Janice Hill took the long way around to the pulpit.
The Ennis newcomer will be installed this Sunday as the new pastor at First Christian Church in Ennis. She has ministered at two other Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) churches, in Marshall, Texas and South Grand Lake, (Tulsa) Okla. – both posts undertaken after a successful 20-plus year career in business and human resources.
She sees her ministry role as no more sacred than her former business career – just a simple obedience to God’s direction.
“I don’t believe my calling into ministry makes me special – we need to do what God calls us to do, to be open to that,” she said.
Prior to her first career, she majored in speech and drama, and received a masters in communications as well, both from Arkansas State.
Divorced, and with a grown daughter who’s a marketing exec in Los Angeles, she was called to the ministry, graduating from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa in 2007. “I started seminary and my first solo pastorate the same week,” she recalled.
She first became familiar with Ennis when she was ministering in Marshall. Through Ennis resident and Marshall native Harriett Adams, her church developed a friendly rivalry with First Christian of Ennis over an Ennis/Marshall football game.
Whichever town lost would display the opposing team’s mascot in their narthex.
Ennis won, and an Ennis Lion greeted worshippers coming to church – a sweetly ironic foreshadowing of things to come, perhaps.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – sometimes nicknamed “the church of the parentheses” because of its dual title – holds the claim of being the oldest American-born denomination. The chalice emblem that generally accompanies the logo represents the church’s weekly celebration of communion that is open to all believers.
Another chief tenet of Disciples of Christ theology is “No creed but Christ.”
Hill was raised Church of Christ – her father, H.D. Smith, was a Church of Christ pastor for six years and last held a church in Ben Wheeler, Texas. She has also attended a Baptist church.
Hill’s background in several Protestant churches has given her an appreciation for variations of viewpoint. That tolerance, together with a respect for Bible study and the use of God-given intellect, is something she likes about the Disciples of Christ, she said.
“Not only do we not have to agree on everything, I love the fact that we don’t agree on everything. There’s room for that in this church – there are very few things I’ll dig my heels in about.”
One of those few things is the need for the church to follow Christ’s example in offering relationship.
“The church lets us live out the two greatest commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves,” she said. “That’s as simple as it gets – it’s all about our relationship with God and our relationship with our fellow man.”
The crucial role of the church can’t be stressed enough, said Hill, who is a member of the local ministerial association and likes to be active in the community.
“It’s not that you can’t worship outside church, but there’s something about communal worship,” she said, adding that she remains amazed that God has put the task of showing His love in the hands of His body on earth, the church.
“We are family, we are community, we are the body of Christ – that’s an awesome calling, and it’s an awesome ministry … What I can do as an individual is limited, even for Oprah,” she said with a smile. “We can serve God and serve people best in community.”
The screensaver on her computer reads, “God is faithful – you can count on God” – and the Rev. Janice Hill believes that.
“This Christian life is not dependent on externals; all of that impacts us, but at our core, our best life guarantee is that nothing can separate us from the love of God. That’s something you can stake your life on – and I have,” she said.
An installation service will be held for the Rev. Janice Hill this Sunday at 10:50 a.m. at First Christian Church, 805 West Baldridge in Ennis.
E-mail J. Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org.