The sermon was good. The announcement that followed was stunning.
After Keene Adventist Church Senior Pastor Mic Thurber, 57, finished preaching Saturday morning, he used the microphone to address what was being whispered throughout town: he and his wife are leaving Keene.
“I have become aware that some in our church have been giving out some information about our family,” Thurber said, reading from a prepared statement. “As a result, there is a growing number of questions about our ministry here in Keene. One of the questions some have asked in recent weeks is, ‘Are pastors Mic and Jana looking for work elsewhere?’ The answer to that question is, we are starting to.
“Given that Jana and I are finishing up our 10th year of service to this church, the Texas Conference administration has decided that this is the time for a transition in the leadership of this church. They have assured us that their decision is based on the length of our service here, and that is why we have begun to look for another place to minister.”
Because the time required to “find a suitable ministry to continue the work for which we feel called” is unknown, Thurber asked for the congregation’s patience and prayers, “even as we will be praying about your future pastoral leadership here,” he said.
The time could range from a couple of months to the better part of a year, Thurber said.
“We are grateful to the conference leadership for giving us ample time for this to take place,” he said.
He stressed that he plans to continue leading the church while here, and that the conference leadership is in support of that.
“This is still very much my pulpit, and the work of this great church continues on,” Thurber said. “The conference looks to me during this time, as they have for the last 10 years, to be the senior pastor of this church in all that it means.”
Thurber will take time for summer vacation and his usual study retreat, but will still provide most of the preaching until the transition is completed, he said.
Jana will continue her work with Stephen Ministry, women’s ministry and pastoral care until they leave, he said.
“As you might imagine, this is not easy for us,” Thurber continued. “But the work of the body of Christ in Keene and the honor of the name of Christ must always be of the highest import and priority.
“Jana and I want to say now what we will be saying to you frequently in the months ahead: it has been our honor and privilege to know you, love you and serve you,” Thurber said. “Thank you all for making these years so rich with meaning and hope and love.”
Phone calls by the Keene Star Tuesday and Wednesday to the office of Texas Conference President Carlos Craig’s at conference headquarters in Alvarado asking for comment were not returned.
Thurber was advised of the conference’s decision in mid-May.
Phone calls to the Keene Star have expressed concern that the Keene Adventist Church board of elders was not informed in advance about the decision, although the church manual does not require such notice.
Thurber, the son of lifelong Adventist denominational employees John and Patsy Thurber, lived in Keene from 1967-71, attended seventh- and eighth-grade at Keene Adventist Elementary School, and the freshman and sophomore years at Chisholm Trail Academy, “when it was located at an industrial building on the college campus.” At age 13 he was baptized in the Keene Adventist Church.
Thurber was the senior pastor at the Pacific Union College Adventist Church in Angwin, Calif., when he was called by then Texas Adventist Conference President Steve Gifford, who chaired the search committee to find a replacement for Ron Halvorsen.
Gifford was president of the Southeastern California Adventist Conference when Thurber was head pastor at large-membership churches in San Diego and Calimesa, near Loma Linda University.
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., and a 1978 graduate of Southern Adventist University, Thurber began his career in education, serving at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri and Mt. Pisgah Academy (his alma mater) in Asheville, N.C.
He entered the ministry in 1981 in Southern California, and, after pastoring two churches, served six years as ministerial director of the Southeastern California Adventist Conference.
Thurber’s father, John Thurber, was a member of the King’s Heralds quartet from 1961-67. He has served the Adventist Church as a teacher, minister, evangelist and conference president.
Jana Thurber, a 1976 graduate of Southern Adventist University, served as an estate planner for PUC. Her father, Howard Boling, was a member of the evangelistic team with Roger and Joan Holley. She remembers visiting the Holleys when they had a home on Possum Kingdom Lake.
Mic and Jana have three children: Gina, who has a master’s degree in wellness management from Ball State University and lives in Denver, Colo., where she is a marketing and operations director for senior healthful living programs for senior communities; Darrin, a pastor in the Ohio Adventist Conference who earned a master’s degree from San Francisco State University in classical guitar performance. His wife, Cristine, is pursuing a master’s degree in international development from Ohio University. Their first child, a daughter, was born in February; and Kaylin, who attended KAES just like her father did and graduated last month from CTA.
Thurber isn’t sure where he and Jana will go.
“We love the college-church setting, but there are only about nine of those and they’re looking at younger pastors,” Thurber said as he contemplated the future. “God has given me the privilege to pastor two university churches and our preference is to continue what we’ve been doing (at another similar situation.) We have to think about our daughter’s college needs.”
Thurber praised his staff.
“We have good people here and I hope they are able to continue,” he said.
On July 20, 2002, Thurber preached an “evaluation sermon” — he was evaluating the congregation and they were evaluating him — at the Keene Adventist Church, then returned to California. Twenty-four days later, he informed Gifford that he was returning to Keene.
“What we hope we will find is a church family that loves Jesus, wants to hear the old, old story over and over again, and who will work together to be Jesus to those around us,” Thurber said in a story that appeared in the Aug. 15, 2002, Keene Star.
“What I hope for pastorally is that the church will graciously allow me to present the Jesus that I know in as many ways I am able while I’m there with you,” Thurber said 10 years ago. “That is a high privilege that I take very seriously. I hope that as we present Jesus, this new community for us will start to make room for our family in their hearts, as we will open ours to you when we arrive. That way, we can be a strong team for the cause of Christ in Keene.”