LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - It’s a standing joke in the Keyser family: if you ever need a “wrecking crew” for a longtime church or school - hire them.
It’s easy to chuckle now, but nine years ago it was a difficult and emotional time, as Jim Keyser, the longtime Methodist minister, returned to the location of his very first church appointment to guide Trinity United Methodist in its decision on whether to renovate its 118-year-old building at 16th and A streets or simply build a new one. (His wife, Cheryl, taught at Hawthorne Elementary when Lincoln Public Schools decided to close it in 2008.)
As most people know, Trinity opted for the latter, after a close and heated vote. Keyser led the congregation through the storm, helped build a new church in the South Lincoln Village Gardens community and tenaciously grew a congregation.
In March, the new Trinity church will mark four years at its new location - and the church itself will celebrate 130 years in Lincoln.
At the end of June, Keyser will retire.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/MdMO7B ) it’s a decision Keyser and his wife, Cheryl, now an ELL teacher at Hartley Elementary School, had thought and prayed about for more than a year. They agreed this was the time both would retire from their professions.
Keyser broke the news to the congregation of 550 people during Sunday services on Jan. 19.
One week later, the Rev. Nan Kaye-Skinner was named his replacement. A United Methodist district superintendent in the Elkhorn Valley district, she begins her new position July 1.
She will be Trinity’s first female senior pastor.
Trinity United Methodist was Keyser’s first appointment following his graduation from seminary in 1975. He served as associate pastor for three years, then was appointed pastor of the United Methodist Church in Louisville. Six years later, he returned to Lincoln to lead South Gate United Methodist Church. In 1994, he was appointed to a church in Grand Island. He stayed 11 years before returning to Trinity United Methodist in 2005 with the charge to guide the church in its decision to renovate or move.
“I would have retired earlier if I didn’t come to help do that,” Keyser said. “When I came here, I knew we were going to make a decision together.
“It was hard and really hard to leave that location,” he said of the church at 16th and A streets. “But we were on a trajectory to disappear there. It would not have been good stewardship to put $3 to $4 million in it.”
Lincoln developer and Campbell’s Nursery owner Dick Campbell came to Trinity with an offer of land in a “new traditional neighborhood” just off 56th Street and Pine Lake Road. Campbell provided them prime space, right off the main entrance to the community.
The vote to move was tight, 152 to 142. Some congregants left Trinity in protest, others just didn’t want to drive so far.
“We are kind of coming back from that,” Keyser said. “Down the road, the end result here will be a good-sized church, and eventually it will have a sanctuary.”