The first Sabbath of the PUC school year was highlighted by two significant events: the first meeting of ONE Church and the installation of new lead pastor, Mark Witas. Although Pastor Witas has been preaching at PUC since June, the September 28 installation service was a ceremonial occasion, memorializing the beginning of a new school year and solidifying Witas’ position as part of the PUC church staff.
A warm, inviting presence filled the sanctuary as the peals of the Healdsburg Bell vibrated in the air. Community members, side-by-side with college students and professors, listened as President Heather J. Knight welcomed the congregation to ONE Church. The college chorale, conducted by Bruce Rasmussen, provided worship in music alongside the praise team. Wendy Witas, new family ministries pastor, presented the children’s story, after which Jim Pederson, president of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, introduced the new pastor. Pederson, who served as the interim head pastor during the 2012-2013 school year, sincerely welcomed Witas to the PUC church staff.
For his first sermon as the newly installed lead pastor, Witas chose to kick off a three-part message entitled “What Saves Us.” The first segment of this message centered around the importance of grace, and how it can be distinguished from justice and mercy. True justice demands reaping the results of one’s actions, whether the consequences are good or bad. An act of mercy would be cutting someone slack, even if it is not necessarily deserved. But grace, says Witas, is free, full, and unmerited exemption; presenting our righteousness to God, filthy as it is, and receiving a spotless record in return. Witas invited the congregation to return in a week and hear the second part of his message on “What Saves Us.”
The Witas couple has spent years working together as an effective ministry team. Mark Witas comes from a well-rounded background of service and ministry, most recently as pastor of the North Cascade Seventh-Day Adventist Church. He also has history as a youth pastor, academy men’s dean, Bible teacher, and college and high school chaplain. His wife, Wendy Witas, is a teacher and musician who enjoys utilizing her skills to lead children in worship.
An organ postlude resounded over the conclusion of PUC’s first ONE Church, where faculty, community, and students united in welcoming their new lead pastor and his family. A result of joining the Majestic service and the Gathering, ONE Church unites the entire PUC church family together for worship at 11:15 a.m. This unique new service brings the PUC student body together with the multiple generations of church members in the Angwin community. ONE Church will take place twice a quarter, with the next combined service occurring on December 7.