By LINDA M. LINONIS
As the oldest of eight children, Dick Smith recalled “leading his pack of siblings” on the three-block walk to attend church in his hometown of Medina.
As an adult, Smith served as a lay leader at First United Methodist Church of Girard, where he assisted five pastors.
And now as a pastor, he’s leading the congregation at Brookfield United Methodist Church.
Pastor Smith said he “knew God was calling” but admitted it took time for him to answer in a commitment to become a pastor. But, he noted, when that happened, the circumstances seemed to have divine intervention.
Pastor Smith said he grew up in the First Congregational Church. In 1979, he moved to Girard in after getting a sales job at Federal Wholesale in Hubbard, where he worked about 22 years. In the early 1980s, he and his family began attending the Girard church. “We wanted our children to go to Sunday school,” he said.
Pastor Smith also became involved in church life as a lay leader. “In that position, you are the liaison between pastor and congregation and serve on church committees,” he said. At the church, he started a men’s group and sang in the choir.
His involvement in the Girard church proved to be the groundwork for his pastoral career. Pastor Smith said in 2008 when he was 60 years old, he lost his job at a logistics company. While he sought a new position and sent out resumes, he devoted much of his free time to the church. At the time, the Rev. Betsy Schenk (since retired) was pastor, and Pastor Smith said she involved him in the launch of Family Promise, based at the Girard church. In the project, homeless families stayed at participating churches and received help to get back on their feet.
Pastor Smith said he worked on Family Promise and started a men’s group. “I spent a lot of time there,” he said of being at the church. The church projects came to fruition, and he received a job offer. “It seemed like God needed me to work on the projects,” Pastor Smith said, noting once they were completed, God provided in another way.
A logistics company based in Denver offered him a job that allowed him to work from home. He worked for this company until his retirement at 65 last year.
He also decided to answer God, and in October 2009 began the course of study in the Methodist Church local pastor program. The intensive course, the pastor said, gives participants the ability to baptize, marry couples and give communion.
Pastor Smith said as a lay leader, he served as a liturgist, reading Scripture and preaching in the absence of the pastor. “I was doing jobs of the pastor. The Lord kept calling,” he said.
Pastor Smith said the Methodist local pastor program allows the denomination to provide pastors for smaller congregations where it can’t place full-time pastors. He credited Pastor Schenk and the Rev. Mike Grant, pastor of Poland United Methodist Church, as his mentors. “Mike told me I had to identify my call and know God was calling me,” Pastor Smith said. “It felt right ... I knew in my heart it was right,” Pastor Smtih said.
He was assigned to a small Methodist congregations in Calcutta in January 2010 and added a small church in Elkton in December 2013. This past July, he started at Brookfield UMC. At his previous posts, he said he learned that the pastor must “need to love people and be concerned about the destitute and poor.”
“We have to go out in the community as the body of Christ,” he said. “We are the disciples.”
Pastor Smith said he brings “a love of the Lord” to his new position. He also has abilities honed over a career of working with people that include leadership, accounting background, office skills and computer expertise. “It all helps,” he said, adding he’s started a church Facebook page, updated the website and compiles the newsletter. “My life skills will help me here,” he said.
Pastor Smith said he is in-spired by Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine you do for me.”
“I have a real heart for the least, and that’s really the call for everyone,” he said, adding how to help is “something we have to figure out.”
Pastor Smith said the Brookfield church is doing that. One way is its partnership with Brookfield Backpack Charitable Fund. For elementary students in need, the church serves as the distribution site to provide 25 grocery bags of food weekly. The pastor noted that “teachers know who is in need” and put the food in backpacks.
“This is a way to reach out into the community,” Pastor Smith said of the project that involves members.
Pastor Smith said the service to students in need “is what the Lord put in front of us. Jesus made it plain what he expected of his people and he wants us to treat people well,” he said.
During Christmas, Pastor Smith said the church helped three families with donations of food and gas cards and gifts and also provided gifts for senior citizens. The church hosted a Santa photo event, initiated by an individual who needed a place for it, that attracted some 100 children and their families. “My requirement was that we tell the real Christmas story,” Pastor Smith said. With about 20 kids in a group, he and his wife and partner in ministry, Anne, told the story of the birth of baby Jesus in a narrated Power Point presentation. Success put the event on the 2015 calendar.
The church also sponsored a Summerfest on the green, where Pastor Smith conducted an outdoor worship service.
“I am so blessed to be here,” Pastor Smith said. “I have a purpose here.”
Pastor Smith’s daughters are Stacey Tenney and Crissey Kovak, both of Wooster area; and the Rev. Jen Williamson, who served at Canfield United Methodist Church, and is married to the Rev. Jeremiah Williamson, who was at St. John’s Episcopal Church, of Toledo.