By Donald N. Bastian I have just returned from a spiritually uplifting weekend in Warrensburg, NY, a town of 3,331 people, nestled in the scenic Adirondack Mountains on the eastern edge of New York State. The uplift came from preaching four times to a growing Free Methodist congregation that
exudes strength, though only thirteen years ago it was on the verge of extinction.
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The story centers in the vision of a pastor who answered the call. In 1997 the church was about to be closed. A concerned member phoned a retired conference superintendent living forty miles away and appealed for help. The Leonards, Richard and Ruth, answered the call and he was appointed by the conference. He had previously served 27 years as a conference superintendent. Nevertheless,
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the Leonards began driving the 80-mile round trip twice a week, giving pastoral
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care. Eight people turned up for the first public service. Yet in 13 years the church has come back from a near-death experience. Today, the majority of the growing membership is there through conversion, and there have been as many as 140 in attendance at the church on special occasions. Pastor Leonard has led the congregation through a series of projects that have made the
church’s building and yard attractive. The climax of these projects has been of a
beautiful parsonage one mile from the church. The weekend wonderfully refreshed my conviction: “Once a pastor, always a pastor.” When the church ordains a person, that ordination is more than a mere assignment to a temporary job. It is a “setting apart” — intended to be a lifetime calling to a shepherding ministry. Therein lies its challenge and fulfillment. Donald N. Bastian was a Free Methodist pastor for 21 years, a bishop for 19 years, and throughout his 17 years of retirement he remains active in preaching, teaching and writing.