When Rick and Misty Herbert were asked to consider shepherding the flock at Madras Free Methodist Church last April, they declined.
But after that initial request, God began stirring their hearts.
"Initially, we thought we didn't want to do it because we were doing great in Corvallis," he said. "We'd been at the church there for almost 20 years, and my wife had been teaching school at the same place for 17 years."
They had thought they'd retire in Corvallis and stay there for several more years.
But in late July, leaders of the Oregon Conference of the Free Methodists called the Herberts again, asking if they would reconsider taking the lead pastor position at the Madras church.
"It seemed after we had said no the first time, God began working in our hearts to prepare us for a change during those three months," he said.
He felt it would be odd to change jobs and move and sell their home during the pandemic. Then Misty had changed jobs in the summer, and several other people they knew had changed jobs. The idea of a move to the other side of the mountains suddenly didn't seem so strange.
"There was that sense that God was speaking to our hearts about going to this place," Rick said. "Their pastor was moving on, and they didn't have one yet, and I was in a multi-staffed church with several pastors on staff, and we began to sense that the church we were leaving would be OK, and the church where we were going needed us to come."
So, in mid-September, he joined Madras Free Methodist Church as lead pastor. Rick Russell, who was lead pastor there for 16 years, took the full-time lead role at Mountain View Fellowship in Redmond. For the past five years, Russell had served half time at both churches
The Herberts have been in the ministry together for more than 30 years. They have three adult children.
He has been a part of the Oregon Conference since 1993. He pastored the Albany Free Methodist Church for five years and then was a private school principal for three years and also served as an interim preacher for a year. Misty was as a teacher at Santiam Christian Elementary.
For 20 years, Herbert served at Suburban Christian Church in Corvallis as the pastor of outreach and discipleship, most recently as congregational care pastor. He also led men's ministry, senior's ministry and served on the missions ministry team.
Herbert would love to see his 140-member Madras congregation grow as a church family.
"Like everybody else around the country and around the world, we're facing those issues of isolation, so one of the goals is to continue to strengthen our church as a community itself," he said.
He also wants to help people grow in their relationship with Christ and will emphasize personal Bible study and time with God through prayer. He will invite his membership to participate in a devotional series during Advent and also leading up to Easter.
Herbert pointed out that one of the strong core values of the Free Methodist church is to minister to the community. Under his leadership, the church will continue to support the Jefferson County Faith Based Network, LINC Madras and the local shelter.
He also wants to help people share the gospel.
"How do you tell people about Jesus during COVID?" Herbert asked. "We'll be working on ways that we can share our faith besides serving. The idea is how can we serve people and how can we share God's love for one another, our community?"
Madras Free Methodist Church members have adjusted the way they hold church services during the COVID-19 pandemic by doing a combination of in-person and online services at 10 a.m. Sundays. Herbert said they have even made some adjustments for the recent two-week statewide freeze, which limits indoor faith-based gatherings to 25 people.
One group gathers physically distanced and wearing masks in the upstairs sanctuary at the church on South Adams Drive, where Herbert shares his message. It is recorded and livestreamed to a television screen downstairs to another small gathering and also shared on Facebook Live. The children's pastor continues to offer Children's Church through online lessons.
Herbert says that he and his wife are settling into their new community on the east side of the Cascades.
"Everyone we've met has been very friendly," he said. "We're thankful to be here in this community, and we look forward to getting to know people."
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