BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Pastor Barry Burns believes in love.
More importantly, he believes that Christians should extend love and support to friends and neighbors every day – even those with whom we may be at odds.
“We are far better together than we are apart,” he said. “Our responsibility is to love, period – not love if, or love when or love because. I am trying to consistently teach that our first responsibility is to love one another even if we disagree with them.”
On July 1, Burns took over duties as lead pastor of Maumee United Methodist Church (MUMC) in Maumee, replacing former lead pastor Russ Tichenor, who retired.
“Maumee is a great community, and the church has been very welcoming, very warm,” he said.
Born and raised in Lima, Burns, who is 59, received his bachelor of music education from Bowling Green State University and his master of divinity from United Theological Seminary in Dayton. He has served churches in Lima, Toledo, Hamilton and Circleville. For the last seven years, he served as district superintendent of the United Methodist Northwest Plains District, which is south of the Toledo area. With that job, he oversaw 166 churches in 11 counties.
His responsibilities in Maumee will include preaching, communicating the church vision and overseeing a staff of 17. Approximately 500 members participate in weekly services, both in person and online. Like other churches across the country, MUMC is facing uncertain circumstances because of the pandemic, which means that rebuilding relationships and new lines of communication are important, Burns said.
“Coming out of the pandemic is so radically different than what it was going into the pandemic,” he said. “A number of our people haven’t made it back yet, but they are very committed to our missions.”
Among the mission work currently underway in the church is outreach to Mosaic Ministries, a nonprofit organization providing services to individuals and families living in the Old South End of Toledo. Church members also host afterschool activities for middle school students attending Gateway Middle School.
On Sunday, September 12, the church will host a relaunch of some ministries that were adversely affected by the pandemic, including the children’s ministry, youth ministry and adult classes. Plans are also underway to add a third worship liturgical service with Communion.
Several key staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, which has added new challenges moving forward.
“We inherited a staff that is very tired from the pandemic, so I am trying to help the staff regroup and regenerate,” he said. “The church has a lot of uncertainty as to what it will look like coming out of this, so it really is like starting a new church in some ways.”
With the new assignment, Burns and his wife, Julie, moved to Maumee, where they live in the church parsonage on Dussel Drive. Their adult children – two sets of twins – live in nearby cities.
“We are hopeful that we can reach more people than we are reaching now,” Burns said. “We want to engage the Maumee community in a very responsible way – not just to build numbers but to experience the grace of God.”
Associate pastor Joanie Schilling credits Burns with providing essential leadership that is critical to move forward under such challenging circumstances.
“He has come in and cared for us and led our team in a way that has grounded us,” she said.
For example, all staff meetings begin with worship, and the staff recently enjoyed an outing together at a Mud Hens game.
“With his wealth of leadership experience, he knows how to care for a team,” Schilling said. “We are very excited.”
MUMC will host a community block party on Sunday, September 12 beginning at 11:15 a.m.
The event is free and open to the public, with children’s activities including face painting, balloon animals and a bounce house provided.
Food trucks including Kona Ice, Queso Kitchen and Deet’s BBQ will also be on hand.
The community block party will follow the 10:00 a.m. worship service, which will take place in the Family Life Center on the church campus at 405 Sackett St. in Maumee.
For questions, please contact the church at (419) 893-8761 or visit https://www.maumeeumc.net.