August 04, 2021

Pastor blessed by opportunity

After tending to the spiritual health of the Congregational United Church of Christ members in Cromwell, minister Jim McIntosh will retire to take care of his physical health. His last service was Sunday.

In 2018, McIntosh was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the same year he started preaching at the church.

“Doctors encouraged me to slow down,” he said from his home near Afton.

Despite his few years at the church, McIntosh, 65, said it was a goal reached. Previously, he worked in soil conservation and transferred from the Chariton office to Creston in 1988. The Lineville native retired in 2013.

“I had inklings I wanted to do something else,” he said. “What I was doing at the office was repetitive. I wanted something different.” He had been the lay leader for United Methodist churches in Afton, Arispe and Lorimor. Lay leaders represent a church’s congregation when working with the minister.

About the same time he retired from soil conservation, he started taking ministry courses through Simpson College in Indianola. The courses provided the foundation of the Christian faith and guidance on church leadership.

“After Simpson, I had been contacted by the United Methodist Church if I would be interested in taking a church. Then I was encouraged to attend a theology school for seminary. At my age, I was not willing to take that on,” he said.

Then Cromwell came into focus.

“Once I finished Simpson, the Cromwell church pastor left,” he said. The pastor’s husband found a job in another state. Cromwell asked McIntosh to fill the pulpit when needed.

That occasional relationship became closer over time.

“I had been volunteering my time at Cromwell. The people there were kind and nice. Mike and Rita Wolfe then starting asking me, ‘Are you ready to come on,’ multiple times.”

McIntosh said he was flattered by the request. He gave it some thought and asked the advice of Jim Morris, a recently retired United Methodist pastor in Union County.

“Ronda and I talked it over. I felt the calling,” McIntosh said about his wife. “Jim said, ‘I’d been praying for you many years. It would be great if you were pastor there,’” he said.

McIntosh said he accepted the calling and started in early 2018. Attendance at the church is about two dozen. Church members are from families that have attended for generations. Relationships among members were longstanding.

“One of the things I enjoy is sharing God’s word, sharing the holy spirit inspired message with his children and those who believe in him. I get great enjoyment in that,” he said.

Ronda said the church appreciated Jim’s efforts.

“They like Jim at dinners because he rolls his sleeves up and does the dishes,” she laughed.

But there can be tense moments while preaching.

“Part of that gets difficult with special services,” he said. “Funerals are more difficult for those you don’t know. I also did a service for a family that had a suicide.”

He said attendance was more before COVID hit in March 2020.

“We lost some people before COVID.” he said. In an attempt to prevent more loss, McIntosh said Cromwell already had created a service that could be viewed through social media. Many other churches did something similar after COVID started.

“We need to get something going to reach these people,” he said.

Cromwell returned to in-person services in March.

When weather and conditions were appropriate, the church held an outside service. Using his own sound system, church members would sit in their car in the parking lot and hear McIntosh through a loud speaker.

McIntosh would also represent the church in the Union County Ministerial Alliance, a collection of church pastors to talk about needs and programs for the county. Members also visit nursing homes.

“Once hired full time, I felt like I wanted to do it. I had the calling,” he said. “And like Morris had said, having this job feels like I never worked a day.”

McIntosh will be replaced by Mary O’Riley. She is a part-time minister at the Disciples of Christ-Christian Church in Prescott.

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.