2018-05-24 / Community

Caseville Methodist pastor to retire

By Ben Muir

Linda Fuller plans to retire as pastor of the Caseville United Methodist Church on July 1. 
Photo by Ben Muir Linda Fuller plans to retire as pastor of the Caseville United Methodist Church on July 1. Photo by Ben Muir CASEVILLE — The pastor of a Methodist church in Caseville is planning to retire after eight years, giving her a moment to reflect on a tenure that began with skepticism from those who weren’t used to a female minister.

Pastor Linda Fuller is standing in the back of the Caseville United Methodist Church. Hung on the wall behind her is William McKinley’s name on a plaque, which outlines history of the late president’s early years when he would attend services there as a child. In front of her is the chapel, with vines and branches molded into the high ceilings and rows of wooden benches that accommodate around 90 people in the summer. There are two wooden chairs at the front that date back to the late 1800s or early 1900s, Fuller says, and overlooking the room is a stained glass window that was designed with pen and ink. The original portions of the church that she stands in were built by Civil War veterans.

“This is what to me a church should look like,” Fuller said. “You can worship anywhere, but this is church to me.”

Hung toward Fuller’s right is another plaque with names of former pastors etched into the wood, with the dates of when they had worked there.

“Tell me,” she said, “how many women’s names do you see here?”

There appears to be one female pastor who was there from 1942 to 1944.

“So, you can only imagine,” Fuller says, “I’m really the first one anyone around here would even remember.”

As a result, being a female pastor was a struggle at first, she said.

“But it wasn’t with the men,” said Fuller, starting in on who had reservations with her being the pastor. “It was with the women.”

Fuller pauses and goes on: “Things were strange, but it has changed and everything has worked out really well.”

When Fuller started in Caseville eight years ago, she wished she had been aware of the politics that come along with leading a church. There were different committees aligned with the church, but when she started, only two people were making the decisions, she said.

“So, I had decided I was going to change it,” Fuller said. “I was giving this church back to the people.”

Fuller asked the congregation to play a role in the decision making in things like interior design, purchasing items and types of services.

“I said ‘this is your church, you vote,’” Fuller recalls.

Her relationships with community members flourished, and she felt welcomed. She also observed people reach out to others and doing more throughout town.

“It was kind of testy there at the beginning because I was a woman,” Fuller said. “But it has worked out really well.”

Fuller hardly expected she would be a pastor. She has a masters degree in education, which she used to teach fourth and fifth grade students. She taught for 11 years, until she started receiving a message, like a dream, every morning around 2 a.m.

“I know this sounds strange,” Fuller said. “God kept calling me to say ‘I want you in the ministry.’”

At this, Fuller decided to start preaching and teaching, but 16-hour work days weighed on her. So Fuller got her license in the Methodist denomination and started work in Caseville full time.

Fuller said a large misconception about pastors is he or she has a lot of free time.

“I do find that people think ‘you only work one hour a week,’” Fuller said. “But I know some of them do it to pull my chain.”

It takes between 15 and 20 hours to prepare for a Sunday service. The candles have to be ready; the TV monitor, the sermon and the bulletin, among others. And outside of services, Fuller is on call 24 hours a day to be there for those with loved ones who are dying, or those who need a pastor for a funeral. Preaching on Sundays, Fuller says, isn’t even the hard part.

“That sounds really strange to people,” Fuller said. “And it’s not all physical labor. A lot of times it’s just a lot of mental thought that goes into that.”

Fuller’s last sermon at the Methodist church will be on June 10. She’ll take a two-week vacation afterward, during which the church will get the parsonage ready for the new pastor, and then she will officially retire on July 1.

Fuller wrote a letter for a retirement conference recently, in which she thanks the teachers and family members who have supported her throughout her childhood and career.

“I consider God’s calling a great privilege,” she said, reading from the letter. “I know that his work will continue without my help, but I am thankful to God that he has used me to build up his church. I have served the maker of heaven and earth. I pray that my ministry will be remembered as one who served with faithfulness, love and grace to the congregation to which I was appointed.”

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