Sunday will be a day of sadness and thanksgiving at First Christian Church as the Rev. Tracy L. Wilson preaches his final sermon as pastor of the congregation.

Wilson has chosen “Thanks for the Chance to Plant,” based on 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, as his last sermon, thanking God and the congregation for the many blessings he and his family have received during a total of 20 years of ministry at First Christian and for the opportunity he has had to plant the seeds of Gospel in the church and community.

Wilson is quick to point out that he’s not retiring — he will never retire from the ministry to which he has dedicated his entire life — but he has resigned his pastorate in Duncan and is actively seeking another Disciples of Christ congregation.

“I’m looking for another church, and am eager and excited about finding one. I’ve got my ‘profile’ listed on the Internet for churches looking for pastors. In the meantime, if anyone is needing a temporary worker, give me a call!” he said with a smile.

It is usual for a pastor in his denomination to find a new church before leaving the old one, but in Wilson’s case, his decision to leave came before he had begun his search, he said.

“God’s got plans for me somewhere, and I plan to spend the rest of my life ministering to and helping people — to let people know of the love and presence of God. I tell people that ‘God loves you who you are and as you are.’ It’s what I do. I don’t have any hobbies. The ministry is my life. It’s where I want to be.”

Wilson is leaving an indelible mark on the community he first came to as a 21-year-old college senior at Phillips University in Enid.

“I was co-minister with Dr. James E. Smith for 15 months, with the title of senior minister-elect. He was my mentor. I commuted to Duncan for three and a half years while I finished my master’s of divinity degree. After that, I became full-time pastor. I met and married my wife here. The church gave us a washer and dryer for a wedding present, and we’re still using the washer. It’s been a good one!” he said.

The former Verna Devers was church organist at Immanuel Baptist Church at the time of their marriage. She is a native of the Velma area, and graduated from Velma-Alma High School. She has been employed by the Simmons Center as an administrative assistant in the recreation area for the past eight years.

Tracy Wilson is a native of Pauls Valley.

The Wilson family moved to Stroud, where Wilson was pastor of First Christian Church for four years. A nine-year sojourn as associate pastor of First Christian Church in Perryton, Texas, preceded the family’s return to First Christian in Duncan on Jan. 1, 1991, after an absence of 13 years.

The couple has two daughters. Amy, 26, of Weatherford, teaches kindergarten in Hydro and is choir director and pianist for her church in Weatherford, a joint Disciples of Christ/Presbyterian congregation. Emily, 22, calls herself a “super senior” at Oklahoma State University. In her fifth year, she has a couple of semesters of student teaching ahead of her before she graduates next May with a degree in early childhood development.

In addition to his pastoral duties at FCC, Tracy Wilson has been extremely active in the Duncan community. He has been a volunteer chaplain at Duncan Regional Hospital for many years, a position that has meant a lot to him, he said, and that gave him the opportunity to minister to many in the Duncan community.

He worked with Christians Concerned for 15 years; Christian Family Counseling Center for six years; Chisholm Trail Hospice for seven years, including two years as president of the organization; and was a volunteer for United Way of Stephens County for several years, including serving as chairman of the 2005 fundraising campaign. He recently received an award from an Oklahoma City church after being nominated for it by Duncan Superintendent of Schools Sherry Labyer in recognition for all he’s done in and for the school system.

And that’s in addition to the people whose lives he touched in the hundreds of weddings and funerals and other events at which he has officiated through the years.

“I got to know a lot of people outside the congregation and made a lot of friends in Duncan that I’m really going to miss. Duncan has a lot of beautiful, loving people and I appreciate the friendship and kindness the community has extended to me and my family,” Wilson said. “The time I spent in Duncan will always be very meaningful to me.”

As a matter of ministerial ethics and for the sake of the congregation in building a relationship with his successor, Wilson will no longer perform pastoral duties such as weddings and funerals for the remainder of the time he is in Duncan. He has also resigned from his volunteer work at DRH.

“And, because I will not be conducting weddings and funerals and such for the congregation at First Christian, I will not do it for others in the community. If I did, I wouldn’t really be letting go, and though it’s painful to have to do it, I have to cut those strings, so to speak,” Wilson said.

For the same reasons, he is seeking a new church outside of the Duncan area, though he would like to find a new home in a city the size of Duncan or smaller, where he hopes to find the same small-town friendliness and support Duncan has shown him through the years.

He is proud of what the church has accomplished during his tenure as pastor, though he’s quick to point out that it wasn’t his doing, but that of a caring congregation led by the Lord.

“We completed the Gathering Hall in the spring of 1999, along with some other remodeling at that time. It has really impacted the fellowship life of the church and the community as a whole. We often wonder how did we function as a church without it. Its been good for the whole community and is some of the most heavily used space in the building. We’ve had to recarpet it once already. We did that when we renovated the sanctuary in 2004,” Wilson said.

The Gathering Hall (what many churches call a fellowship hall) is used for a wide variety of church and community functions. It will be the scene of the farewell reception the church board is hosting for the Wilson family from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event is open to the community.

“I’m thankful God let me serve the people of Duncan all these years. I will miss the town and its people, but God will continue to bless the people of First Christian Church and I know he has plans for me, too,” Wilson said.

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