Vashon United Methodist Church has welcomed a new minister, Rev. Darryn Hewson, marking the end of a two-year period when the church was led by interim pastor Jan Van Pelt.
Hewson, 29, was appointed to his post by the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. The young pastor, along with his wife Lisa and 15 month-old daughter Ainsley, moved to Vashon a few weeks ago.
Hewson’s arrival on the Island has been a cause for celebration for church members, who are excited to spread the word about the resumé and skills of their new pastor.
“When I heard him give his first sermon, I was blown away,” said church member Harry Reinert. “He delivered his message without notes, and he laced the heavy stuff with little humorous asides and very effective illustrations. It was the best sermon I had heard in a long time, and the comments I’ve heard from other church members since have all been in general agreement.”
Church member Tina Parrish agreed. “He’s a very good speaker,” she said. “My 9-year-old son listened very carefully to everything in the sermon and then wanted to talk about it after church. That’s pretty wonderful.”
Hewson grew up in Renton and, since graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in teaching English and theater, has been on a fast-track to the ministry, racking up accomplishments and appointments along the way.
He has a master of divinity degree from Denver’s Iliff School of Theology and served at two churches in Colorado and one in Idaho before coming to Vashon.
Hewson’s appointment here follows a period of conflict and transition at the church, which resulted from the short tenure of an openly gay pastor at the church in 2005. Controversy erupted, fueled in part by an official United Methodist Church doctrine that bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from the clergy.
Complicating the situation was the fact that while many other Protestant denominations allow congregations to select their own pastors, the United Methodist Church does not.
In July of 2006, Jan Van Pelt was appointed in an interim capacity to minister to the congregation, with a focus on healing divisions brought about by the controversy.
Marcy Summers, the church’s education coordinator, praised Van Pelt for her work in moving the church forward.
“The church is now in a very different place than it was two years ago,” Summers said. “Everyone was in a lot of pain, and some people had left the church. Jan really came in and healed that.
“She has a wonderful participatory leadership style and tremendous skills in helping people, as she put it, ‘agree and disagree in love.’ So the church is ready to welcome Darryn from a very strong and unified place.”
Hewson also praised Van Pelt for her work in rebuilding the church. “My hope is to continue the good work that happened after the conflict here,” he said.
Hewson said that he is looking forward to getting to know everyone in the community.
“I get the feeling that this is a place where people know each other and have connections all over the place,” he said. “That’s a great feeling.”
Hewson says that he is impressed that Vashon is home to a wide variety of faith communities. But he said that he was challenged by the fact that the Pacific Northwest is the region with the lowest church attendance in the country.
“People in the Northwest have this independent spirit,” he said, adding that many people “think they can get their God fix by climbing Mount Rainier.”
“But a church is much more than just a worship service,” he said. “It’s a community that carries on an ongoing dialogue and discussion. That’s the most important thing.”
Hewson says that he is hopeful that under his leadership the church can work ecumenically with the other churches and faith communities on the Island.
“We are not competing,” he said. “My desire is that people can grow in their faith and that everyone can find the right place for them.”