The church looks back on 2006!

This past year, 2006, was a year to remember.

There were a lot of reasons that 2006 was a year like no other. There were a lot of firsts for the church this year. A number of prominent people in our family of churches came to visit us. The year was filled with both highs and lows.

The church did a lot of things for the first time this year. “First” of all, our congregation had its own web site for the first time. This site started in September.

In May, the church had its first ever marriage workshop. Whenever the church felt it needed marriage help, it would have Bible-based marriage lessons from books or videos, but nothing on the scale of a workshop. Members would also fly to O‘ahu or elsewhere to enhance their marriages.

At our first ever marriage workshop, we were honored to have Sam and Geri Laing, noted experts on marriage and family from Georgia, come to Hilo and give lessons on improving marriages and raising children. They have published a large number of books about marriage and family. In addition to having helped numerous people’s marriages and families, they also teach by example by having a continually growing marriage and a family unit who all strive to follow God. It was truly a blessing for the Laing’s to encourage our church in this way.

In July, Greg and Tina from Phoenix, Arizona came to visit the church. This couple helped to start the church in 1991. Once the church became established, Greg and Tina became married. After more than a year in Hilo, they decided to move to Phoenix. Their visit this year marked fifteen years after they came on the team that started the church, and it was the first time that Greg and Tina had returned to Hilo since moving to the mainland. It was great for most of the church to get to meet them for the first time, and for some of the old-timers to catch up with them.

This year the church sent a representative to a song leaders conference for the first time. Ben and Sherie attended the 2006 Song Leaders Conference, “The Lord Is My Strength and My Song,” held in Los Angeles, California in July, and hosted by the Los Angeles International Church of Christ.

After fifteen years of existence, the Hilo Church of Christ had someone place membership for the first time ever. Siobhan placed membership in November. The church had had people move to Hilo and “transfer” membership to our church, but never has the church ever had someone place membership from another church to ours.

On October 7, Kyle, Evan and Levi baptized Brian, the first time siblings ever baptized someone.

On October 24, the church had three baptisms in one day. The church has had two baptisms in one day many times, but this was the first time the church had ever exceeded two. Richard, Kristalynn and Michael were baptized on that day.

In September, Kyle Bartholomew was selected to be the minister of our church. This was a joyous occasion for Kyle, but it was also a significant event for the church for a number of reasons. It was the first time that we have had a minister who also had a secular job to support himself.

Kyle was also the first minister who was baptized in Hilo. Kyle was also the first minister to be a “local,” or raised in Hilo. (We had had a minister who was raised in Hilo, but he moved here after being baptized and living elsewhere.) Kyle was raised, baptized and residing in Hilo, so he was a genuine Hilo-born minister.

Moreover, Kyle was the first ever minister to be selected by our congregation. All of our past ministers were selected by sister churches outside of Hawai‘i Island and then approved by our church. All but one of our ministers was not even a part of our congregation when they were selected to lead our church.

One could say that Kyle is Hilo.

Shortly after Kyle became the minister, he went to the “Follow the Fire” Portland jubilee and asked Kip McKean to help revive the church. Kip and Elena McKean flew to Hilo and preached there for the first time ever in September.

In October, the church was able to witness its minister couple baptize a sibling for the first time ever. Kyle’s wife, Joan, saw her brothers Michael and Richard get baptized.

Not all firsts for the church this year were good. In January, the church was forced to layoff its minister for the first time. For over a year, the church’s revenue had been in decline despite the church’s efforts to improve the giving and contribution at church services. The church even tried to reduce expenditures, but the church could never meet its budget. After the holidays a year ago, the church’s finances had gotten so bad that the church had no choice but to lay off the ministry couple. As of March, the church had not had any paid staff, although it continued to have volunteer leaders and a volunteer financial administrator.

The year seemed destined to end in failure, as a catastrophic event happened to the church in September.

Shortly after Kip McKean arrived in Hilo at the church’s request to preach, Dave Kim from the LA Church of Christ and leaders from the O‘ahu Church of Christ came to Hilo as well. At the Sunday service that Kip spoke, although a lot of people were present, only about half of the Hilo church members attended the service at the normal meeting place. About half of the Hilo church members went to another church service with Dave Kim and the O‘ahu church leaders.

The church had never had two church services in one day before under these circumstances.

Since that Sunday service, the church met in two different groups. Less than half of the church continued to meet in its normal meeting place. The rest of the church continued to meet together elsewhere. The two groups eventually became two separate entities.

After the split, the one area that seemed to be the most unsure was the church’s finances. After all, the year started with money problems for the church. The split seemed like it would cripple the church financially for a long time, since more than half the church membership was not there any more to help support the church. To everyone’s surprise, despite fewer members, the giving in the church began to improve. The weekly collections improved so much that the church was able to hire a part-time minister in December.

Kyle became the church’s first part-time minister ever.

The year 2006 had its share of memories. The church had never had a year like this, not even close.

The church went through so much in 2006. What about next year?