Perrysburg pastor reached beyond church walls

PERRYSBURG – During his nearly 40 years of service to the ministry, Rev. Terry Powell lived of and among
his congregations.
The pastor of First United Methodist Church in Perrysburg is known, among many things, for his allegiance
to Ohio State University football and a reluctant willingness to climb inside a giant chipmunk suit for
Vacation Bible School classes. Powell has stayed true to his message during a 38-year career that spans
six congregations: accept that a personal relationship with God is possible; and find out what gifts God
has given you, then use those gifts for the benefit of the world. He will return to this theme during
his farewell sermon on Sunday at FUM, where he first took the pulpit nearly a decade ago.
The public is invited to a reception at the church, 200 W. Second St., from 2 to 4 p.m. that day.
The theme of his final sermon comes from the conversation Jesus had with his disciples, in which he asked
them, "Who do you say that I am?" The answer to that question, Powell believes, has a lot to
do with the progress his church has made. Since he arrived in 2000, the Perrysburg church became more
"mission-minded" and now coordinates many outreach efforts. This year, for example, FUM
members will work with The Friendly Center Inc., in Toledo, to provide resources to people in
neighborhoods that are in need.
For Powell, such outreach initiatives constitute a crucial role in the church’s mission.
"When I come into a church," Powell said in a recent interview, "I immerse myself not only
in the church but in the community."
Upon moving to each new church, Powell has wasted no time in developing relationships with its people. He
still espouses the importance of visiting members outside of church to learn about their lives. And in
his spare time, he volunteers for band fundraisers, as well as halftime announcing and concession stand
service at community sporting events.
As a young man, he was one of the only members of his family to express an interest in church. He began
attending church, actually, because of a girl. But when she left the church, he remained involved with
the choir and mission groups.
Still, it took nothing less than what Powell believes was the literal voice of God to convince him that
his life should take a new direction.
"I actually heard a voice, and I even turned around," Powell said. It said, "I want you to
serve."
Powell struggled with this revelation initially. He questioned his experience and oratorical skills but
ultimately could not deny what he felt to be his true calling.
And so he led congregations for 30 years before he received a call informing him of his appointment to
Perrysburg. That initial congregation has grown from 124 members to more than 400 who regularly attend
three separate services. To accommodate the growth in attendance, Powell introduced a Saturday night
"casual" service, followed by an early Sunday morning "blend" of traditional and
casual service and a late morning traditional service.
The church’s activities now include mission teams, various musical ensembles and outreach efforts, such
as providing donations to a local women’s shelter.
Of all these efforts, Powell is perhaps most pleased with the ecumenical senior citizens Bible study
group that began with 25 members at a YMCA and expanded to about 40 members who meet at Abundant Life
near Three Meadows Drive.
"I feel most proud about that," he said. "It’s still going and doing well."
Powell looks fondly on some of the fun he had as minister in Perrysburg. He recalls that when OSU played
against the University of Michigan, he made agreements with young Michigan fans at church that he would
wear the opposing team’s colors if OSU lost and vise versa. And there were other times when he would
consent to dressing up as Vacation Bible School mascot, Chatter, for the children despite being
"height-impaired and weight-enhanced."
The Perrysburg church, more than any other where he served, always made a point to express their
appreciation of his sermons.
"It’s just amazing how generous they are in their loving and caring," he said.
Connie Stallter, an FUM member of 40 years, said many longtime members believe Powell is the best pastor
the church ever had because of his close relationship with the congregation.
"He never preaches," Stallter said. "He just talks to us or with us."
Powell said he decided to retire because he needed a break after putting in 60-70 hours a week for so
many years. He said the church’s incoming pastor, of St. Marys, graduated many years ago from Lake High
School and was taught by some current congregation members.
Powell described the way he hopes and believes his congregation will remember him this way: "I
spoiled them, and they spoiled me."