GREENFIELD — It was a whirlwind time to be starting a new job.
His son was about to get married in Colorado. He and his wife were taking their turns looking after his mother-in-law. And as they moved from the last pastoral assignment serving two smaller churches in Spencer County, the parsonage they would be moving into in Greenfield was being remodeled and not yet ready for them.
But the Rev. Michael Manning and his wife, Gloria, made it to the wedding, found a temporary place to stay and began getting to know the congregation of Trinity Park United Methodist Church.
Story continues below gallery
That congregation says in 21 years, he’s never shied away from jumping right in to face the situation, whether that was dealing with a crisis or completing a random odd job.
He stepped up to speak at Greenfield Mayor Richard Pasco’s funeral when Pasco, a member of the church, died in 2013.
And he’s had a hand in the little things, too. Manning also cut pencils the right size for Thelma Peterson, a longtime member and volunteer, to restock the racks on the backs of the pews, where churchgoers fill out a communication card or a tithe envelope.
“Nothing is below him,” said music director Pam Johnson, “be it plunging a toilet or spreading mulch.”
On Sunday, she and the rest of the congregation will honor their pastor’s 21 years of service at the church as he retires, remembering a man they say has truly practiced what he preached.
”He is respected for being consistent in his Christian behavior through the week as he has been in the pulpit on Sundays,” said Jeanne Fletcher, chairman of the church’s staff parish committee. “He set an example for us.”
The church has grown during Manning’s time there. It added a second service soon after his arrival. The church, located across the street from Harris Elementary School and Greenfield Intermediate School, also launched the Alpha and Omega before- and after-school care ministry.
In September 2009, it dedicated a 20,000-square-foot ministry center addition with a kitchen, gymnasium and other areas to the south side of the building.
”For a number of years, the congregation talked about building a Life Ministry Center but did not move forward with it,” Fletcher said. “Reverend Mike gave the motivation to the congregation to move forward with that dream.”
Johnson said Manning, a former auto-body repairman, has a love for construction and woodworking, so it was no surprise he oversaw the building of that center. Similarly, he designed the sound booth and organized the extension of the chancel area.
“He got in there with a hammer and nails and worked with it,” Johnson said. “He was willing to do that … and never missed a beat with his other pastoral duties.”
Those duties are what Manning says he’ll miss most.
”I really have appreciated being able to be a part of people’s lives in a lot of situations, mostly crisis situations,” he said. “They trust me to be a part of their family and help lead them through that.”
Fletcher recalled time Manning has spent visiting people in the hospital and said the congregation has appreciated his concern for the overall well-being of a person.
He’s also dedicated to his community, friends said.
Manning serves on the board of Hancock County Food Pantry and is a past president and current treasurer of the Greater Greenfield Ministerial Association. The Rev. David Woods of Park Chapel Christian Church has known Manning through the association for many years and said Manning is always prepared for an assignment.
”He thinks before he speaks and offers wisdom with humility. I’ve never heard him talk about what he has done,” Woods wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “Mike works well in a team situation, and while he does not draw attention to himself, he has made a difference in the outcome.
”Mike and Gloria with their family have given the Greenfield community a wonderful gift of humble service. We are fortunate that they are staying in our community.”
The Mannings do plan to remain in Greenfield, where three of their four grown children live and attend Trinity Park with their families. The retiring pastor said Sunday mornings will certainly feel different, but he hopes to fill his time by volunteering with local nonprofits, doing a little more woodworking, and enjoying quality time with his children and grandchildren and particularly his wife of 46 years.
”I look forward to sitting with my wife in church,” he joked.
-The Rev. Larry Van Camp was recently appointed pastor of Trinity Park United Methodist Church and should arrive in July. Van Camp was most recently pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Jasper.
-The Rev. David Galbraith, senior pastor of Mt. Comfort United Methodist Church of the Risen Christ, will serve Waldron United Methodist Church in his retirement.
-Alex N. Stone, senior pastor of Woodmar United Methodist Church in Hammond, will become senior pastor at Mt. Comfort in July.
Date: Sunday, June 4
Time: 2 to 4 p.m., with remarks at 3 p.m.
Location: Trinity Park United Methodist Church, 207 W. Park Ave., Greenfield