The Azure Hills Church in Grand Terrace, California has announced that Pastor Tara VinCross will serve as its next senior pastor. The announcement came during a Communion Sabbath service on June 25th. VinCross succeeds Pastor John Brunt, who retired as senior pastor in August 2015 after fourteen years as senior pastor of the Azure Hills Church.
Tara VinCross has spent the last eight years pastoring in the Philadelphia area within the Columbia Union Conference, including as senior pastor of the Chestnut Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church, director of the REACH Columbia Union Urban Evangelism School and the Lead Pastor of REACH Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church. She completed undergraduate studies at Southwestern Adventist University, and her MDiv at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. In August 2014, she completed a DMin in Discipleship and Biblical Spirituality, also at the Adventist Seminary at Andrews University.
VinCross will join Raewyn Hankins, Andrea Trusty King and Chris Oberg as the fourth woman senior pastor currently serving in Southeastern California Conference. Hyveth Williams, whose 14 years as a senior pastor in SECC remains the longest tenure for a woman, now serves as Professor of Homiletics at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.
Her husband Caleb is a chaplain, and the two have a son, Josiah, whom they adopted into their family in July, 2014.
The Azure Hills Church is a congregation of about 2,000 members located between Loma Linda University to the east and La Sierra University to the west in Southern California's Inland Empire.
The decision to invite VinCross to come to Azure Hills was made on May 30th after a year-long search for a new senior pastor. Datha Tickner, the principal of Orangewood Academy and chair of the Azure Hills Church search committee, discussed the search process.
The search committee had met regularly since October 2015 and started with a long list of 100 names, which through successive rounds of vetting was reduced to 33 names, then eleven, then seven. When the committee got down to four names, challenges arose; some of the finalists withdrew from the running. Finally, after a round of in-person interviews with two candidates, “it was a very easy decision because we felt so impressed that the Lord had led us to this person,” Tickner said.
The search committee took its recommendation to the church board, which in turn made its recommendation to the Southeastern California Conference Personnel Committee. Southeastern California Conference approved the name on June 23rd.
After Tickner described the search process, John Lorenz, chair of the Azure Hills Church Board, announced to the congregation that on June 13th, the board requested that the Southeastern California Conference assign Pastor Tara VinCross to the Azure Hills Church.
In a video message, VinCross said, “I am excited to accept the invitation of your church and the Southeastern California Conference to serve your community as senior pastor.”
She looked ahead to the things God would do in the Azure Hills Church community and reflected on what she had experienced in eight years of ministry in the Philadelphia region.
VinCross called on the church to work collaboratively with her through the changes. “I’m committed to expecting great things from our great God,” she said.
When the video ended, the congregation broke into loud applause. Interim Lead Pastor Alger Keough gave September 17 as the tentative date for her installation as senior pastor.
The news of VinCross’s appointment elicited many enthusiastic notes of support and affirmation, perhaps none as hearty as the social media message from her predecessor, John Brunt. Brunt wrote on his Facebook page,
Words cannot express how absolutely delighted I am at the news that my friend Tara VinCross is the new Senior Pastor of the Azure Hills Church. I, of course, had nothing to do with the decision except to pray for the search committee, but I couldn't be more pleased. I have been blessed by Tara's friendship, inspired by her preaching at the One Project, and have enjoyed watching her and Caleb be loving, joyful parents to Josiah. In addition, we served together for two years on the Theology of Ordination Committee (TOSC), and I was deeply moved by her ability to remain gracious, positive and cheerful in spite of the demeaning insults the women on that committee had to hear. It is wonderful to know that the church and people Ione and I love so much will be in such good hands.
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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