Discovering one’s inner disciple is the spiritual goal of Pacific United Methodist Church, according to Pastor Dee Pennington and lay leader Karen Kennedy.
The growing power of combining your own reason, Christian tradition and learned experience with the teachings of the life of Christ can fill your life, they said.
Facilitating the personal growth of the 250-member congregation — and approximately 90 Sunday worshipers — keeps this pair energized.
They call themselves facilitators and marvel at the response they receive from the congregation.
As a single mother working as a school district library assistant, Dee Pennington found joy in being a member of the congregation of Webster Groves United Methodist Church (UMC). But it wasn’t until she attended a Walk to Emmaus — a 72-hour spiritual retreat with 60 women and 15 lecturers — that she took the first steps on the spiritual journey she is now on.
“I didn’t think about being a preacher in those days,” Pennington said. “But at the end of the walk, I knew I was called to do something and that led to doing more.”
She spent the next 12 years happily ensconced in her church where she responded to encouragement to teach. She taught Sunday school to 2-year-olds for six years and to 5-year-year-olds for five years, and then found herself leading Wednesday evening worship service.
It was her son Colin who first named her a preacher.
Pennington, along with her daughter, Whitney — who graduated from Emory University this month — and son, Colin, were on a plane going to Florida for an annual family gathering when she struck up a conversation with the passenger next to her. The man asked her a question about Scripture.
“Let me see,” she said reaching into her carry-on bag for her study Bible.
Her son leaned across the aisle and, “Mom, why don’t you become a preacher?”
She entered Eden Theological Seminary in 2007, a study that can take three to four years.
“It took me five years,” she said. “I was still working full time.”
As a seminary student, she was sent to New Hope UMC in Arnold as assistant pastor.
“I had a wonderful pastor there,” she said. “I worked with children, youth and families.”
She was commissioned in 2008, ordained and appointed to Pacific UMC in 2011.
In Pacific, Pennington gravitated to the teaching and leadership skills of Kennedy. The secret to the success of their working relationship is joy — joy in their own discipleship and joy at inviting others to reach the fullness within themselves, she said.
They hardly differentiate between the experience of the 34-week disciple Bible Study that Kennedy and co-facilitator Michelle Gregory are taking with the study group.
“We’re learning together,” said Kennedy.
The Sunday worship service where Pennington, as pastor and preacher, delivers sermons are a mix of scriptural teaching, church stewardship and life lessons.
“Overall, I look at our church as group discipleship,” she said. “You have to know that you are a child of God and know what you are called to do.”
Sunday worship service, which is held at 10:15 a.m., includes music and Joy ringers. The Children’s Church is held in the basement, which includes music, Scripture and stories.
An alternative service is held the third Sunday of the month when the praise band, that includes Kennedy’s children Erin Deusinger and Collin Kennedy, perform contemporary Christian music.
Pacific UMC is one of the oldest churches in Pacific.
The Rev. Albert Jump preached his first sermon in Pacific in 1883 and came on the fourth Sunday of each month. Services were held in the Pacific Presbyterian Church.
In 1885, the first Methodist church was built on St. Louis Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. It was called the Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.
In 1950, the congregation asked for a full-time resident pastor and the Rev. Roger Connelly was assigned to Pacific.
Seventy-five years later, the congregation decided to sell its downtown church and seek a new location. Mr. and Mrs. James Hogan Sr. deeded 3 acres in Hogan Subdivision for a new church and parsonage. The groundbreaking took place Sept. 11, 1960, at the present location at 1516 W. St. Louis St. The first worship service was held in the building April 23, 1961.
The current sanctuary was built in 1968. It included seating for 194 in the nave with an additional 20 seats in the choir.
The bell that had hung in the original building was purchased from the Christian Scientist Church for $500,000 and placed in the new bell tower.
That same year the name of the church was changed to Pacific United Methodist Church.
Some 53 pastors have served the congregation, including Pastor Dee Pennington.
Church life at Pacific UMC involves the community.
The church is active in Adopt-A-Family. Families can pick up their baskets of gifts, clothing and food at the church, and the Men’s Club always gives away coats.
Kennedy is president of UMC Women, which has 25 members on the roster and 16 active participants. Each year the group puts together an annual turkey dinner.
“I think it started just after World War I Armistice,” she said.
Pacific UMC also does a Christmas Cookie Walk and works with the Pacific Presbyterian Church to provide “Dinner with Us,” free meals offered every two weeks at the Presbyterian Church.