Magnolia lay leaders focus on God’s direction

Published 7:04 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023

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Magnolia United Methodist Church is relying on its lay leaders as the church faces many changes in the year ahead.

Magnolia’s administrative council chairperson Judi Delpiero and lay leader Anne Stallings discussed their roles at the Suffolk church, along with the changes ahead as they search for a pastor and leave from the United Methodist denomination.

Both Delpiero and Stallings said they are wearing many hats at the church. 

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Among her roles, Delpiero serves as administrative council chairperson, evangelism team chairperson and a member of both the mission committee and finance committee. 

She also leads a Thursday morning/early afternoon Bible study called the Lost and Found Bible Study.

“We were all lost and now we’ve been found,” Delpiero said. “It’s five and a half years old, it’s never stopped. All through COVID we continued to meet. Everyone is welcome, it’s open to anyone who wants to come. Right now we’re doing a Rick Renner Bible Study, his book ‘Dressed to Kill.’It’s about putting on the full armor of God.”

Stallings serves as the church’s lay leader as well as leader of the children and youth education committee. She  also serves on the missions committee and a children’s Sunday school teacher. 

Stallings discussed her lay leader responsibilities.

“I am a liaison between the pastor and the laity of the church in trying to ensure that we are going in the direction that God is — God is ahead of us and leading us in that direction and that we’re working together,” Stallings said. “It’s not just the pastor trying to do all the work, not just the laity trying doing all the work, but that we’re doing that together.”

In work with the children and youth education committee, Stallings said they started a family movie night and are having ones on the first Fridays of July and August.

“It’s open to the public as well as to our members and friends and family,” Stallings said. “We offer popcorn and soda — no charge. And we’re showing Christian movies. The one that we showed in June was ‘The Jesus Revolution,’ and we’ll be deciding soon what we’ll be showing in July and August.”

She said the previous events were a success and well attended.

“Everybody had just a great time,” Stallings added.

Delpiero said it’s her desire to see Magnolia grow and become what God wants it to be.

“Magnolia as a congregation, we love each other. We are family. When I think of family, not only do I think of my sisters and their children. I also think of my Magnolia family. That’s my family,” Delpiero said. “I’ve been here for 40 years and I can’t think of any other place that I’d rather be. I love every person here. We are a congregation that loves each other, and if you’re here on a Sunday morning, you hear it, and you see it.”

At Magnolia, Delpiero said first and foremost the church is about values.

“Magnolia exists to praise and worship God, to reach out into the community, to be his hands and feet, to show love, care, compassion, but to tell the truth of the word. We stand firmly on the scriptures, on the truth of what God has taught. We will not compromise that,” Delpiero said. “Everyone is welcome, we love everyone. We may not like sin, but we love everybody. No one’s perfect, and that’s what the church is supposed to be, a hospital for sin-sick people to come and get well. Find Jesus — He’s our healing balm, He’s the great physician — He will heal us and that’s what we’re here for.”

While they are a small family, Delpiero said they want to grow, not in “numbers” but in “heart and spirit.” She also stressed the importance of love and forgiveness.

“God forgave us so much that He sent his son to die for us so that we can be forgiven. How can we do any less than to forgive others and truly love,” she said.


Leaving the UMC denomination

Currently, the church is still named “Magnolia United Methodist Church,” but they will soon change. Stallings detailed the process of disaffiliation from the United Methodist denomination.

“We feel like the United Methodist denomination has left us because they are not adhering to and not holding people accountable to adhere to our book of discipline, and even what our book of discipline says about the Bible,” Stallings said. “We have felt led and it has been a struggle to get through. Hopefully no later than the beginning of August, we will be disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church and we will be just Magnolia Methodist Church. And then we’ll just have to decide where we’ll go from there,” Stallings said.  “With God leading us.”


Looking in a pastor

Stallings said they are without a pastor currently, but have strong lay people who are willing to speak and present the message and take on those pastoral responsibilities.

“We’re looking forward to having a pastor who can be a strong leader filled with the Holy Spirit,” Stallings said.

Delpeiro added that she wants someone that’s a team player, not a boss. 

“I want someone who’s going to come in and guide us. I want a pastor that’s got a vision, that has some goals that helps us to create goals, and a purpose,” Delpeiro said. “You know, what is our purpose? Different groups have different purposes, I want to know what is our God-given purpose at Magnolia. I want him to believe in all nine gifts. I want him to preach the word and only the word. I don’t want to say I’m not interested in his opinion, but I don’t want that preached on the pulpit. I want God’s word preached from the pulpit.”

Delpiero also expressed having an outgoing pastor who is kind and compassionate and capable of loving others in spite of ourselves.

Finally, both expressed what they both wanted readers to know.

“We’re a loving church. We welcome everyone. We anticipate growing,” Delpiero said. 

Stallings followed by saying that while they are an older congregation, they have younger families that are starting to attend in small numbers.

“And we would love young families and individual, single people,” Stallings said. “We love children and we’d be more than happy to provide activities for them.”


For more information on Magnolia United Methodist Church, go to or visit its page on Facebook.