The following article was written by Sarah Katreen Hoggatt for the Salem FUMC newsletter and is copied and pasted below for your convenience:
You may have heard everything is bigger in Texas and that includes the heart of John Fleming, our new Open Door Churches lead pastor who will be joining us starting July 1st. Personable, inclusive, and supportive, John is excited to have the opportunity to join our Open Door Churches community and help us continue to grow and learn together.
John has served in the ministry as a pastor for over 22 years, including four appointments as a pastor in charge—Gainesville First United Methodist Church in Texas being the most recent. With a conversational preaching style, he loves supporting people and building others up—passions he used while serving on the Board of Ordained Ministry and is looking forward to sharing with us. He is a firm believer that we are all in this together and is dedicated to supporting us as individuals as well as a community.
It will not take you long after meeting John to know that he loves music and playing his guitar. A performer and songwriter, he loves how music connects us and brings people together, helping us express the things that can be hard to communicate otherwise but can be said beautifully when sung. John also loves to be out in nature on hiking trails and is delighted with the miles and miles of beautiful scenery that our great Northwest has to offer. When he is not playing the guitar or out hiking, you may also find him on a golf course, warming up those clubs after his long drive from Texas.
John is married to his wife Rona (rhymes with Donna) who is a gifted teacher. She currently works in a juvenile detention center down in Texas and is undecided about what she wants to do once they move here. They have two adult daughters, Emma (24) and Tori (27) who both live in Texas. While John and Rona will greatly miss being close to both Emma and Tori, they are looking forward to flying down to Texas and visiting with their daughters on a regular basis.
With John also comes two new friends of the four-legged variety, Mia, who looks like a silver fox and is super-affectionate, and Buddy, a 12 year old chihuahua mix John found in the parking lot when he was a pastor in Garland, Texas.
Already familiar with our area here in Oregon, John and Rona have spent time visiting Rona’s brother and his husband up in Portland. Both men are thrilled to have John and Rona closer and are looking forward to more family time in the near future.
It didn’t take long with John when interviewing him for this article to realize he has a servant leader’s heart. John loves helping people feel good about themselves, develop their gifts, and find their voice. When he first heard about Open Door Churches, he thought it was a genius idea to come together as one community and to go from each having a pastor to a pastoral team caring for all. Thrilled to become a part of it, he is looking forward to assisting in the innovation and creativity as he helps us all implement our ideas and to discern the next piece of the puzzle.
Like our pastors of Open Door Churches, John and his fellow ministers did a live Facebook feed down in Texas. To see it for yourself including John preaching, you can find the video here. While John is a lover of preaching and worship, he believes that preaching is just one of many essential components of worship and that liturgy is indeed, as the word means, a “work of the people.” Above all, it is the experience of God, not the form itself, that is important.
It is fun to hear about a pastor when things are easy but it is especially revealing of their character to hear someone’s perspective for when things get hard. John knows that in whatever ministry we each do, we will have to insert ourselves into uncomfortable places. When conflict then inevitably comes, how we handle it and get on the other side is our true witness. It is especially at these times we can proclaim who we are and who God is by being people who are loving, kind, compassionate, and forgiving while always assuming the best of each other. Dedicated to approaching all situations with humility, John is someone who walks his talk. He listens well, hears and speaks the truth in love, and strives to unpack equality in all its expressions.
“The people I trust the most are the ones who are willing to tell me the truth. If I have done something that has hurt or upset them in some way and they come to talk to me about that, then I will respect them always. I’m not a reactionary person and don’t get defensive.”
REVEREND JOHN FLEMING WILL JOIN US ON JULY 1ST
Reverend John Fleming will be joining our community starting July 1 st of this year. I am sure it will be a delight to get to know him better and to share fellowship with him.
In this time of separated togetherness as we each stay in our homes and look forward to when we can be together again, I would like to leave you with one last thought in this season of Lent that John pointed out to me. During the last supper, the dinner was not the center of the event—the table was. It wasn’t about the form of the Last Supper, it was the community that shared it. As we go forward into the weeks ahead, be the community I have come to know and appreciate—a people who truly care for one another and the world around us. Gather around the table, virtual as it is, and care for one another.