"Worship is the thing I love best of all," says the Reverend Dr. Mouzon Biggs, Jr. "It's the most important thing we do. We proclaim what has worth and what does not."
"Writing (sermons) is hard work, but when I sense that the service has gone well, it's a terrific feeling. If something didn't seem quite right, I can hardly wait for Monday morning, to see if I can do better the next week."
This Sunday, June 2, 2013, Dr. Biggs will preach his last sermon as Senior Minister at Boston Avenue Church. He is retiring after a wonderful 54 years in ministry. Sunday will be a special day as we celebrate his ministry together!
Bishop Hayes will participate in both morning services, then the service celebrating his ministry will begin at 5:00 PM. It will feature guest speakers who have been long-time friends and special music by the children, youth, and adult choirs and staff.
A reception will follow in Jubilee Hall.
When asked about his call to ministry, Dr. Biggs says, "My dad worked in the oil fields, and growing up, I assumed I would do the same. I knew that the engineers had the good jobs, so that's what I planned to become.
"In the eighth grade, I read in Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's book, The Power of Positive Thinking, a suggestion that perhaps those things we most enjoy doing are what God is empowering and calling us to do. I began to realize that I was happiest in Student Council -- lining up programs and presiding at the weekly assembly -- and performing in plays.
"I enjoyed being of front of people.
"During my senior year, I remember that the curriculum in both Sunday School and MYF (youth fellowship) kept asking, 'What does God want you to do?'
"That spring, as I read The Upper Room at breakfast with my family and prayed at bedtime, I could not get that question out of my mind. I began to wonder if this faith I had embraced was something I could teach and preach.
"One Sunday in May, I went to the altar during the last hymn and said, 'I think I'm being called into ministry.' That decision felt right, and I've never questioned it.
"My Grandmother Biggs was especially thrilled. She invited me to lunch and said, 'You remember, don't you, that we named your father after two United Methodist bishops -- Bishop Enoch Marvin and Bishop Edwin Mouzon. We hoped that he would feel called into ministry, but that didn't happen.
"'Then you were born and given his name, and we began to hope again. Ever since you were a baby, your grandfather and I have prayed that you would hear God's call. He would have been so proud!'"
Dr. Biggs remembers how that story helped solidify his call and sustain him during those early years.
"My hardest challenge was writing and preaching two different sermons each week," he says. "I would sit with my third grader Bible on Saturday nights and turn the pages, desperately hoping something would jump out at me. Each week, I wondered just how far away I could be by worship time the next morning.
"Pumping gas in Tucumcari sounded pretty good!
"At Centenary, the dean of the chapel gathered us new pre-theology students together and I got a chance to ask, 'Where to you get sermon ideas?'
"He told me where to find small booklets of Dr. D. L. Dykes' sermons for ten cents each. I went and bought a dollar's worth."
He also found a book, The Minister's Manual 1963, and through it he discovered the lectionary.
"That gave me a plan," he says. "That book even suggested outlines for two Sunday sermons and a Wednesday prayer meeting each week.
"Finally I had a start."
Years later, the Biggs family was vacationing in Hawaii when the call to Boston Avenue came.
"I had come back to the room to change into my running clothes, and I saw the light blinking. When I called the front desk, I was told that a Bishop Hardt had asked that I return his call. I did so and he said,'I'm calling to offer you the senior pastor position at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in Tulsa. Will you accept that appointment?'"
"I answered 'Yes, sir,' and that was it. No discussion."
Dr. Biggs had a month to think and plan before he was allowed to cross the Oklahoma border to see his new church for the first time
"I really didn't come with an agenda," he remembers. "I had decided on some things that I would and would not do, and I knew I wanted us to be a liturgical church with lots of energy. I knew I would continue to be a lectionary preacher."
Earliest changes included inviting the youth Chapel Choir to sing in the 8:30 AM service every week, an offer they accepted. A choir processional was also added
Five months after the Biggs family arrived, the first televised service aired on KTUL-TV, Channel 8.
"I knew the church had already voted to begin broadcasting the worship service live each Sunday. That helped me to accept the offer to come to Tulsa. I had experience with that."
He also began to talk about building the church's endowments, which stood at $200,000 when he arrived.
"We had no campaign; we just started thanking, from the pulpit and in the church newspaper, people who made endowment gifts."
Under Dr. Biggs's leadership, endowments have now grown to over $31 million, enabling even major repairs
and projects on a regular basis. Over the past 33 years, every surface of the church, inside and out, has been touched or enhanced in some way -- without asking church members for a dime to do so.
"We still rely on our members' support, but their dollars go for the mission of our church -- outreach, programs and ministries."
throughout Oklahoma on DVD.
Major projects include:
- purchase of the Fred Jones Ford properties to add significant parking spaces and a beautiful park
- creation of the columbarium, which has become an especially sacred space. "People worried that it would traumatize the children in surrounding classrooms, but instead we are teaching them to love and honor those who have gone before, 'the ones looking over the balcony,'" he says.
- The addition of beautiful mosaics in Great Hall and exterior lighting at our church's centennial
- renovation and expansion of the organ
- major expansion and renovation of the Children's Building and the third and fourth floor youth spaces.
Church members all participated financially in the building of Jubilee Hall, which was dedicated, debt-free, when construction was completed.
Looking back, Dr. Biggs says he wouldn't change anything about his years at Boston Avenue. Those years have been filled with significant moments in the life of our church -- receiving 8,572 new members, celebrating 973 weddings, making over 10,000 hospital visits and officiating at 942 funerals.
We appreciate his exemplary self-discipline and leadership, but for many, it will be those sermons that are remembered best -- those that touched us or called us to accountability when we needed it most.
"I remember, when Dr. Tom Long came to do
our Barton Clinton Gordey Series, how he compared
preaching to being a spelunker," says Dr. Biggs. "On
Monday morning, you head into the cave. It's exciting,
and sometimes muddy, but there are treasures to behold. You have a wonderful time exploring until finally you have to scramble out and try to tell people what you experienced inside.
"I never walked into the pulpit that I didn't do the best I knew how to be as faithful to God's word as I knew how. I never promised a home run, but I did promise to swing as hard as I could.
"I think I managed that."