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John Powell: New Northern Regional Pastor

April 17, 2013

On March 18, IN-MI Conference welcomed John Powell as the new regional pastor for the northern region. John was strongly affirmed by the northern region delegates to fill this role, formerly held by co-regional pastors Bill Scott and Jim Gerber. We wish to thank Bill and Jim for their service.

John and his wife, Shirley, live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. John is an ordained minister with Mennonite Church USA. He continues ongoing work with area conferences and congregations to equip churches with holistic ministries for community renewal. He helps identify and prepare leaders to connect to mission in local and international settings. He brings a wealth of knowledge and diverse experiences to his new position with the conference.

Could you share about your sense of call to this position and this type of work? I have been assisting congregations as they explore their missional identity and ways to engage their communities for the past 20 years. This position allows me to continue assisting congregations to develop the necessary skills and strategies for holistic ministry, both internally and externally.

What energizes you about pastoring? Observing and helping people develop a deeper faith and understanding of their relationship to Christ and the world is exciting to me. Members are at different stages in their spiritual development. Supporting people as they develop their ministry gifts gives me energy.

What challenges do you anticipate facing in this new role? I think the major challenge that I will experience is helping congregational leaders and members focus on a common mission and call. Congregations are looking to grow numerically and spiritually; however, they don’t always have a common vision to move their ministry forward. My task is to help them explore their ministry calling.

What do you see as strengths of IN-MI Conference? I think IN-MI Conference’s strength is its congregations. I see members wanting to be “light” in their communities. When I’ve visited congregations in the conference, I have experienced a sense of community. There is a desire for those without faith to experience community and a reconciled life.

Could you share about a Scripture passage that is meaningful for you? My ministry has always been keyed on Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This has been the mantra for my ministry as I have worked among congregations. As disciples of Jesus, I believe that this is the calling for a Christ centered people and congregation.

Who has encouraged you to use the gifts they’ve seen in you? There have been numerous people who have been my mentor and encourager. Most notably, Dr. M.L. King, who encouraged me, as a young civil rights worker, to use my ministry gifts to work at reconciliation. After a hiatus from the Mennonite Church, I was “evangelized” back by many in the church who felt that I had insights into the needs in the church. I have been grateful for that encouragement.

Could you tell us a little about your background? I was born and reared in Alabama in the Baptist tradition. I was encouraged to seek membership in a historic peace church after becoming a pacifist during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. After I got married, my wife and I moved to Detroit where I was licensed to the ministry at Detroit Mennonite Church (now Peace Mennonite). I have pastored in Detroit, Wichita, Kan. and Buffalo, N.Y. giving me a variety of experiences. I served as an Overseer of congregations in New York Mennonite Conference during my tenure in Buffalo.

Could you tell us about your family? I am married to Shirley J. Powell (nee) Hochstedler. We have been married for 47 years. Prior to retiring in 1993, Shirley was Executive Director for Hunger Action Coalition of Michigan. We have three adult children and three grandchildren.

What are some of your hobbies and interests? I am a gospel singer, an aspiring writer, and a computer geek.

Favorite book: The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being: a US Senator.

Favorite musical genres: gospel, jazz, and classical.

We welcome John to his position as Regional Pastor for the Northern Region!