June 13, 2014

Area faith leaders reach milestones

Kansas City celebrates milestones and undergo changes as three congregational leaders evaluate their roles. The Rev. Charles Bennett celebrates 60 years in the ministry, the Rev. Myron McCoy leaves St. Paul School of Theology and Rabbi Mark Levin, founder of Beth Torah congregation, enters retirement.

“To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” it says in Ecclesiastes.

The name of the unknown writer or writers comes to us through successive manglings of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew for “gatherer,” although it’s more or less translated today as “preacher” or “teacher.”

In this case, either is appropriate for these teachers of faith going through personal passages that come with time.

The Rev. Charles Bennett at Wesley United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Kan., is celebrating 60 years of ministry Sunday with a 9:15 a.m. service and reception at the church. The 84-year-old pastor has invited people from his former churches, but the service is open to everyone.

“I’ve had six churches in 60 years, and I’m going to talk about that a little bit,” Bennett said. “In fact, I have some people from my first service that I started 60 years ago who are going to be in this service.”

Bennett also served at Grinter Chapel, Wyandotte Methodist, Burlington Methodist, Coffeyville Methodist, Manhattan First Methodist and Old Mission Methodist. He retired at 65 but returned to work two years later when Wesley United Methodist needed a pastor.

His daughter, Julie Hume, said Bennett’s continuing curiosity and desire to learn is why he has been so successful in the ministry. She lives near him and often sees him praying outside in the morning or reading.

Hume said her father walks about four miles a day and has run several 5Ks in the past few years, even after beating cancer in the 1970s. He’s extremely active, she said, and even more curious than when he was young.

“He’s not stuck in the past,” Hume said. “He’s never lost his thirst for knowledge. It seems to become more profound in older age.”

Funds are being raised for a scholarship in his name at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. The total will be announced Sunday.

The Rev. Myron McCoy, president of St. Paul School of Theology in Leawood, is leaving July 1 to become senior pastor of First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. After 11 years at the college, McCoy said he is ready to return to local congregations.

“I could see the church shrinking from the number of people coming to seminary,” McCoy said, “and recognized that if we do not … bring some growing churches and strengthen them, we won’t have any need for seminary.”

He hopes his time at St. Paul’s has taught students to bring the world into the seminary, and he hopes he prepared students for a global society. McCoy oversaw the recent move of the school from its old, rambling campus in Kansas City to the Church of the Resurrection complex in Leawood. The reason was declining enrollment — the institution saw 33 new students last fall — and financial problems, the school said.

McCoy said the Chicago congregation is a microcosm of society, and that he’s ready to use his experiences to help try to bring together people of different races in the community.

“We’re trying to build a seminary that was more responsive to the church, more responsive to laity, and see ourselves not just as an academy for those who would get degrees, but … walking alongside all of our constituents,” McCoy said. St. Paul’s is searching for a new president.

Rabbi Mark Levin, the 65-year-old founder of Beth Torah congregation in Overland Park, is reducing his role in the synagogue to pursue other interests, including writing a book and increasing his volunteer work.

“I realized I needed to retire because there were goals that I had for life, and I’m not getting any younger, and I wasn’t going to be able to do them with a full-time job,” Levin said.

Levin intends to write a book that he hopes will improve people’s prayer lives. He hopes to travel, read more and learn about photography. He’ll be volunteering with a group called Hiddush, which works for the equality of religion in Israel.

“I’m going to be working on organizing rabbis across North America to be aware of what Hiddush is doing,” Levin said. “It’s just a matter of being in touch … and telling them what we’re doing and getting their support for it.”

He will continue to work as a founding rabbi for Beth Torah, where he will focus on pastoral care and some teaching. When the congregation was founded in 1988, Levin’s hope was to create a place for serious and modern liberal Judaism in southern Johnson County. He believes the congregation has made great strides in that direction.

Rabbi Rick Shapiro will serve in an interim position while a search committee looks for a replacement for Levin.

“What that meant to me was people having real prayer lives, to study Jewish texts deeply, and to have, at the basis of this all, a real community where people can rely on one another,” Levin said.

To reach Linley Sanders, call 816-234-4297 or send email to

Related content



Entertainment Videos