Rev. Dr. David Williams to leave Emanuel UCC next month
June will be a time of change in Manchester’s ecumenical world. In addition to Rev. Aaron Kesson being reassigned from Manchester United Methodist Church, Emanuel United Church of Christ will soon be seeking a new pastor with the imminent departure of Rev. Dr. David Williams, who has served the church for nearly three years.
Dr. Williams will be moving to Berlin, Pennsylvania at the end of June, after being called to Trinity United Church of Christ, a congregation founded in 1777 with about 500 members.
“It’s roughly twice the size of Emanuel,” Dr. Williams explains. He added that at this point in his ministry, he felt his skills were not suited to the needs of Emanuel’s congregation and he made the decision to seek another parish in which to serve.
During his tenure here in Manchester, Dr. Williams has become known as “the Reverend who walks his red dog(s) all over town,” he says with a chuckle. When he arrived, he was accompanied by Miss Murphy, an Irish Setter who enjoyed meeting folks on the sidewalks and in the businesses in town–especially the ones who offered her treats! After Murphy’s passing a couple of months ago, the pastor immediately contacted an Irish Setter rescue group to locate a new friend. His search was rewarded when he agreed to take on a pair of dogs, Bailey and Emmett, who had been sadly neglected after their previous owner died.
“Both Bailey and Emmett were suffering from malnutrition when they arrived here from Minnesota a month ago,” he explains. But, with care and good feeding, both dogs are already on their road to complete recovery after their year-long ordeal.
Dr. Williams’ love affair with “Red Dogs” started when he was a child. “Irish Setters were very popular in those days due to the Disney movie ‘Big Red,'” he says. “And my dad was a big fan. We acquired a dog named Penny, and I’ve been attached to them ever since. They are not as common as they used to be, and I normally get a lot of questions about what type of dogs they are.”
Dr. Williams’ other claim to fame in the committee has been his extensive involvement in community affairs, both in Manchester and the wider community. He has been part of the Chicken Broil ever since he arrived, and also is the designated “grill master” for the Emanuel UCC Fair booth and its monthly benefit dinners. He’s especially proud to have headed up a fund-raiser for Susie Bachert of the Flower Garden this spring, raising $15,000 in one evening to help support the business after the passing of Mike Helton last winter. He is a member of the Civic Club, sells tickets at football games, and serves on the board of Directors of EHM Senior Solutions in Saline, which is better known as the Evangelical Home, part of the ministry of the United Church of Christ. He also is the sub-dean of the 110-member Ann Arbor chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and sings with the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, while also serving as its president the past year.
He has been pleased to be the “face” of Emanuel Church in the community over the past few years, and is also honored by the emerging relationships with St. Mary Catholic Church that have been forged during his time here. “Rev. Peter Harris and I both participated in the Stations of the Cross during Lent,” he explains, “and on several occasions I have been the visiting organist for Saturday evening Masses, when their organist was not available. I also was privileged to present the gifts at the altar for Father Bosco’s 25th anniversary of his ordination. I’m greatly warmed by this active engagement between our two neighboring churches.”
Now as he heads to a 240-year-old congregation that also emerged from the Evangelical and Reformed tradition that inspired Emanuel, he is looking forward to a different type of ministry in Berlin. He says that the church has a very strong historic perspective, and he will be charged with developing the discipleship and spiritual grounding of an active volunteer congregation. He is eager to help develop a community-wide youth ministry in conjunction with both the Lutheran and Brethren churches in the area, and will help provide the vision to make this become a reality.
Growing up in Akron, Ohio, the eldest of three sons, Dr. Williams was “a city boy who ended up spending his entire career in rural or small village churches,” with the exception of two years he spent in ministry in St. Louis, Mo. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Church Music from Fort Wayne Bible College, and his MA and MDiv from Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary. He received his Doctorate in Worship and Theology from the Graduate School of Theology in Pennsylvania. Just prior to arriving in Manchester, Dr. Williams served First Church in New Knoxville, Ohio for 10 years–a small town church that had an average attendance of almost 1,200 members and has had 117 sons of the church ordained in to the UCC ministry.
Dr. Williams (along with Bailey and Emmett) will miss the many friends they have made, both in the church and in the community, after he preaches his final message to Emanuel Church on June 25. His parting message to Manchester will be to “Celebrate the Past, Live in the Present, and Seek the Future.”
Good advice for us all.