Pastor prepares to retire

Jeanie McGowan came to the table of pastoral ministry late in life.

So, she didn’t want to retire at the typical time.

But now the time has come, and it’s bittersweet.

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Jeanie McGowan

Retirement reception

The Rev. Jeanie McGowan, associate pastor of single adults at First Baptist Church, will retire Dec. 31.

A reception in her honor will be 2-4 p.m. today in the fellowship hall, 301 E. Capitol Ave.

She will preach her last service Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8:15 and 10:45 a.m.

The associate pastor of single adults at First Baptist Church has loved her work, and she is no less passionate about it than when she began 17 years ago.

Although she leaves the full-time pastoral position, McGowan is not leaving ministry.

“I don’t think God ever intends for us to retire from serving,” McGowan said. “We don’t earn the right to see an issue and not be part of the solution.”

She will have more time and energy to devote to social justice issues, particularly through the Faith Voices for Jefferson City and the Citizens for JeffTran.

“I’m so glad the faith communities are getting involved to make our community better for all,” McGowan said. “We all thrive when everyone gets the chance at a better life.”

Along a similar vein, McGowan and her husband, Keith, chose to move into a mostly transitional neighborhood and own six neighboring apartments.

“We intentionally rub shoulders with those who have felt marginalized,” she said. “We’re still learning how to do that. We don’t regret it; we feel our neighbors watch our backs.”

With the gift of hospitality, McGowan has been a good fit with the single adult ministry, as well as other pastoral duties including the Stephen Ministry, visitations and food ministries.

Although she’s never lived the single life, she has high respect and admiration for those who do.

“I married so young. I went from my parents’ house to my husband’s,” McGowan said. “I never had to deal with being totally responsible for myself. I marvel at their strength and resilience.”

When many churches have eliminated or never established a ministry for singles, First Baptist has recognized the need to create a welcoming place where they feel valued, McGowan said.

She has worked to remove the stereotype or stigma of singles as “social misfits” within the church.

“Many people can’t imagine they can be happy and whole and be single,” McGowan said. “Instead, we need to love them and let them be who they are.”

McGowan was teaching a class for single parents nearly two decades ago, when the church decided to create a staff position. The first person hired didn’t stay long, and then many singles encouraged her to apply.

It meant a reduction in income, leaving full-time employment for part-time.

But she experienced God’s assurance, when the congregation voted for her approval.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of love and care for singles; I felt blessed and called to be their shepherd,” McGowan said. “It was a defining moment — this is what I was called to do.”

She had served in almost every lay role in the the church.

“I always felt God calling me to something more,” McGowan continued. “But I did not think it would be a pastor; I had no role models.”

Now, she is the role model. McGowan was the first ordained woman on First Baptist staff, and now there are two other female pastors.

Through the six years commuting to earn her master’s of divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and nearly 20 years married to a pastor, her husband has been “an incredible support,” she said.

“He’s a great behind-the-scenes person.”

The Rev. Jeanie McGowan, associate pastor of single adults at First Baptist Church, will retire Dec. 31. A reception in her honor will be 2-4 p.m. today in the fellowship hall, 301 E. Capitol Ave. She will preach her last service Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8:15 and 10:45 a.m.

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