Three pastors begin service in June as district superintendents. On this page, each has shared a faith witness.
Dan Peil will lead Tulsa District. He has been senior pastor at Elk City UMC since 2005. He was ordained in 1977.
Donna Dodson will be superintendent of Enid District. She became pastor at St. Stephen’s UMC, Broken Arrow, in 2008. She was ordained as a deacon in 1997 and as an elder in 2006.
Emery Mason will serve Muskogee District. He began leading Bartlesville-East Cross Church in 2005. He was ordained in 1985.
‘I had plans to work in the space program’
By Dan Peil
I feel that I was born into the church. My parents and grandparents were active laity, leading, teaching, and singing. (And though I love music, I didn’t inherit the singing part.) Many of my earliest memories are of being in church. As a youth, church was a big part of my social life. Most of all, it was a "thin place," where earth and heaven came close, and where I encountered the living presence of Christ.
So it was not unexpected when laypeople in my home church encouraged me as a teen to consider formal ministry as a career. But I had my excuses. I was shy, introverted. I had plans to use my interests in science to work in the space program. And I hesitated because even as I had experienced the presence of Christ in church, I also had experienced conflict there that hampered the church’s forward movement.
So I went to college to prepare for a great adventure exploring God’s universe. (I have space photos on my office wall—now accompanied by Bible verses.)
Yet the church had given me a solid foundation of faith, and in college I heard God call through the needs of people.
The late 1960s and early 1970s were times of great change, and God called me to a different kind of adventure. I always have been more excited about future than past. God put on my heart that the church needs to lead the way into a more Christ-like future.
I changed my major to religion, then headed to seminary, still searching for exactly how I would participate in the work of Christ. I considered options other than the pastorate, including teaching and counseling ministries.
Thanks be to God for those who answer the call to those ministries.
But God kept calling me back to pastoral ministry, and I came to hear that call clearly.
God has given me a heart for the local church. Yes, there have been challenges, but God’s grace is sufficient. And through serving as a pastor, I again have been nurtured in the local church. The love, wisdom, patience, and faithfulness of many laity have brought me to this point in my ministry.
Now I humbly enter a new role as, with great anticipation, I go to serve with the people of the Tulsa District. This came as a complete surprise; I wonder what awaits me and how effective I will be.
But I know I have been called by God to help local churches make disciples. Whatever those churches may look like in the future, I believe it is through local faith communities that the disciples of Jesus Christ will encounter and transform the world.
‘God provides a way when God has something for you to do’
By Donna Dodson
"I do not believe that women should be pastors. Be a teacher or a nurse. If you want to do something in the church, be a Sunday School teacher and sing in the choir."
These were the words I heard from my pastor when I was 14. And although I listened and changed my mind about life in the church then, the yearning of God calling never went away.
Later, as a young mother, I began to think about God’s call on my life. With two young children and an Air Force husband who was gone more than was home, would it be possible to go to school? Was there a position in a church for me? I prayed, "God, if you want me to be in ministry within the life of the church, open doors and show me the way."
I discovered God always provides a way when God has something for you to do. The doors opened. When the requirements were completed for diaconal minister, I was consecrated. 1996, the General Conference changed the orders of ministry in The United Methodist Church. Diaconal ministers could become ordained deacons. "Is it possible God is changing my call?" I wondered.
As I wrestled and prayed about becoming a deacon, I came to understand that God wasn’t calling me to change my call but, rather, to grow my call to ministry. And so, in 1997, I was ordained deacon.
I discovered God calling me again a few years later.
Changing my call to ministry? No. Calling me to grow? Yes! Changing how that ministry might be fulfilled? Yes.
After much prayer and talking with my family, I went back to school and became the pastor of a church. When I was ordained elder, that conversation I had at age 14 came to my mind. I thanked God for God’s persistence in my life. I felt I had come full circle.
Someone later commented, "You took the long way to elder." No; I took God’s way.
Through the different orders of ministry, I have been able to love and serve the church in a variety of ways. Through the different orders of ministry, I have been able to grow not only in my faith, but also in what it means to be ordained to a life of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service.
When I received the call from Bishop Hayes to become the Enid District superintendent, I prayed, "OK, God, here we go again. Something new! Lead me, guide me, humble me that all I do may be in service to you." I know firsthand that God is never finished calling any of us.
‘I discover each day what new thing it means because I said yes to God’
By Emery Mason
As I read the New Testament writings of the Apostle John, I find myself relating to his joy and amazement at how much Jesus loved him. That love so captured him that it was central to his very identity. He thought of himself as "the one whom Jesus loved."
I first became aware of God’s love for me through my parents. I have many memories of sitting with my mother while she read stories to me from the Bible. When I went to the kitchen for a glass of water in the early hours of any morning, I saw my Dad at the table, beginning his day with prayer and reading Scripture. I saw the love relationship that existed between my parents and God.
Many people have helped me experience God. I vividly recall my pastor offering to me baptism and church membership when I was a youth. I began to cry; he looked stunned. What had happened? I had suddenly realized God was using his words to tell me how much God loved me. It wasn’t just my pastor extending an offer. It was God. I said "yes."
I discover each day what new thing it means because I said "yes" to God. It once meant changing the focus of my education toward preparation for ministry. Thirty-four years ago it meant accepting my first appointment as a student local pastor. It meant being ordained. Now it means becoming a district superintendent.
Saying "yes" has constantly meant living a life of amazement and gratitude that God loves me.
Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude to God, not only for loving me but also for allowing me to be a person God uses to love others. As my pastor was for me long ago, I have been given the gift of being someone who can share God’s offer of love and acceptance.
I look forward to serving alongside the clergy and laity of the Muskogee District as we share God’s love with the world. It still is very amazing.