Leading a pair of churches at the same time is nothing new for Pastor Mo Dunn, who has accepted a call to Trinity United Methodist Church in Defiance, and Ayersville United Methodist Church in Ayersville. With the two churches sharing a pastor for the first time, Dunn is excited to help them navigate this new chapter, get to know the people of the congregations, and be a blessing in the community.
Answering a question about being in two places at the same time, Dunn said with a smile: “Sometimes you have to leave one place early, and sometimes you have to show up at the other place late. It’s really all about using time management. I’m proud to be the pastor of two churches that take seriously service to the community, and that have a great history of focusing on Christ.”
Dunn grew up in Cincinnati after the age of 10, and following high school, earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Cincinnati. Raised in the United Methodist Church (UMC), it was during his time in college that he really explored his faith.
That led Dunn to ministry with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (an inter-denominational, evangelical Christian campus ministry), and eventually to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., where he earned a master of divinity degree in 1991. In 1993, he was ordained an elder in the West Ohio UMC.
“I went to a lot of different churches during my college years, and that’s when I found a new commitment to Christ and became very ecumenical,” said Dunn. “I was involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which was a wonderful time because I was involved with many people from many churches. It was a springboard to me getting an ecumenical job working with nine different churches doing youth outreach (junior high through college age).
“When I went to seminary, I was pleased with the theological teachings of the United Methodist Church I found there, because I had become a ‘Bible Thumper,’” continued Dunn. “I didn’t get into the Bible while I was being raised Methodist, but I did in college. The Wesleyan teachings are really good, and what I learned from that is that we need the Holy Spirit to catch us on fire. I also learned (Methodist founder John) Wesley said, ‘The world is my parish.’”
Added Dunn: “I believe in the social gospel, but I also believe in the transformation gospel, where you have a new life experience in Christ.”
The husband of Leanne, and the father of five adult children, Kayla, Phillip and Andy Dunn, and Caleb Baker (wife, Chelsea) and Taia Baker, Dunn most recently served as pastor at Christ UMC in Portage and Turning Point UMC near Bowling Green from 2016-19. From 2009-16 he served at Union Chapel in Middletown and from 2002-09, he was the pastor at Magnetic Springs Charge, near Marysville.
“Since moving here (he and Leanne live at the parsonage at Ayersville UMC), I was able to witness the exciting VBS and Barnyard BBQ at Ayersville, and I am excited about the upcoming VBS at Trinity that starts Monday,” said Dunn. “So far, everyone has been very welcoming, it’s been heartwarming. My wife sings, her solo was well received, and the people are excited about her being involved in the church. She’s very talented in many areas of ministry.
“She feels very strongly in her support of me as a pastor’s wife, in fact, she felt at church camp when she was in her teens that God was calling her to be a pastor’s wife,” continued Dunn. “God put that on her heart, which is very amazing. Now that we’re here, we look forward to meeting everyone by possibly doing a series of getting acquainted meetings in which people would host us for dinner in groups of eight.”
Dunn knows there will be challenges ahead when it comes to the two churches sharing one pastor, but he’s confident that cooperation and respect will go a long way in meeting those challenges.
“Keep in mind that the two churches have never shared a pastor, so part of the challenge is not that they’re just sharing me, they’re being in partnership with another church in a new way,” Dunn said. “That’s why we have a new group for that, a cooperative parish group, and so far, so good. That will help keep communication open, which should lead to a positive spirit between the two churches.
“People at both churches are already showing sensitivity to us, and to the people at the other church,” continued Dunn. “One of the biggest drawbacks of leading two churches is leaving one church quickly, to get to the other church. We try to time it so that we have a receiving line at the end of the service (at Ayersville UMC), but it depends on how long the service runs. Both churches are aware sacrifices are being made, and that’s part of this.”
Service at Ayersville UMC is Sundays at 9 a.m., with Sunday school at 10:30 a.m. Service at Trinity UMC is 10:30 a.m., with Sunday school at 9 a.m. For more information about Ayersville UMC, call 419-395-1742; and for more information about Trinity UMC call 419-782-9781.