STEVENSVILLE — Sometimes it takes doing something you don’t want to do to learn what it is you are called to do.
For Gordie Barry that realization came in the late 1970s on the open road between Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, Iowa as he was nearing the end of a 1 1/2-year stint selling kitchen cabinets.
“I was with my father-in-law,” he said, “we talked about working the district, and I said, ‘This isn’t for me. I have some questions. I think I need to go into the ministry.’”
More than 35 years later – including the last 33 as a called worker – Barry will be retiring from his post at Stevensville United Methodist Church on Sunday.
He started his training in 1979 at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. because he was familiar with the area from his time serving with the Navy honor guard and the National Security Council.
A math major at Albion College, Barry was friends with a physical education major, a chemistry major and a religion major at Wesley.
“It didn’t matter your major, it was your calling,” he said. “All my experiences have helped me live this call. And I shouldn’t be surprised by that.”
Barry has spent his entire ministry in Michigan – bouncing between the Mt. Pleasant area, New Buffalo/Lakeside, Bridgman, Lowell and finally Stevensville, where he’s been since 2003.
Now, the 65-year-old is ready to spend more time with his recently-retired wife, Susan, his two children and his five grandchildren.
“Susan and I said, ‘We are enjoying good health and energy,’ and we are excited to think about what else we could be called to do,” he said. “(We’re) starting chapter two.”
They will be moving to the Grand Rapids area on Thursday, their 38th wedding anniversary.
“I know I’m going to miss not regularly preaching of the Gospel, and the wonderful relationship you build up by being in a church,” Barry said.
Susan said it’s going to be hard to leave the area, but she’s excited for the next stage.
“I feel his ministry isn’t finished,” she said, “just different.”
Sandy Krieg, the administrative assistant at Stevensville United Methodist, said this week has been emotional for her for many reasons.
Besides working with Barry every day at the church, Barry also presided over her wedding and baptized her youngest son.
“He is the most compassionate, caring, kind-hearted man of God I’ve ever met,” she said. “He approaches things with a great sense of humor, compassion and loved wrapped together … ‘Can’t do’ isn’t in his vocabulary.”
The public is invited to wish the Barrys farewell at a luncheon in the church’s Faith Hall around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
The new guy
Who: David Hills
Family: Wife, Claire; three children; two grandchildren
Starting: Aug. 1
Last stop: District superintendent for the Heartland district of the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church
Previous stops: Faith United Methodist, Delton, Mich.; Coloma UM / Watervliet UM; Climax-Scotts UM; Big Rapids First UM
Schooling: Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Fun fact: A pastor since 1991, he grew up in St. Joseph