by Stewart Smith, General Presbyter
The year 2019 will go down as one of transition on our Presbytery staff. Last October, our presbytery elected a staff search committee that was charged with filling 5 positions in our newly adopted staff structure. That decision just so happened to coincide with the timing of NiAnn Thompson’s retirement from the presbytery staff after many years of faithful service and Hannah Lahodny’s resignation as our staff resource for youth after serving us well on an interim basis while working full time at Ferncliff. As a result, we have been “short staffed” for all of 2019.
The search committee had a difficult task–trying to fill 5 positions at once and they decided to prioritize the positions that more impacted our current day-to-day operations. As you recall, at the June stated meeting, the search committee placed the name of Leslie Belden, our temporary stated clerk, before the presbytery and she was elected to be our stated clerk. As you will read in a report below, over the summer the search committee has filled two more positions. There were several very qualified applicants for both of these positions.
Brianne Christiansen has been hired to be the Presbytery Developer of Ministries to, for, and with Young People. Brianne lives in Fayetteville and works on a part-time basis as the Co-Youth and Young Adult Director at First United Presbyterian Church. She also is a seminary student at Western Theological Seminary and an inquirer for ordination in the Presbytery of Arkansas. Brianne will work from Fayetteville. She has begun her work immediately by planning for a youth advisory team retreat and our upcoming Junior High Youthquake.
Kimberly Palmer has been hired to be the new Presbytery Administrator. As you may recall this became a part-time position in the new staff structure. Kimberly lives in Jacksonville and was attracted to the part-time nature of the position and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with accounting and bookkeeping in small business. Kimberly will begin her work on September 2. You will have the opportunity to meet both Brianne and Kimberly at the October meeting of presbytery.
Of course, this means that we must say “goodbye” with gratitude to Kenneth Rich, whose full-time position was eliminated in the new staff design. Knowing the part-time position was coming, Kenneth found another part-time position in April and has been working half-time since then. Kenneth began his work with us in 2012 and has been a faithful and loyal member of our staff. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with Kenneth and very much appreciate his friendship and assistance to me as I made a transition into the General Presbyter position. Kenneth has been offered a generous severance package to assist him and his family as he looks for other employment. Kenneth’s last day with us will be on August 30.
The staff search committee will now turn its attention toward filling the two new positions in the staff design. I know they will appreciate your continued prayers as they continue their work.
I am certainly appreciative of all of those who have helped out during this time of transition. I am thankful for your patience with me as I have needed to give attention and time to other areas and responsibilities beyond my normal course of work. I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming presbytery meeting, October 4-5 at Ferncliff. I remind you of our newly adopted mission statement: “Trusting that we serve God better together, we are a family of congregations, ministries, and their leaders empowering and supporting one another to embody Christ’s love for all.” I continue to be thankful to be a part of this family with you as we strive to embody the love of Jesus Christ for all people.