- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

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 (https://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.”

The church still owns its old building. It continued to use it as a child care center, with 150 children during the school year and 180 over summer break. The new church also has a child care center with 85 kids.

The old church also is used by an Hispanic Assemblies of God congregation, Keyser said.

Meanwhile, South Lincoln is booming, with more new neighborhoods being developed. A new grade school is planned just a few blocks from the Trinity site.

“The next 15 to 20 years there will be a lot of new people,” Keyser said.

Many of them will be young families.

“Nan Kaye-Skinner is a good match for Trinity,” Keyser said of his replacement.

Her husband Lew, also a United Methodist minister, is a member of Trinity’s Chancel Choir. He teaches English and writing at Bryan College of Health Sciences.

Kaye-Skinner is graduate of Lincoln Northeast High School, as well as Simpson College (Indianola, Iowa) and Claremont School of Theology (Claremont, Calif.) where she earned her master’s of divinity degree.

She has ministered to a number of United Methodist congregations including Wood River, Beatrice, Ralston and Lincoln’s Southminster churches.

Her professional career includes serving 12 years as volunteer mission coordinator for the Nebraska Conference and serving on the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

“I appreciate the spiritual energy when Trinity gathers,” Kaye-Skinner wrote in the congregation’s newsletter. “Your dedication to serving those in need, and the commission God has given you to be a vital faith community for your growing neighborhood and many families who are making southeast Lincoln their home.”

After retiring, the Keysers said they have no plans to leave Lincoln permanently. They intend to travel. Their immediate itinerary includes Ireland, Europe, Rome and Spain.

But home always will be Lincoln.

“We love our home and our neighborhood,” Keyser said. “Lincoln is a wonderful place to live.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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