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Pastor leaving church after 21 years of service

March 19, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

It's been nearly 21 years since Richard Wilson came to Hagerstown as pastor of Church of the Nazarene, a fledgling congregation that had three spiritual leaders in its first dozen years.

Now, Wilson has traded his pulpit for a post as director of development at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass. As he faces a new location and a new challenge, Wilson said he won't forget his years in Hagerstown.

"This job won't be so different from part of my work as a pastor," Wilson said by telephone from his new office at the Massachusetts college. "A big part of being a pastor is raising money, too."

The move has put Wilson closer to two members of his family, his children, Nicole and Aaron, both students at Eastern Nazarene. At least briefly, he will be apart from his wife, Ruth, who is staying in Hagerstown to finish the third marking period at Paramount Elementary School, where she teaches first grade.

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"At the college, I will be working with donors, helping them decide where they want to help," Wilson said.

The choices are many, including scholarships and capital programs. Wilson will administer a planned giving program through which alumni and others get information about how to leave money to the college in their wills.

The college is more than 100 years old and has about 1,100 students in all fields. The liberal arts curriculum is not all religion-based but has a strong religious foundation, Wilson said.

Just 30 years old when he became a pastor in Hagerstown, Wilson led the church at 141 N. Edgewood Drive from 1981 to the present.

During those years, the church grew from 60 to 196 members, underwent a building program that doubled the church's space in 1990, developed a children's ministry and added ministerial staff.

During Wilson's tenure, the church became debt-free.

Wilson said he was proud of the establishment of a Latino congregation at the church in 1994 - a group that is still going strong.

The Nazarene church has long served as a hub for the Latin community in the Hagerstown area. English and citizenship classes are offered there.

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