AYERSVILLE — For more than 40 years, Rev. Clarence Dinnen has followed the path that God has set before him. That path has taken him to several churches in southern Ohio, as well as Ayersville United Methodist Church (UMC) the past nine years. Dinnen will begin a new chapter in life starting July 1, when he officially retires as a United Methodist Church pastor.
“This is such a wonderful area, there are many great folks, and my wife (Joan) and I have enjoyed being here,” said Dinnen about his time at Ayersville UMC. “I like the rural setting, I was raised in a rural setting, so I’ve felt very much at home. There’s a strong spiritual base in the church here, there are so many who know the Lord and are serving Him. It’s been a joy for me to work with the folks here, and there is such a love for community here, too.”
To honor Dinnen, Ayersville UMC is hosting a Happy Retirement potluck party May 19 at 10:30 a.m. at the church located at 27728 Ayersville-Pleasant Bend Road. A dessert open house will follow the potluck at 11:30 a.m. Attendees are asked to bring main dishes, potatoes or vegetables, or salads and desserts. To help in the planning, a sign-up sheet is available at church. Drinks and tableware will be provided.
Dinnen grew up in Port William, with his father, Clarence, a veterinarian, and his mom, Marjorie. His father became a pastor, and so the family moved to Sardinia, where Dinnen attended Eastern High School his freshman and sophomore year. The family then moved to Batavia, and Dinnen graduated from Batavia High School in 1972.
At the time of his graduation, Dinnen had no plans to follow in his father’s footsteps, instead he attended Ohio State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in microbiology in 1976. However, it was during his time at Ohio State that Dinnen felt God calling him in a different direction.
“I had no desire to follow in my dad’s footsteps, I saw myself more interested in science and mathematics, I was thinking about a medical career,” said Dinnen. “In my first two years at Ohio State, I didn’t feel I was being called into the medical field, and during my sophomore and junior years I began to ask, ‘What is God’s will for my life?’
“During that time, I was becoming more and more involved in campus ministry at King Avenue United Methodist Church,” continued Dinnen. “Chuck Cooley was the campus minister, and he helped me get very involved in campus ministry. My senior year, I went to talk to one of my math professors, Dr. Leiztel, about graduate school and he said to me after hearing my involvement with the ministry, ‘Maybe you should consider going to seminary.’”
It didn’t take long for Dinnen to ask God about seminary, “Is this your will for me?” Soon after, Dinnen explained that he felt God’s peace so he enrolled at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He spent parts of the next five years there earning his master of divinity degree. It was during his time there that he was in a serious car accident, which led him to graduating in 1981, instead of 1980.
It was during his last year at seminary that he met his wife, Joan, who was a freshman at Asbury. The two were married on Aug. 21, 1982.
“She was a first-year student, and I was there later than I anticipated because of the accident,” said Dinnen. “She had been a missionary to Ecuador, but after we met and we knew that God’s plan was for us to be together, she became a missionary to southern Ohio.”
During seminary, Dinnen spent 1978 as a student pastor at churches in Mowrystown and Buford. Following graduation, his first appointment was to Felicity Lake & Chapel near Cincinnati (1982-86); from 1986-91, he led a church in Minford; from 1991-2000 he led a church in Zanesville; and from 2000 until the present, he has presided over Ayersville UMC.
“When I got the phone call I was being appointed here, I had to look up Ayersville on a map,” said Dinnen. “It was a change ... the wind blows free here.”
Now after nine years in northwest Ohio, and 40-plus years in ministry, Dinnen is ready for retirement to spend more time with family.
“I’ve sensed a decline in my own energy, and I feel because that’s happening, it’s time for new leadership here at the church,” Dinnen said. “I want to spend more time with my father (who retired as a pastor in 1995 from Faith UMC in Bryan), who is 88, and we have a daughter (Susanna) in Columbus and a son (Stephen) in Tulsa, (Okla.). Joan and I feel this is the right time to take this next step in our lives.”
The Dinnens will move to Columbus to be closer to Dinnen’s father and their daughter’s family, and they plan to spend more time with their son in Tulsa.
“I’ll still be involved in ministry, I’m not sure what that will be, and Joan is still very interested in children’s ministry,” said Dinnen. “I’m really going to miss the people, I’m going to miss preaching ... I’m just really going to miss the privilege of being involved in people’s lives. We’re still going to be a part of church, but for the first time in 40 years, we’ll be able to pick which one we attend.”
Dinnen’s final Sunday at Ayersville UMC will be June 16.