O’FALLON – Facing the next stage in life often requires courage. It isn’t easy closing one door and opening another, but somehow, in some way, we make it work because accepting and adapting to change is a part of life. Sometimes, change is outside of our control, and we may not always like it, but when change is warranted, when it’s easily accepted and invited into our lives, it can be very rewarding.
Last week, members of First United Methodist Church of O’Fallon said goodbye to their pastor of ten years, Reverend Ronald Dickinson, and his wife, Phyllis, wishing them a happy retirement.
In his 40 years of ministry, Reverend Ron had served five Methodist churches, the first being Toulon United Methodist Church in Toulon, Illinois. “I felt God calling me to be a pastor my senior year of high school,” Rev. Ron replied when asked about his inspiration for becoming a Methodist Minister. “It was a gradual feeling that just kept coming at me.”
When Rev. Ron began his ministry at O’Fallon FUMC back in 2006, he had already planned out the first four Sundays, anxious and excited to preach to his new church family.
Members of O’Fallon First United Methodist Church had nothing but positive memories to share of Reverend Ron.
Brad Lewis, OFFUMC’s Youth Coordinator, had been especially touched by Reverend Ron’s ministry and had learned a lot from the minister in his beginning years of seminary. “Probably the thing that I like most about Ron, and just the ministry that he was involved in, is he was very engaging to other people. For me, personally, one of my favorite things with Ron was to sit down and have a meal with him. Sit down and have a conversation… have a meal because that helped with my knowledge … my understanding of him, but also just different topics.”
Linda Noland, and her daughter, Katie Devany, have been members of OFFUMC long before Rev. Ron’s arrival ten years ago, and both of them, along with the rest of the congregation of the church, will miss him greatly.
“Some of my most favorite memories about Pastor Ron’s ministry was his ability to be nonjudgmental and accepting of everybody,” Linda smiled and then laughed. “[He had a strong] desire to get to know his whole congregation. He was very good at having small groups so he could know people and know what’s going on in their lives.”
“For a large congregation,” Katie added, “that was very important. Even though he was an introvert, he went and pushed himself outside of his boundaries to make sure that people knew he felt loved and welcome.”
Dimitri Heaggans, OFFUMC’s Contemporary Music Leader, was very pleased to share his highest opinion of Reverend Ron, and said, “I would have to say the best thing about Ron is his ability to be himself, and his ability to push other people to be themselves. When I first came, it was a little different coming to a church that has a different denomination I’m used to playing [piano] for… It was just a big switch on a lot of things, and what made it awesome was that Ron extremely stressed that ‘you’re not going to be Alex. You won’t be a previous worship leader. You’re going to be you. And some people might not like it, and some people will… Some people might think it’s the best thing. Some people might think it’s the worst,’ but he said ‘Always be you. Don’t change. You stay for who you are. God has a plan for who you are.’”
The decision to retire for Rev. Ron was not an easy choice, but to him, it was an important one. “When a lady in the church died suddenly and was about my age, I suddenly realized how short life actually was,” Rev. Ron commented quietly. “I had more things I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to spend more time with my family and not have the interruptions of daily ministry. I also wanted to travel and see more of the world with my [wife].” He and his wife will be retiring to Mattoon, Illinois, and are excited to find out where God will take them next.
As a last word, Rev. Ron wanted to share one final word to everyone who has ever impacted his life in the church. “I thank all the churches where I was a pastor. I know that I am only human and have made many mistakes, but [they] put up with me and helped me in many ways. So, all I would say to those churches is thanks for all you have done for me and for God’s kingdom.”