Pastors prepare to leave

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The Rev. Steve Plunkett, the longest-serving minister in the history of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Denton, will preach his last sermon at the church Sunday.
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While one Denton pastor is preparing a message for Sunday encouraging his congregants to “be doers of the word and not hearers only,” another is readying a message for his congregation about God’s vision for the church.

The two messages will be the final ones the two ministers deliver from the pulpit as leaders of two separate Denton Presbyterian churches.

The Rev. Steve Plunkett, the longest-serving pastor for St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, will step down from his post as pastor Sunday.

Departing on May 25 is the Rev. John V. Lindsay, who’s served as pastor at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Denton for about 24 years.

Both pastors say they are going on to pursue other ministry opportunities.

Following the 10 a.m. worship service Sunday at St. Andrew, 300 W. Oak St., the congregation will have a reception and brunch honoring Plunkett and his wife, Margaret, at the church fellowship hall.

From 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, the First Cumberland congregation will have a reception in Lindsay’s honor in the fellowship hall at the church, 1424 Stuart Road. The community is invited to attend.

 

The Rev. Steve Plunkett

Nearly 25 years ago, Plunkett along with his family traveled from Paducah, Ky., to Denton’s St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.

“It was [Labor] Day weekend in 1989, and I came and preached for this congregation,” he recalled.

When the service concluded, Plunkett said he, his wife and their family stepped out of the sanctuary and congregants remained inside to vote on whether to name him the pastor. When the vote was completed, he said, they were asked to return to the sanctuary and Plunkett was asked to be the pastor.

“It was a moment of joy and relief,” he said.

According to a church official, Plunkett is the longest-serving pastor in St Andrew’s 152-year history. Plunkett said the longest-tenured pastor at the church before him served from 1941 to 1951.

It’s also his longest stay in a community. Prior to Denton, Plunkett said he ministered in Rusk for six years and in Paducah for three.

For more than two decades Plunkett has officiated over Sunday worship services, funerals, weddings, baptisms and the sacrament of the Holy Communion, he said.

According to a church news release, Plunkett was also involved with the Denton Community Theatre, acting in and directing plays.

After nearly 25 years with St. Andrew, Plunkett, 63, said it’s time to tackle some new challenges. Beginning June 1, he will serve as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, Conn.

Next month marks 34 years Plunkett has served as an ordained minister, he said.

“I didn’t want to sort of coast into retirement but to do something different that would require some new types of energy, new types of passion,” he said.

He said the focus for his final message Sunday is a passage from the Bible’s New Testament Book of James that states: “be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” Plunkett’s message will expound on “what it means to be doers of the word,” he said.

His most challenging and rewarding moments preaching most Sundays are “ushering the congregation through times of change,” “helping them become more intentionally mission-minded” and overseeing the completion of a $3 million church renovation and construction project, says the pastor who presides over the nearly 700-member congregation.

Among other things he considers rewarding, Plunkett said, has been seeing the congregation become “more mission-minded, outreach-oriented” and witnessing several people from the church attend seminary school to enter the ministry.

Memories of his time in Denton that come to the forefront include providing pastoral care to people in need, caring for people after the loss of a loved one and baptizing babies, he said.

“It’s been an exciting adventure, and I think the future outlook of the church is very bright and vibrant,” Plunkett said. “I love this church and the people in it.”

 

The Rev. John V. Lindsay

Just six months after Plunkett’s arrival in Denton, Lindsay left a church in Chattanooga, Tenn., to lead First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Denton.

What drew him to the community was “God and his calling,” the people, Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home and an interest in college towns.

He recalls the people being “very inviting” upon his arrival, and he was excited to be in “a new place with lots of good opportunities.”

Lindsay, 62, is a native Texan who’s served as an ordained minister for 35 years. Prior to Denton, he presided over congregations in Tennessee, Daingerfield, Monroe, La., and his hometown of Marshall, to where he looks to return.

In his time with the Denton church, Lindsay said he’s officiated hundreds of funerals, weddings, christenings and marriage and grief counseling sessions.

His week begins with drop-in visitors and ends in quiet reflection as he often spends solo time in the church working on the upcoming Sunday sermon.

According to a church news release, Lindsay provided pastoral leadership to Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home in Denton in addition to his duties at the church.

He’s previously served as a victim chaplain, traveling to East Texas in 2003 after the Columbia space shuttle disaster, and to New Orleans in 2005 on three separate visits after Hurricane Katrina.

He’s also served as a chaplain volunteer at two hospitals in Denton and is a big supporter of Denton high school football.

In his time traveling as a chaplain to areas where relief and recovery efforts were taking place, the Denton community supported him “financially and prayerfully,” something he counts as rewarding, Lindsay said.

“God has really blessed me in my time here to get to know the people not only in the church but the Denton community,” he said.

In his tenure in Denton, Lindsay said he’s been challenged with “helping people see their vision ... that they are the church — not the minister, not the staff — that they have to step out.”

His most rewarding moments of the job include meeting people in the community, children at the children’s home and watching them grow up.

“I saw them change for the better,” Lindsay said.

In his 24 years, the pastor said he’s also seen some people die, but he finds comfort in knowing those who died having a relationship with Jesus Christ are no longer suffering but have peace.

Lindsay said he’ll miss leading worship services, the fellowship with church members and the “different personalities” of members.

The focus of the final message he will deliver to his approximately 150-member congregation is God’s vision, Lindsay said.

“It’s about ... God’s vision for the church, and they must again make sure Christ is the head of the church and not a person as they go forward,” he said.

Lindsay said he intends to semi-retire to Marshall to care for his brother, who has a disability, reconnect with family and do volunteer chaplain work.

“Of course, preachers never retire,” Lindsay said. “There’s still plenty of work to be done there, just like anywhere with preaching.

“I’m looking forward to doing different things in different ways, still serving my God but doing different things.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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