in good hands.
Meanwhile, we’ve realized that the scope of ministry executive has grown beyond what one person will do. Kelly Wood will step into the role of ministry executive. Her experience as an Exxon project manager has given her the skills to turn vision into action. (We saw that during the Stewarding God’s Grace campaign which she oversaw last fall). Her focus will be on executing the plan of the session through the work of the staff and committees. She’ll be sure everything we do aligns with the overall vision and strategic plan. Long-time elder and trustee DJ Davis will take a part-time role as administrative executive. His purview will be personnel, finances and facilities. Thanks be to God, we will be in good hands.
That leaves us some time to consider how we will continue pressing forward in mission and best utilize that associate pastor position. Stay tuned, and please stay prayerful!
The Sanctuary
We’ve been hinting at it for months, but our session made it official: God is calling us to plant a church in North Baton Rouge. The pastors of the church will be Ron Hicks, Daryl Waters and George Gillam. Former Angola inmates, these men have a passion for reaching at-risk youth, difficult communities and others formerly incarcerated. We’ve heard George preach twice from our pulpit. We’ll get to hear Ron this summer. The new church will be called The Sanctuary and it will be overseen by a team of six elders, and underwritten by the church planting fund we established some years ago. For the rest of this year, they will be building a core leadership team, scoping out a physical site and gathering potential members. We envision an official launch next winter. More details to come. And once again, please offer your prayers for this endeavor. It’s an exciting time to be your pastor, and to be in ministry with you.