January 19 - The rain falling last Sunday couldn’t dampen the spirits of the members of the Cottage Grove Bible Church (CGBC) as they joyfully celebrated their pastoral transition from Robert Singer, who is retiring after 33 years, to Ron Harris, who spent decades as a church elder and a volunteer youth worker before accepting his own call into pastoral ministry.
The gathering felt more like a family reunion and the final leg of a nearly two-year-long transition to pass the leadership torch from the church’s longest-serving pastor to its newest pastor, who said accepting the call, “Feels like coming home.”
The traditional process is a pastor leaves, an interim pastor is appointed, and the pastoral search committee begins a journey to find and install a new pastor. CGBC’s search process was saturated with prayer and resulted in a seamless transition with the outgoing pastor remaining as a church member.
The 11 a.m. service was thoughtfully organized in a manner that blended the past, present and future into a rare and unusual ceremony. Singer began the service as he has done for more than three decades with announcements and children’s time. The worship team led the congregation in songs that were especially selected for the transitional service. Search Committee Chair John Kirk and Church Venture Northwest Director of Church Development Luke Hendrix made comments on the process that led to Harris’ selection.
Former Pastor Percy Kooshian (1970-1985) and past and current church elders joined Singer, Harris and Hendrix on the platform, where they knelt and laid hands on Singer and Harris and asked God to bless them in their new positions. Both pastors gave a short inspirational message, and both led in the serving of communion at the conclusion of the service.
“Bob’s shoe size is 13 and mine is 8. That’s how I feel right now,” Harris told the congregation during his remarks in the service.
Pastoral longevity is a hallmark of the Cottage Grove Bible Church. In its 60 year history, the church has been served by just six pastors. Kooshian began his 15-year tenure one month after the building was completed and church attendance was in decline. He said it was a difficult time when he first arrived as the church faced bankruptcy.
“God answered our prayers! As the Lord drew more people to join the church, our finances improved,” he added.
“I made many happy memories in this church,” Kooshian said. “Today’s service was wonderful, and I am honored to be here and be part of this smooth transition. Bob Singer has been an incredible pastor and Ron is an excellent pastor. I believe God’s blessings will continue with Ron’s leadership.”
The Harris family joined the church in 1977 when Ron was in college. Ron’s stepmother, Kathy Albin Harris, is the only remaining original CGBC member. Ron’s father, Harry, says he is proud that his two sons are both in ministry. He credits his late wife Doris’ leadership in the Child Evangelism Fellowship for instilling in their four children an evangelistic zeal to tell others about Jesus Christ’s gift of eternal salvation.
“I think it’s great that Ron is our new pastor,” Harry said. “Ron is always ready to help others. He is the best Christian you can imagine; he is not a phony.”
Kirk chaired the Search Committee. He joined the church in 2005 and has served nearly a decade as a church elder. He said the committee members are thankful for Hendrix’s assistance at the district level.
“Our committee met weekly,” Kirk said. “We devoted the first 30-45 minutes to earnest prayer asking God to guide us to the pastor He wanted us to have. We reviewed 100 plus applications and invited eight candidates for an interview. We were very happy when Ron said he would accept our invitation.”
Singer plans to shift gears to the district level and serve in interim pastoral assignments at churches searching for a new pastor. He and his wife, Helen, plan to remain members of CGBC when not serving in an interim assignment.
“After serving this church for 33 years, I am extremely pleased God led us to call Ron back to the church and the Holy Spirit led him to accept the call,” Singer said. “We’ve served the Lord side-by-side for many years, and we work very well together. I look forward to continuing that relationship.”
Harris grew up in Cottage Grove and graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 1975 and from Prairie Bible College in Alberta, Canada in 1980. He accepted a position as the Monterey County Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship in California.
He met his wife, Anna, at the First Baptist Church in Seaside, Calif. They married in 1982 and returned to Cottage Grove the following year where he worked at Les Schwab until he joined his father full-time at Harris Machine and Design. They have two daughters, Rebekah, 37, and Hailey, 19.
After years of holding various leadership positions in the Cottage Grove church, in 2009 he answered God’s call to become the pastor of Valley Bible Church in Kooskia, Idaho. Since 2017, he has served as pastor of Pacific Community Church in Bandon, Ore.
Harris said he and Singer are close friends and colleagues and he is pleased to return to Cottage Grove.
“Bob and I are very close and have ‘talked shop’ together for many years. For Anna and me, it feels like coming home,” Harris added. “We visit often but it’s different now that it’s a long-term commitment.”
You can visit Cottage Grove Bible Church's website at: https://www.loc8nearme.com/oregon/cottage-grove/cottage-grove-bible-church/7042600/