On Sabbath, Aug. 27, 2022, the Pleasant Valley Church in Happy Valley, Oregon, became the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oregon Conference to have a multi-pastoral staff led by a female pastor.
“Our Oregon Conference administration continues to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit in hiring high quality persons whom He has called and gifted. In recent years this has included numerous exceptional pastors who are female. We have had four female pastors serving in lead solo pastor roles, all beloved by their congregations,” shared Dan Linrud, Oregon Conference president.
“Pastor Kessia Reyne Bennett is the first woman to serve as lead pastor in a multi-pastoral staff church in our conference. She is an intelligent, creative and visionary servant-leader," shared Linrud. "I believe Pleasant Valley Church will thrive under her leadership and they will love her family! We are blessed to welcome the Bennett family into the Oregon Conference.”
Emily Ellis, who has served as the youth pastor at PVC for the last two years, shared a few thoughts about this moment in PVC’s history. “It’s been really eye opening to be part of a church that’s in transition,” she shared. “I came to PVC in the heart of the pandemic in Portland. A year later our head pastor of 24 years retired, and now I’m experiencing a new transition with a new lead pastor. This is the kind of stuff you don’t learn about in a classroom!”
Despite the challenges, Ellis couldn’t be more excited. “I am super pumped, like, out-the-wazoo excited that Kessia Reyne is coming here! Meeting her back in July was just a big sigh of relief, a breath of fresh air. Our church has been through a big series of unknowns between everything else going on and Pastor George retiring," Ellis shared.
"We’ve been praying about this for so long. Pastor Greg, the elders and I have met every Thursday morning for a year and a half to pray over our church, and it was really cool to see Kessia Reyne step in," said Ellis. "It was like God had answered all those things that we’d been praying for.”
Ellis shared this felt like a unique opportunity for her ministry as well. “It’s really cool for me as a young woman in ministry to have the chance to be mentored by another woman in ministry," she said.
"There’s a lot I can learn from her, and I feel like I can bring a lot of questions I have about serving in ministry as a woman to her, too. Just from the few interactions we’ve already had, I’ve found myself going, ‘Ah, so that’s how she does it! So cool!’ There aren’t many places in the Seventh-day Adventist Church where I would have the opportunity to be mentored by another woman in a position like this," said Ellis. "I see all of this as a huge God thing.”
For her part, Bennett shared that she was not expecting God to call her family back to Oregon, but when He did, they listened. “My husband Josh and I were just finishing a year-long moratorium on considering calls. I had just finished a prayer retreat with my daughter over the weekend in April. On Monday, I was in my church sanctuary praying over my life, my ministry and my church," shared Bennett.
"In that prayer session I received a call from Randy Hill from the Oregon Conference. So, from the very beginning there was good agreement with my spirit on this call. It felt different from other calls I’d received over the past few years," said Bennett. "We came out for an interview, but we certainly hadn’t made any decisions.”
Bennett shared that it was meeting the people that finally showed her that answering this call was the decision they wanted to make. “After spending the day with the church, eating lunch with the staff and having a little meet and greet with the church committee that evening as a family before the interview, there was just so much rapport and ease."
"We felt at home with PVC from the beginning — and it felt like the timing and God’s prayer direction for us as a family was great," said Bennett. "The kinds of questions they were asking and the answers they had all indicated that this would be a really fruitful relationship.”
“I’m most excited about meeting the people of Pleasant Valley,” she said. “This is a church that, from everything I’ve observed and heard, has a lot of spiritual strengths. I look forward to working with this church and appreciate their commitment to mission, the way they value prayer and how they love one another. I think that’s going to make the church adaptive to the changes that our world will require of us this year and in the years to come.”