By Heather Wimmer
The average tenure of a new pastor in the United States is just over two years. So it was an appropriate celebration at Bethel Family Worship Center,10801 Ruskin Way, on September 16 when members of Bethel and clergy from at least six other churches honored Pastor Dennis Lester Jr. on reaching his five year mark.
Pastor Lester, his wife Jenelle, and their three children moved here five years ago hoping to lead a community of Christians in South Kansas City.
In the Spring of 2018, when being considered for the position of Pastor at Bethel, Lester toured the church and was impressed with the community in which the building is located. “I felt an immediate connection after observing the number of houses as well as Ruskin High School which is across the street from Bethel,” recalls Pastor Lester. He says he felt impressed to bring the mission of Christ’s hope to the community.
Indeed, bringing a sense of community and partnership has been a major focus for Pastor Lester. He began the nonprofit organization Hickman Mills Community Empowerment Center (HMCEC), which has gathered support from many churches, ministries and organizations to show the community that they care.
Pastor Lester says HMCEC has garnered the most support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, International House of Prayer, Grace Point Baptist, Christian Charity Church, Hickman Mills Community Association, and Community Assistance Council, although there are many more who have participated.
“I am the most proud of the relationships that we have nurtured”, Lester commented, “because they transcend denominational, political, cultural as well as racial boundaries.”
The celebration commemorating five years as pastor began with a formal procession and dinner and was followed by music from Men of Faith, a group of five clergymen from Chicago, Washington DC and Atlanta.
Friends from the congregation as well as other churches and mentors who helped train Pastor Lester gave messages of congratulations and encouragement.
Pastor Willie Thornton from Mt Washington Missionary Baptist Church played sacred and secular selections on saxophone and clarinet. Pastor Thornton has been a friend of Pastor Lester since he arrived. Thornton says, “He has a heart for God’s people and recognizes the needs of the community where he worships, and by leading his church to do ministry and not just ‘Church.'”
The weekend celebrations culminated in a worship service the next day featuring Dr. Stan Rone (former interim pastor at Bethel) and mentor Reverend Jason McClendon of Macon, Georgia.