Husband and wife Phillip and Karen Gibson pack up hymnals and other religious texts along with other items in their Oak Street home. The couple, co-pastors of Friendship United Methodist Church, will leave Craig this week to move to Ohio and undertake leadership for churches in Conesville and New Moscow.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Husband and wife Phillip and Karen Gibson pack up hymnals and other religious texts along with other items in their Oak Street home. The couple, co-pastors of Friendship United Methodist Church, will leave Craig this week to move to Ohio and undertake leadership for churches in Conesville and New Moscow.

Craig’s Karen, Phillip Gibson prepare for new chapter

Friendship United pastors to move to Ohio

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— At the end of this week, Karen and Phillip Gibson will say goodbye to the town they’ve called home for more than 20 years. And although it will be a sad occasion for the couple, it’s also the beginning of something very special.

The Gibsons will hit the road Friday as they travel to Ohio to take on the leadership of two churches, one in Conesville and one in New Moscow, leaving Northwest Colorado in their rearview mirror to take on a fresh challenge, with roots in Ohio and family spread out across the area.

The two, co-pastors of Friendship United Methodist Church, said they have enjoyed their time in Craig immensely but felt the time was right for a change.

“We’ve been able to be known by the community and trusted by the community,” Phillip said. “There’s happy times to do weddings and baptizing babies, and there’s deaths and funerals, but they’ve let us into their lives, and that’s an invitation a lot of folks don’t get.”

Phillip has been involved with FUMC in Craig in one way or another for more than 22 years, with Karen also getting involved in church leadership in a greater capacity in 1999, working in Oak Creek at first before taking on the mantle of co-pastor of Friendship United with her husband.

The question of denomination has been one that’s been part of their journey for many years. Although they remain faithful to this particular branch of Christianity, the Gibsons have also made a point of working with people of all walks of life in efforts such as youth groups, Vacation Bible School and SHARE Craig, once a part of the now-defunct food service SHARE Colorado.

Their location alone is a testament to their desire to work hand in hand with other people of faith, with Craig’s Friendship United currently sharing a building with the local Seventh Day Adventists.

Karen said it’s important to remember that the church itself is not the mission.

“The mission is the man on the street,” Phillip said, finishing her thought.

Working to raise involvement in their new congregations will be a priority, Karen said. Although the Conesville church has a membership of about 185, the average attendance for services is about one-fifth of that.

An ongoing discussion with their contacts in Ohio is whether to focus more on trying to make the church experience “the way it used to be” every Sunday or to make it count for those who want to be part of it.

“What we’ve learned is you can’t take church for granted. It has to be an intentional activity and an intentional mindset that what you’re doing for God is really important stuff,” Karen said.

Phillip concurred, saying that the details of their newest development are an example of God’s will at work.

“We don’t believe in coincidences,” he said. “He has a plan for us.”

The Gibsons said they think they’re leaving their current congregation in good hands. Karen Hurst, of Grand Junction, recently took on the duties of pastor for Friendship United, her first services taking place Sunday.

There have been multiple farewells for the couple within the church and community, though they have made it clear they won’t be leaving forever, likely returning here and there to see friends and family.

Karen said the populace of Craig has had a profound effect on the two of them that they hope to carry on across the country.

“They’ve molded us into who we are today,” she said. “We’re better people because of these fine people.”

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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