The spacious room was clearly in take-apart status. A bookshelf stood empty, but boxes, stacked nearby were filled with volumes.
A group of four-by-six-inch photos, with colored backs, were placed on the corner of Sue McClelland’s desk. They were photos of children she had taught while she was youth minister at First United Methodist Church in London.
A sort through revealed some of those children had moved from church youth group to college. But McClelland laughed heartily and said that’s what happens when you’ve been in one place for 13 years.
Those 13 years will draw to a close on Sunday, Aug. 3. She will participate “officially” in her last service Sunday morning as associate pastor of Christian education, children and youth.
In February of 2001 a job she had held at Madison County Hospital (MCH) was drawing to a close. She had been director of community education and prevention, but McClelland said the job had been funded by grants.
“The grant money dried up,” she explained.
MCH had been what McClelland called “a great place to learn about myself and the community.”
There was something else McClelland learned at that time. She learned from Clarence Hensel, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, an opening existed at the church for the above-mentioned position.
When she stepped into the job, she had already been ordained as a deacon for five years. McClelland said throughout her adult life she’s “known” she’s been called to some type of ministry.
She had ministered as a lay person in her home church of the Mt. Sterling United Methodist Church and had been consecrated as a diaconal in 1995 after taking classes at the Methodist Theological School in Delaware. So making the transition to deacon was easy. A deacon agrees to serve others in justice and in love.
She saw serving children that way.
“Sometimes as a culture, we tend to marginalize kids,” she said.
She also extends her ministry to the poor to whom she ministers through the soup kitchen and the food pantry.
Both are areas she plans to continue after Aug. 3.
The following Sunday, Aug. 10, she will worship with her husband of 35 years, John McClelland, whom she met in church. She said she hasn’t sat with her husband in church since the London church hired her 13 years ago.
She will also continue to volunteer at Madison County Hospital, an institution which she served 13 years before and one which served her two years ago.
It was then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While the disease often startles one when the diagnosis is made, McClelland faced the disease with “grace and good medical care.”
She recalled when she was wheeled into surgery, the 20 people who jammed into her hospital room in prayerful support, also lined both sides of the hall way. She went into the operating room with her hands tingling from the high fives she received all down the line.
“This congregation surrounded me in love,” she said.
She knows the reception Sunday evening will be an emotional moment, but she has already found a Scripture she wants to read to them as she departs:
Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (New International version)
Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1617 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.