From the Pulpit: Called to serve, assigned to Cape

Sunday, December 27, 2009
Pastor Tom Sellinger of Grace UMC in Cape Girardeau. (Kit Doyle)

Tom Sullenger turned 56 this year and marked his 56th year of life with a church. Sullenger has been a pastor for 29 years and came to Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau on July 1. Aside from nurturing his congregation, Sullenger is a husband, father of three and grandfather of four. Although he has many hobbies, lately he has taken up historic re-enactment of the 1840s fur trade period with his sons.

What drew you to serve the church in a leadership role? I felt called by God to serve beyond the local church.

What education/background/studies did you go through to become a pastor? I have a bachelor's of arts degree in history from Northeast Missouri State University, which is now Truman State University, and a master's of divinity from St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo.

Where are you from and when/why did you move to Cape Girardeau? My former appointment was in Maryville, Mo. I was sent to Cape Girardeau by our area Bishop Robert Schnase. As a Methodist minister, I am an itinerate, which mean I go were sent.

What do you think makes this church special? Its location, its multigenerational family values and the strong faith and commitment of its membership.

What's your favorite verse and why? I love most verses, but without this one, we would have no hope. Luke 24:5b, "but the men said to them Why do you look for the live among the dead? He is risen." A God great enough to raise the dead can transform life. Even mine.

What program have you done with Grace UMC that you are proud of and why? Having just finished the Advent season, we had numerous worship experiences that highlighted the church's talents. The bell choirs, vocal choirs and drama group all played major roles in our Christmas celebration. I am also very proud of the Journey worship team that provides us each week with our alternative contemporary worship service. One of the greatest ministry of Grace United Methodist Church is its commitment to missions. Our members this year have committed thousands of hours and thousand of dollars to serve local, national and international mission fields.

What events or occasions does your church have coming up? The beginning of each year is a time of renewed commitment, planning and introducing new leaders into the work of the church. We will be examining what we do well, what and how we could do better and what new thing we need to be doing and how we will accomplish that work. Also, in just a few days we will be celebrating the Season of Epiphany and not long after will come Lent and Easter. Plans for all these seasonal celebrations are underway.

What's your favorite day of the week and why? I have two favorite days each week. Sunday, because I love to preach, and Friday, because it's the day I most often spend with my wife.

What's your favorite part of being a pastor? I love to preach, and I love the interaction with the people in the church and community.

What hobbies do you have? I have many hobbies. I collect antique tools. I do stained-glass work. I am a wood carver, and my most recent hobby is historic re-enactment from the 1840s fur trade period. The latter I do with my boys.

Do you have a prayer, psalm or verse you would like to give our readers for the day? I would offer the 121st Psalm, because it assures those who trust and believe in God that he will watch over us no matter what comes our way.

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