New United Methodist Church pastor brings an open heart

The United Methodist Church of Lovell received a new pastor this summer on July 16. Rev. Melinda Penry is an enthusiastic woman from North Carolina who said being here is divine intervention.

As she arrived to take her new position, instead of being directed to Powell, where she also pastors, her GPS led her on up to Sheridan and across the mountain to Lovell. She was enthralled with the Big Horn Mountains and feels fortunate to now live here in Lovell.

“Every time I got on a plane in North Carolina I went west. My soul came out here and I had to catch up with it. I feel it is divine for me to be here. God has spoken powerful words to me here,” Rev. Penry said.

New United Methodist Church Pastor Melinda Penry is enjoying the inspiration of the Mountain West and her new flock at the Lovell and Powell churches.
David Peck photo

Pastor Melinda went to Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., attending seminary for three years while going through the ordination process at the same time. This takes dedication and hard work.

She is passionate about her relationship with God and loves the church. “We can’t let anyone steal our passion and joy for the Lord; it is priceless,” she said. “I will love you more in a year than I do now, so let’s just get started now. There’s no need to wait a year for the excitement to pass. It won’t.”

Concerning the message of her ministry Pastor Melinda said that the God of the Universe who created everything loves you.

“No one will ever love you more than God,” she said. “Think about it! I want to give every single person hope. I will not give up. The world is our mission – sharing, praying together and growing your faith. The church is being pushed to the margins and our mission has never been bigger. It is pushing us to create new means and innovative strategies to reach all people in today’s culture.”

She said all God’s people are being pushed to live radical hospitality all the time, adding, “That might be something as simple as paying for someone’s order standing in front of you in the grocery line. Use your mind, and balance it with your heart.”

The United Methodist Church motto is “Open minds. Open hearts. Open doors.” Pastor Melinda explained, “I want to adopt that as our lifestyle, as the very core of who we are. I want the motto to say, ‘Open minds? Open hearts? Open doors?’ What do we need to give up to take the ‘?’s away and make it a permanent lifestyle, being what God created us to be. I want to see walls going flat. No walls. No divisions. When someone walks through the door I want them to immediately feel welcomed by the Holy Spirit through the people, the music or the sermon. Stop building walls and start building relationships.

“If you make the greatest commandment (love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself) the core of your life then you will be living what God created and called you to be. At the end of each day, the most important question we must ask ourselves is, ‘How many disciples did I make today?’”

Pastor Melinda wants to get involved with her parishioners, loving them, which builds trust. She said she wants to get to know their story to meet people where they are and build authentic relationships so she can help them.

“John Wesley wanted more,” she said. “He wanted to pray more and visit the sick more. He went to the prisons. He wanted more than there was. That is authentic ministry. He met people where they were. He asked people, ‘How is it with your soul?’ That’s when things open up beyond your imagination.”

Pastor Melinda has a desire to teach young girls how to be strong. She wants to encourage them to find what they are at their very core, to stand in that and let God use that. She hopes to help them understand that doing what they can do doesn’t necessarily have just one path.

Being in a smaller conference, one of 50 rather than 1,800, has definite advantages, Pastor Melinda believes. One can have a bigger voice to implement changes that truly make a difference in people’s lives whether that is within the church body as a whole or among individuals. Therefore, she is an advocate of small groups – a small group that meets to go hiking, a small group that meets at a restaurant, a small group that does artwork. Whatever they do, it creates opportunity for people to get to know each other and in turn be able to help each other.

“We are letting people down because we don’t know them or know they have problems. That’s why some turn to addictions and make other destructive choices. That’s why there’s so much brokenness. It’s our fault,” Pastor Melinda said. “Every word we say is either building up or tearing down. You can lose a mission opportunity with one word that comes out of your mouth. Our actions are our sermon.”

Pastor Melinda’s hobbies include photography, being in nature and creating art. She also enjoys horses, which is another reason that Wyoming seems to be a perfect fit for her. Her voice mail acknowledges herself in “the wild, beautiful, glorious wild west of Wyoming.”

“Seeking laughter and humor daily makes my heart sing. I love adventure. Exploring and hiking in the West surely fills my cup!” she added wholeheartedly.

Pastor Melinda Penry is a fun, enthusiastic and exciting personality that the community will enjoy knowing.

By Teressa Ennis