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Church Member Reflects On Young Local Ministers

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Church member reflects on young, local ministers

□ Dale Leslie, who owns Leslie Office Supply in Ann Arbor, is a member of Dixboro United Methodist Church. □

By Dale Leslie

DIXBORO -- Later this month, Kathryn Snedeker, Huron High School and Albion College graduate, will appear before the United Methodist Church (UMC) Board of Ordained Ministry in the final step to becoming a member of that denomination’s clergy.

A favorable review by the board would lead to her formal ordination in June at the Detroit Annual Conference of the UMC in Adrian.

Becoming a Methodist minister would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Miss Snedeker, the latest chapter of which has been the completion of graduate work at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina.

The UMC probably has the largest number of ordained women -- about 4 percent (1500) of its 36,500 clergy -- and most hold active church positions.

What is also noteworthy is that then Rev. Snedeker would become the sixth member of the small, rural Dixboro United Methodist Church to be ordained since 1952.

Meanwhile, a seventh member of the Superior Township church is completing preseminary college courses.

“I personally know of not one church our size where so many of its members have become fully-degreed ministers,” commented Rev. Dr. Haldon Ferris, the church pastor who watches over the 346-member flock.

The Dixboro ministers include two sets of brothers who share the same last name and a Presbyterian minister who now works for the federal government.

Reverends Dr. Ron and Roger Parker are distant cousins of twins, Reverends Dr. Jerry and Jim Parker. All four attended Ann Arbor area public junior and senior high schools but only Jerry has remained locally and serves as associate pastor of Ann Arbor First UMC. Jim is treasurer and chief financial officer for the UMC National Pension Board in Evanston, Illinois. Ron is a Methodist minister in Berkeley, California; ironically, his brother Roger is pastor of a church with the same name, Trinity UMC, in Flint.

Glen Fishbeck, the senior member of the Dixboro clergy, was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1952, and served pastorates in North Carolina, Rhode Island and Michigan before resigning from the ministry in 1961 to work for the U.S. government.

Church member Jeffrey Short, a graduate of South Lyon High School, is a senior taking preseminary courses at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Why have so many members of such a small church chosen the ministry as a profession?

A common thread is all seven were raised in well-rounded, Christian homes where their religious beliefs served as a focal point of family life. And it would appear pastoral attention and peer support also deserved much of the credit tor their career path.

According to Mrs. Grace Parker, mother of the Reverends Dr. Ron and Roger Parker, “Rev. (Loren) Campbell was the Dixboro pastor much of the time when Ron and Roger were growing up. He would invite Ron and Roger and some other young men to take part in the worship services. This created a very favorable impression on Ron at a relatively young age.”

Judge Campbell, who now sits on the Washtenaw County Juvenile Probate court bench, remembered adding ceremony to the Dixboro church morning worship service when he became pastor in 1946. “We formed a group of acolytes -- I'm sure Ron Parker was one of them,” he recalled, adding that some would also serve as communion stewards.

After high school graduation, Ron Parker earned a degree from Albion College and then completed seminary at Pacific School of Religion in California. He received his Ph. D. from the Graduate Theological Organization, a consortium of schools with studies centered in Berkeley.

For Jim and Jerry Parker and Roger Parker, the decision to enter the ministry came after they completed their undergraduate degrees at the University of Michigan.

The director of the campus Wesley Foundation nominated the twins for jurisdictional fellowships for one year at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston. They both graduated from there and later Jerry did complete his Juris Doctorate at the U-M law school.

It was at the urging of friends that Roger Parker entered Perkins Theological Seminary on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.

Four of the seven Dixboro disciples visited their home church last year during its 125th anniversary. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Methodist movement in America.

When the Dixboro congregation speaks of the “Magnificent Seven” they are not referring to the motion picture or book of the same name. They are proud of seven of their number who heard a higher calling and answered it!