By DAVID GREEN
Whenever Bob Dister filled in at the Morenci United Methodist Church pulpit, church member Mona Dwyer said the same thing: “Bob, you ought to be a preacher.”
Eventually, Bob took that suggestion to heart and former Morenci pastor Dorothy Okray helped him along the path.
He started out by attending classes for lay speakers through the Methodist Conference until he earned certification.
Next came the process to become a “local pastor,” the Methodist phrase for a pastor who came from another career rather than attending seminary.
To continue his role as a local pastor, Bob will eventually attend seminary, taking 20 classes over a period of five or more years and ending as an “associate member.”
“We’re doing it backwards,” Bob said about the approach that he and his wife, Pat, are taking. “We first got a church and then I’ll be going to seminary.”
Bob began his first full-time pastorate July 1 with the dual role of leading the United Methodist congregations in both Clayton and Rollin Center.
Bob replaces Linda Jo Powers who moved to Elkton. Before her, former Morenci resident Craig Pillow served both churches.
Bob gave up his role as executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County to take on his new job. Habitat is a Christian ministry, Bob said, but it was an administrative position.
He longed to work directly with members of a congregation.
“Now I’ll actually be working with parishioners in all aspects of their lives, from baptism to education to marriage to the end stages of life.”
His own education didn’t come entirely in the classroom.
“I’ve had wonderful mentors with the pastors who came through Morenci,” he said. “They’ve been a great inspiration.”
As an example, he learned from Evans Bentley to bring a hymnal along on hospital visits and to ask the patient for a favorite hymn to sing. Bob says that being there for others is part of the gift he has to offer.
It’s a continual learning process, Bob said, both in the classroom and on the job. Even his sermons vary on a Sunday morning.
Although he delivers essentially the same message at 9:30 in Rollin Center and at 11 a.m. in Clayton, the two are never the same, he said.
Although Bob gave up his job with Habitat for Humanity, he’s still closely tied to the organization and is a member of the faith relations committee.
The group’s goal is to involve churches in the outlying communities in Habitat projects. That could be as simple as providing meals to workers who are building or renovating a home or perhaps supplying a work crew at a site.
To get a cluster of churches working together to support one another marks a new direction for Lenawee’s Habitat, he said.
Bob played a key role in planning Morenci’s first Habitat house and he organized the first two Labor Day Bridge Walk events to raise money for the project. More than three dozen Habitat homes have been built in the county by volunteers.
“As difficult as the economy has been,” Bob said, “there’s opportunity for building and renovating homes.”
Habitat Lenawee intends to expand its annual capacity from three homes a year to four in 2013, and then to five in 2014.
Bob said to look for an announcement in a few weeks for a family selection meeting planned in Morenci.