Reverend Russell Fletcher and his wife Diane are concluding their six-year ministry at the Paonia Methodist Church. Russell will preach his last sermon at Paonia on Sunday, June 30. For all friends of Russell and Diane, Paonia United Methodist Church is hosting a reception June 29, from 3-6 p.m., at the church fellowship hall, Third and Onarga.
Russell and Diane have been appointed to Evergreen Methodist Church on the Front Range of Colorado. There they will serve 340 members with an inspirational sermon and Diane's southern hospitality that so characterized their stay at Paonia. Renewal in membership has always been an emphasis for Russell and Diane; perhaps this may have influenced Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Rocky Mountain Conference to make this appointment.
This is Russell and Diane's story. What better place to find this story than the pictures and mementos in Russell's office at Paonia Methodist Church.
Several photographs are of large, beautiful churches at Batesville, Ocean Springs, and Jackson, Mississippi. Also, West Point has a prominent position on the east wall. Before coming to Paonia (2007-2013), Russell and Diane's 40 years of experience were principally serving large churches in the Mississippi Conference of the UMC. These were multi-staffed churches from 1,400-1,600 members. On Sundays Russell often preached to 300-500 members.
Like Mississippi Methodists, Paonians have been inspired by Russell's well-organized Christ-centered sermons. Russell characterized his style as "three points and a poem."
Also, Paonia Methodists became acquainted with faraway southern places such as Natchez, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Summit and Biloxi. Russell often told stories about these churches sprinkled with how it was growing up on the Mississippi Gulf.
The small community church at Paonia was certainly a different challenge from the large Batesville experience. Paonia was far from multi-staffed. Laughingly, Russell characterized the experience of the small town preacher "coffee made, garbage laid." And furthermore, Diane and Russell were not anticipating the problem of blowing leaves and falling snow. Mississippi weather tended to be quite hot and humid a good part of the year. On the first September Sunday when the temperature plummeted, a whispered remark in the Paonia church sanctuary was that it was rather cold. Obviously, the janitor was not in town and preacher had forgotten to reset the thermostat.
Besides Russell and Diane's involvement in church, they support the Paonia community. A Paul Harris Fellow certificate given by Rotary International is on the office wall. Russell has always taken an active interest in serving in his community either as a Lion or Rotarian. He was membership chairman of the Paonia club.
Another community outreach that Diane and he strongly support is the Hunger Packet project sponsored by PMC. One packet supplies a meal. In 2012, 126 packets were given out. There is a sign on the church door that welcomes anyone in need to ask for this packet exemplifying the Methodist theology "Open hearts, open minds, open doors." Diane has been involved in scheduling volunteers for the PMC thrift shop, as well as volunteering to help. She has enjoyed pricing the precious heirlooms at the annual potato bar and bazaar that contributes money to community projects.
And just what is a huge ugly bulldog with the large letters MSU doing on the office wall? Of course you guessed it. The Fletchers are huge Mississippi State University football fans; and, yes, they have adopted the Colorado Denver Broncos as well. Church members who are Bronco fans always know that church will not last too long, as Russell is observant keeping his listeners no more than an hour at Sunday service. Perhaps, he too is going to view the game, but it might be that he wants to enjoy Sweet Sunday or Pot Bless at the church fellowship hall.
Just how did Russell and Diane discover Paonia? Another picture on the office wall depicts an elk with the label Majestic Prince. When asked about this elk picture, the story came out. Russell first came to the Paonia area to hunt in 1990. He was enchanted by the mountains and location. He continued to come hunting. However, he did comment that he was more successful bagging deer than bagging an elk. By now, loving the Colorado experience, Diane and Russell brought their daughter Dr. Priscilla Grissom and her husband Kevin to vacation in Colorado. The kids even tried some skiing at Telluride. In fact three years ago, the Grissoms, and son Kyler (then five) moved to Superior.
Perhaps one of the bonuses of living on the Front Range will be sharing more time with their grandson Kyler who, at eight years of age, will be asking, "Grandad (Poppa) and Grandma (Rah Rah), can you take me out to the ballgame?" Who could resist this request to see the Denver Broncos play?blog comments powered by Disqus