Local United Methodist churches have new pastor

Dwight Harriman — Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, August 2, 2019
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Enterprise photo by Dwight Harriman

Rev. Patti Agnew stands outside of Livingston’s Grace United Methodist Church on Tuesday. 

Rev. Patti Agnew has a big job — covering four Park County United Methodist Churches by herself.

Well, not totally by herself. 

“I can get to three of the churches every Sunday,” Agnew, 55, the new pastor for the four congregations — Grace and Holbrook in Livingston, and the churches in Clyde Park and Pine Creek — said during a recent interview at her Grace office. But she has help.

“I’m empowering lay people to lead their church,” she said of volunteers who help lead services when she can’t be there.

Agnew took over as minister for the churches from Rev. Dave Greep, following her appointment by the United Methodist bishop for the area. Her first Sunday was July 21.

The minister, who grew up in Los Angeles, earned her master of divinity and a doctorate of ministry degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. She served as pastor of churches in Colorado for 23 years and for the past two years she was the minister for St. Paul’s and Covenant United Methodist churches in Helena.

Agnew actually serves as the local churches’ pastor half time. The other half she is what’s called a congregational resource minister to provide resources, support and training for pastors and churches in eastern Montana. But it doesn’t involve traveling all the time — much of that work is done by video conferencing.

Meanwhile, it’s a big enough job handling the local United Methodist churches. To do that, the churches have created a worship schedule, whereby, as Agnew said, she can get to three of them in one Sunday. Then, the first Sunday of every month the congregations hold a joint meeting at rotating church locations, as they are this Sunday at 11 a.m. at Grace.

Agnew said she is treating making the rounds to the churches as being an old-time, circuit-riding preacher.

“(But) I’ve traded in a horse for a Subaru,” she laughed.

Agnew has two daughters, ages  21 and 23, who live in Colorado. Her interests outside of the pulpit include hiking, quilting and photography.

Among her goals for her new position are helping the churches adjust to a shifting culture, looking into how they are serving and loving people outside of the church, and letting them know “there’s a God who loves them just as they are.”

She said churches need to explore new ways of ministry, not just going to church and signing hymns and expecting people to show up.

“I just look forward to getting to know this community and the people in it,” she said. “I’m excited to be here.”