Janice Six Retiring as FCPC Associate Pastor
By LORETTA FULTON
Exactly 25 years to the day after Janice Six joined the staff of her lifetime church, she will be retiring as associate pastor.
Six grew up in First Central Presbyterian Church, joined the staff as director of Christian education in 1997, and was ordained and installed as associate pastor in 2005. Her ancestral history dates back even farther–all the way back to the 1700s in Scotland. In the 1920s, her grandparents and their 10 children joined First Presbyterian in Abilene, which later merged with Central Presbyterian. Her dad was the youngest of the children.
“My dad never moved from Abilene, and one of my brothers and I have reared our families here, too,” she said.
Sunday, May 15, was a day of laughter and and tears at the church as Janice and Gene Six were treated to a royal retirement party, including a throne for Janice to sit in while listening to the praises and well-wishes from church members.
Among those who will miss her most is Cliff Stewart, pastor. Stewart showed his usual wit as he praised Six for her devotion and service. But he ended on a serious note.
“What am I going to do without her?” he asked.
Janice Six receives a signed print from the Presbyterian Women during her retirement luncheon May 15. At right, she gets a hug from Dick Andrews, one of many members of First Central Presbyterian Church who turned for the luncheon. (Photos by Loretta Fulton)
Besides the well-wishes, Janice and Gene were given a monetary gift to make a dream trip come true–a trip to Scotland to visit the home of Janice’s ancesters.
Janice seemed destined to serve her home church as a pastor. She was born in 1955, which is the same year that the Presbyterian Church made way for women to be ordained as pastors.
Fifty years later, in 2005, she celebrated her 50th birthday and her ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. She was the first female pastor to be called to FCPC.
“I hope many women will be called by our congregation in the years to come,” she said.
Her road to ordination included earning a master of divinity degree from Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology and a doctor of ministry degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Janice and Gene both have served as deacons and elders at FCPC over the years and they are now delighted that their son, Greg, and his wife, Trudy, have returned to Abilene and FCPC. Their daughter, Julia, will marry Jace Aldriedge at the church on Friday, May 20. After a short time away, Janice and Gene will return to First Central Presbyterian as devoted members.
“I am so grateful this isn’t goodbye,” Janice said. “It’s just, ‘see you later.’”
Following are comments from staff members at First Central Presbyterian Church and from Loretta Fulton, former religion writer for the Abilene Reporter-news and creator of Spirit of Abilene:
Coordinator of Children’s Ministry
When I think of Janice, I think about Luke 10:1-12, where Jesus sends out the seventy-two to the places he would soon visit. He tells them to look for “a person of peace” who will welcome them into their home. This person would provide them food and a place to stay for as long as they ministered there. Janice is a person of peace. She welcomes people into whatever space she occupies: her home, her office, or the pulpit. Whether it is homemade cookies and punch, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a heartfelt prayer, Janice always knows how to offer peace to people in tangible ways. I have learned so much from her example and hope to welcome others to my home and church like she does.
Director of Christian Education
When I think of Janice the idea of “curated intention” comes to mind. From planning women’s retreats to organizing Easter brunch egg hunts with her family at home, she seems to find joy in carefully curating opportunities for fun and connection. She includes thoughtful details, not for the purpose of impressing those she is serving, but for the pleasure of seeing people feel known, loved, and appreciated. She lives the idea of being co-creators with God – that part of the way we were made in the image of God is in humanity’s propensity towards creativity. Her bread and butter is in co-creating opportunities for meaningful connections for the community of faith with the Holy Spirit. A master in pastoral care, she is an incredible listener and sounding board for friends, co-workers, family, and church members. Her legacy in this role will live on in many ways: through the young pastors she has supported and championed, through the dedicated emphasis she placed on providing a church home for people with mental challenges, through her committed support of refugee families as they start their lives in the U.S., through her heartfelt and authentic prayers she shared during worship services and at special events, and through her gentle and relatable way of introducing challenges for change to our congregation in book studies, prayers, and from the pulpit. She is a living legend in my eyes, and I am happy that she is pursuing this next phase of her life with the same intention that she gave to her work as associate pastor at FCPC.
Emerging Adult and Christian Education Intern
When I think of Janice, the first word that comes to mind is “peace.” Janice’s greatest gift is her ability to emobidy Christ’s peace. A few months before I started coming to First Central, I had a difficult and tumultuous experience at another church where I was attending and serving on staff. After I had left, I found myself wanting to distance myself more and more from the Church and seriously began to question my call in the ministry. I was halfway through my seminary education at Logsdon at this point, and that experience left me at an impasse and prompted a serious crisis of faith. I even left my Baptist faith altogether, the tradition that raised me and was now educating me as a young minister-in-training. My wife and I decided to attend First Central as “a last shot” after I left my previous church. We had initially decided that we wanted to try a variety of churches as we had never stepped foot in any mainline church before. I remember we started with First Central, and by week three, we found ourselves back again. At first we were irregular visitors, but as time went on, we attended more regularly, eventually joined as members, and now are in the process of ordination with the PC(USA).
A large part of this is because of Janice. Janice and the staff at First Central offered me a place where I could learn to love church again, where I could find a place of rest and comfort as I unpacked and shared my experiences with those around me. When I first arrived, I constantly felt doubt and questioned my call in the ministry, but Janice’s words always encouraged me to respond to God’s call. I remember when Grace and I first began our ordination process, she told us, “People might feel a call to ministry, but the church also has to see that call in them. And we definitely see that in you both. We’re so glad to have you!”
What a gift that was! To hear someone who I deeply respected and who herself is an excellent minister offer those uplifting words of encouragement meant the world to me. At the time, I didn’t know how badly I needed to hear them. Both then and now, Janice continues to offer gracious words of encouragement and wisdom and always supports me when I want to try something new in my ministry.
With 25 years of ministry experience at First Central, she has been a wellspring of insight for both Grace and me. I always tell people that Grace and I are spoiled to have First Central as our first official ministry setting. We have such wonderful people who are a part of this family, who are gracious, compassionate, and always so giving. A large part of that is because of the people at the helm, like Janice. If anyone ever wants to know what a church is like, they only need to look at who’s in leadership, because the church always reflects their pastor. We are so thankful for Janice’s passion, peace, and wisdom that she has given to this church. I’m proud to have learned from her these past two years while serving on staff at FCPC. I only wish I came over sooner!
Creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene
I always respected Janice as a news source for articles when I was the religion writer for the Abilene Reporter-News. My respect for her as a minister and religion scholar expanded to include admiration once I started attending the Wednesday evening programs at the church. Each program begins with a prayer from Janice that includes the names of people who are hurting physically and emotionally. The grace that is in Janice’s heart shines through in those prayers and blesses all who hear them.