NORMAN — Norman’s St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church is celebrating the ministry and gifts of Kay Antinoro as she retires this month after 32 years of service in educational ministries at the church. Plans include an all-church retirement celebration today.
Antinoro, who joined St. Stephen’s staff in 1981 as part-time director of the church’s Children’s Academy, has served longer than any other staff member in the church’s history, working alongside senior ministers John Price, Craig Stinson, Dianne Peters and Amy Venable. Her ministry at St. Stephen’s expanded in 1991 when she was named full-time director of Educational Ministries, adding adult education to her duties.
A life-long United Methodist, Antinoro has served as a United Methodist Women Conference study leader for more than 40 years. She has been a study leader at six regional schools of Christian Mission and numerous conference schools in Oklahoma and surrounding states. She has sought to provide quality learning opportunities for adults that address both “head and heart.”
“Kay is the common thread throughout the years that has kept us on track with our mission as a progressive Christian church,” said Sharon Gray, director of care ministries at St. Stephen’s. “I have grown personally working with her through her wisdom, broad knowledge of curriculum, gifted problem solving, creative thinking and wonderful friendship. Her loving influence at St. Stephen’s as a master teacher and group leader has been and will continue to be an indispensable gift.”
In her early years on the St. Stephen’s staff, Antinoro sought to create experiences to “help children feel welcome in worship, learn why we worship the way we do, and learn seasons of the liturgical year,” she said.
She fondly recalls years of organizing Ecumenical Vacation Church School, hosting mini CROP Hunger Walks for children on the church lawn to help raise awareness about hunger and planning all-church intergenerational mission studies designed to broaden world views and help appreciate cultural differences. In the early 1980s, Kay helped launch a children’s advent preparation workshop that has evolved to become an annual church event for all ages.
“Kay has been a great influence over the years that she has been in charge of education at St. Stephen’s,” said Steve Davis, chair of St. Stephen’s Administrative Council. “She helped raise my children with a good sense of what it means to be a progressive Christian and is now providing the same for my grandchildren.”
In the mid 1990s, Antinoro was one of a group of St. Stephen’s leaders who designed a Lay Seminary curriculum for adults. She was invited to present the church’s innovative model at the Consultation on Lay Schools of Theology in Washington. The curriculum has continued to evolve through the years and was renamed in 2010 as “Seminary for Life.” In recent years, the church also has added “Living the Questions” progressive educational resources to its adult offerings.
“Kay’s efforts to start and lead St. Stephen’s Lay Seminary have given so many people an opportunity to truly explore what the Bible says and also who this historical person, Jesus, really is,” Davis said. “I’ve been able to learn so much and ask some difficult questions as we explored this path together. I am a better person having watched her lead by example and help me discover so many ‘answers’ that I would have never thought of on my own.”
As she retires, Antinoro looks forward to spending more time with her husband, Joe; her children Brion and Michelle; and her grandchildren. She also plans to remain active in the life of St. Stephen’s, including its social justice ministries and meaningful theological discussions.
“I’ve often said, ‘I love this job. I can’t believe I get paid for doing it,’” Antinoro said. “I love small groups of folks reflecting together on faith and doubt, reason and experience, deep and rich conversation, living our questions together.
“I enjoy reading the Bible with fresh eyes, connecting with treasures from our Christian history and tradition, and the freedom to reshape theology in ways that are living and vital for today. That’s been the gift of ministry at St. Stephen’s,” Antinoro said, “and it will continue to be a gift in these new years in life.”