After nine years as pastor of Brookfield United Methodist Church, Dick Smith has been reassigned. While the separation has been heartbreaking for him, he said, it’s also been something Smith said he needs – to be able to cut back on his hours and focus on what he wants to do as a pastor.
Church member Melissa Sydlowski said she will miss Smith but is looking forward to the new administrative structure that will replace him.
“He’s really been a light in this community for nine years,” Sydlowski, chair of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and secretary of the church council, told the congregation June 4.
“We love him, he has loved us, but this is a season of change,” Sydlowski said.
Smith has been reassigned to New Hope Methodist Church in Niles, while BUMC has become part of a consortium of Trumbull County churches. It will no longer have a pastor assigned solely to it, but will have a lay worship leader, Sam Darrin, who has been providing music to BUMC; an administrative pastor for the consortium, Sam’s father, Rev. Matt Darrin of Howland UMC; and the occasional services of Elder Rev. Ken Kelly.
“We will be led in the vision and administration of church by Pastor Matt and we will also, with this arrangement, be able to utilize some members of the Howland United Methodist staff in areas like on-line ministry, children’s ministry, media outreach, possibly any other things that come up where Howland has a staff that can help us out,” Sydlowski said.
The changes were effective July 1.
“That’s good news,” Smith said of the changes at BUMC. “That’s good to know the district, the conference has paid attention and put a plan together to make sure that this church will be able to function going forward better than before. There are going to be a lot of professional, experienced people in the church. I know almost all of them. You’re gonna be in very good hands, and I’m very glad for that.”
Rev. Abby Aumon, superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, advised church members that the new arrangement “will work toward keeping us open,” Sydlowski said.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I never want to see this church close,” said Staff-Parish Relations Committee member Stacia Pascale. “This church has been a part of my family, my life, for 61 years. This church has been here for 200 years. This will help us keep these doors open and help us do our outreach, our (food) pantry. Our youth group is starting to come back again where it was like when I was in youth group.”
“Adapting to this model has proven very successful in keeping the light of Christ in community churches without having to close or merge churches,” Sydlowski said.
Smith saw BUMC through a pandemic that greatly curtailed in-person worship and a merger effort with Six-Fourteen Church in Masury, which closed shortly after the merger failed.
In Smith’s time, the church assisted in the creation of the Brookfield Backpack Charitable Foundation, created a well-attended food pantry and held a series of community activities, some of which endure, such as a summer rummage sale and craft and vendor shows, and others that could not survive the pandemic, including Summer Fest and Santa’s Workshop.
The changes take place against the backdrop of the most conservative Methodist congregations leaving over the issue of LGBTQIA+ rights, and the difficulties many religions have had in attracting new clergy and members.
“We’ll all go forward in different places,” Smith said. “Change isn’t easy, but I know when I changed to come up here I was nervous, but you all turned out to be great folks. I love every one of you. It’s a love that keeps us together and it’s a love that makes it hard to separate us, but we’re all gonna be together working for the same thing, and that’s following the great commission of Jesus Christ. That’s my commitment, and it needs to be the church’s as well.”
Starting on July 2, the start time for Sunday worship was changed to 11 a.m.