Rev. Betsy Schenk nurtured bodies and souls in her careers



In her two careers, the Rev. Betsy Schenk focused on healing bodies as a nurse and nurturing souls as a minister.

The pastor of Girard First United Methodist Church looks forward to another chapter in retirement — spending more time with family and continuing ministry in a new way.

She’ll be honored next Saturday during a dinner at the church. Cost is $10; for reservations, call the church at 330-545-4361. Her official retirement date is July 1.

Pastor Betsy said she followed in her mother’s footsteps in her first career as a nurse for 23 years. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from St. John College in Cleveland and a master’s at Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. She worked on the neurological floor at University Hospital in Cleveland and was a vice president at Heather Hill Hospital in Chardon, Ohio.

When she realized a calling to ministry, she “fought it.” The calling was insistent; she prayed, then acted. When she was 42 years old, she entered Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, and earned a master of divinity degree in 1994. She was ordained at 45. “At that time, there still was stigma {about women clergy}. It was much different than today,” she said.

She served Beulah Calvary in Sheffield Township and Plymouth Community UMC in Ashtabula for eight years. She was at Lisbon UMC for six years before coming to Girard UMC in 2008.

Pastor Betsy said she feels she “made a difference” at Girard. “In the church, I looked for creative ways to reach people,” she said. “Everyone is important.”

That feeling spurs her other interests — helping the underdog and Kairos prison ministry. In retirement, she plans to counsel people with addictions, be involved in prison ministry and pulpit supply.

At the Girard church, the youth program grew to 45 during her pastorate. “They’re involved in a lot of activities,” she said.

With many activities in the church, it’s challenging to look outward, she said. “But outward is where the work of Christ is,” she said. The church had hosted Family Promise day center and remains a meeting site for community groups.

She said church members were involved a project called Laundry of Love in which they stopped at the local Laundromat, where they paid for people’s washing and drying and simply conversed.

A Christmas dinner, begun two years ago, provides a place for members and the public to share holiday fellowship. Members also have made Dresses for Haiti.

Pastor Betsy said she was happy to see growth in Girard Ministerial Association. She cited participation by Girard churches in a Thanksgiving service, jointly sponsored vacation Bible school, Christian unity service and National Day of Prayer.

Events in her and her family’s life prompted the pastor to rethink timing of retirement. Her family includes daughter and son-in-law, Debbie and Tim Brown of Columbus, and their children, Rachel, 9, and Audrey, 4, and son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Kelly Schenk of Pawpaw, Mich., and son, Lucas, 2.

Audrey was diagnosed with a kidney disease with no cure, only management. Pastor Betsy had uterine cancer and was treated. “My doctor said my prognosis is excellent,” she said. Family time also is a priority for her.

She has moved to Niles, where she will attend Niles First UM Church. “I feel like a balloon ... not tossed but pushed by the wind of the spirit,” Pastor Betsy said. “I’ll see where God leads.”

Pastor Betsy said her legacy at Girard is “my involvement in a lot of activities at church and in the community.” She’s already been asked to return to make the stuffing for the Christmas dinner.

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