NEW HOPE MINISTER TAKES HELM OF FELLOWSHIP GROUP FOR PASTORS
By Dave Stave
Observer Staff Writer
The new chairman of the Union County Ministerial Association sees the group's monthly meetings as a great way for pastors to get to know and support each other.
The meetings, Pastor Kent Hug of New Hope Christian Church in Island City said, are held to provide fellowship and encouragement for ministers. But seldom are community-wide events planned by the group.
Hug, who started New Hope about 15 years ago, said a "good relationship" exists among most of the pastors in the area, in spite of some doctrinal differences.
Ministers from Baptist, Lutheran, Four Square, Assembly of God, Methodist and other denominations are involved in the association.
"We have at least a dozen who are active participants, but we send our mailings to 40 or more churches," the new chairman said.
"There's a common respect and appreciation for each other."
Hug replaced Wilfred Nitz as the association's chairman. Nitz retired on May 1 after 19 years as pastor of La Grande's Faith Lutheran Church.
Hug said because of the diversity of the churches and pastors, the association normally does not plan community-wide events.
At its meetings, the association hears presentations from people putting together major events, such as Christian music festivals or the appearance of Bible Man at La Grande High School a couple years ago.
Some, but not all, of the ministers within the association, he said, may elect to become involved in a program like Bible Man.
In spite of the diversity of the members' doctrines, the ministerial association has a common thread that brings the pastors together.
"Our unity is based on our belief in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him," Hug said.
"I see my role as to bridge the gaps between some of these groups in understanding and communication."
Hug said he has been a member of the ministerial association since he left farming in Elgin, moved to La Grande and started New Hope Christian.
New Hope's congregation meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at The Place at McAlister Road and Buchanan Lane in Island City.
The 50-member congregation's 1-hour service includes contemporary music and Bible teaching.
"We have a lot of fun and we have a neat church," said Hug. "Sometimes (the music) gets on the loud side."
Hug said New Hope met at several places, including the Union County Senior Center, the Olde Meeting House on M Avenue, the Grange Hall in Island City and in people's homes before settling in at The Place, a meeting hall owned by Phil and Lynda Peterson of Cove.
The emphasis at New Hope is on relationship-building and intimacy, he said, encouraging members to "love and support each other."
Hug has deep roots in the Grande Ronde Valley. His great-great-grandfather, Henry Hug, settled in the Elgin area in the late 1800s. Hug farmed with his father, Bernal Hug, before moving to La Grande.
The minister graduated from Elgin High School in 1970 and attended Eastern Oregon University, Northwest Christian College in Eugene and Puget Sound College of the Bible in Seattle.
Hug has been involved in computer programming and construction while pastoring at New Hope. But now, he said, he is "pretty much full-time" as minister
He and his wife, Cheryl, have four sons, including their youngest, Levi, 18, who is still at home. The couple also have three adopted children, Elizabeth, 12, Justin, 10, and Miranda, 9.
Hug said he invites local pastors to get involved in the ministerial association.
The next meeting for lunch will be at noon Wednesday at the New Life Center, behind Shop'n Kart.
The ministers move around from one church to another for their meetings.
Those who would like more information about the association may reach Hug at 963-0821 or (cell phone) 786-0348.