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Chestnutt ‘felt a call’

Went from military to ministry

October 11, 2008
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

The Lord may have dragged the Rev. Dr. James Chesnutt, a retired military man, into the ministry, but it's a move never regretted by the pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Fort Dodge.

''I felt a call to ministry at the end of my career,'' Chesnutt said. ''I saw a crisis in the church.''

That would be the broader spectrum of the church, which has seen former members doing whatever they want on a Sunday morning, often staying home from any religious services.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
The Rev. Dr. James Chesnutt, pastor at Epworth United Methodist Church, 2025 11th Ave. S., sits in the sanctuary of the church, which will celebrate 100 years on Oct. 19.

''We have a great mission as a church to do outreach,'' he said. ''Outreach and better evangelism. We need a creative ministry that will speak to a contemporary world. It's a very difficult thing to do.''

Especially when the church has a full history.

Epworth United Methodist Church, 2025 11th Ave. S., will celebrate its 100th anniversary at 10:30 a.m. services on Oct. 19, with the Rev. Karen Dugan speaking. She is associate to the bishop for connectional ministries within the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The day will be highlighted with the mounting of a historical wall of photos, including the past 20 resident pastors of Epworth and pictures of the three stages of growth of the church building.

The new church is handicapped accessible, and a stair lift can carry people upstairs to the former church, which is now the fellowship hall.

''With the stair lift, people who didn't come to church functions can come now,'' Chesnutt said. ''We can include everybody in fellowship activities.''

Chesnutt, 62, came to Epworth from Des Moines on July 1, 2006.

''I was accepted very warmly,'' he said. ''We have more in common than we have differences. Being up close and personal with someone different from you is an important, positive gift.''

Chesnutt, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, attended divinity school at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and was ordained in the Christian Church in 1996. In 2005 he moved back to the United Methodist Church and spent his first year in an African-American congregation in Des Moines.

He said he thinks churches need direction to move forward with a common vision.

''You start where people are and you build on it,'' he said. ''It takes time for churches to grow. You have to get to know the congregation and let them know you. You have to earn the right to be the pastor of that church.''

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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