Merritt steps aside after 26 years
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor
Friday, 20 September 2013 09:02
WAYNE - For the last 26 years, Ron Merritt has served as pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd in rural Wayne. The home-grown minister has now stepped aside to take on a new role as retired, however he will continue to assist in various aspects of the ministry.
|Pastor Ron Merritt poses for a portrait inside of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wayne, Ohio on September 14, 2013. Pastor Ron Merritt is retiring after 26 years of service. (Photo: Kristen Norman/Sentinel-Tribune)
Pastor Brad Kehn from Wisconsin is now the new lead pastor at the church.
Merritt was a founding member of the church in 1987. Though initially an elder, he has been the church's only pastor except for the first few months when there was a different pastor for the non-denominational church. The newly founded church became affiliated with the Harvest Network International and remains so yet today.
He was born and raised in Wayne he says "about a half a mile from the church."
The pastor says though he has had no formal theological training, he felt a call when he was young.
"When we started the church it became a real evident call to be pastor," Merritt stated.
Prior to becoming a full time religious leader, he sold seed corn and other plants and was a rural farmer.
He said he had been trained as a youth through Lutheran catechism classes and his parents. Everything else he said he learned through life.
Of the original members who formed the church, estimated between 30 and 50 or so, many are still members and active in the church.
They first met in a basement of a home until the first church was built about 18 months later.
With a total of seven building projects completed, most by volunteer labor, the church has blossomed and grown over the years.
Merritt says the church now boasts more than 500 members.
Aside from the main church, they also have a satellite church in Fostoria which features a weekly Saturday evening worship service.
He is most proud of the youth and children's ministry which boasts 140 or more teens and children each Wednesday at the church.
They have two buses and two vans which transport the students from Wayne, Risingsun, Jerry City, Bradner and Fostoria.
"There are a lot of positive things about watching and helping these kids grow up. Some of them now come back to help," Merritt said.
One of the initial elders with Merritt, Terry Robinson appreciates the job Merritt has done for the church.
"He is a real people-oriented person and has a deep caring for people," the elder said.
Robinson noted that the pastor has been involved not just in the crises in the congregation's lives, but at all times.
"He's been a very tender sort of person and sensitive towards people's needs," he added.
Echoing Merritt's sentiments, Robinson said about his pastor, "Even before being a pastor, he was doing pastoral things."
Robinson's son, Jeremy, serves as the youth pastor.
Not only has the church grown, but Merritt says he has also changed and his faith has deepened over the years.
"I have learned to know my limits. I know there are thing you can't do without God's help," Merritt said.
He said of his inadequacies he has most noticed little things such as the fact that "you can't fix a broken heart."
As for the decision to retire, he said he always knew he would know when it was the right time and a major part of that would be to know they had the right person to succeed him as pastor.
In Kehn, Merritt says "We felt certain he was the right person."
Merritt says he will remain at the church telling Kehn, "You are my pastor now."
He says he will assist Kehn in moving the church forward and will preach once in a while, serve as a consultant and preside at weddings and funerals.
He also noted his wife, Mary, has been a big part of the ministry. She will also continue assisting at the church, including helping with the youth program.
In retirement, Merritt said he will continue with one of his hobbies, raising brood cattle. He and his wife would also like to head out west for a vacation.
Robinson summarized of Merritt, "He's been a steady, committed - kind of a rock for the church. You can always count on him. He's always been there when we needed him. He has been a good and faithful servant to the church."
Both Merritt and his wife, will be honored at the 10:30 a.m. worship on Sept. 19. A noon dinner will follow.
All members, former members and the public are invited to attend.
Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 10:41