Oak Ridge District:
Flynn leads Kern Memorial in outreach & growth
By Leean Tupper
The Oak Ridger
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - You never really know how busy the Rev. Mark Flynn is going to be - except on Sunday mornings.
Flynn arrives at Kern Memorial United Methodist Church by 5:30 a.m. every Sunday to make sure the facility is ready for the day.
What follows is a whirlwind of activity - the 8:30 a.m. early worship service, 9 a.m. praise and worship service, leading a Sunday school class at 10 a.m., participating in a 15-minute communion and prayerhealing service in the church chapel at 10:45 a.m., and leading the traditional worship service at 11 a.m.
That's just in the morning. On Sunday afternoon, Flynn leads a confirmation class for students who want to join the church. Then, he participates in a "cell group," a small group meeting of church members who hold each other accountable.
After that, Flynn tries to make time for hanging out with the church youth groups, who have their own praise and worship service on Sunday nights.
"What's fun about ministry is it's different every day," Flynn, 41, said recently.
He just finished leading and participating in a 30-week Bible study, and he's currently writing the church-wide devotional for next week.
Flynn says he bases his weekly sermons on the topics in the church devotional, but "what's happening in the church's culture changes how things get presented and written each week."
Flynn begins working on his sermon every Monday morning and continues working on it throughout the week, amid his other duties. It's not just about standing up in front of the congregation on Sunday mornings. Being a minister also requires Flynn to make phone calls, send and reply to emails, and visit with church members and friends who are ill or need help, as well as overseeing the general operations of the church and working with members of the congregation to carry out plans.
Kern Memorial UMC is a church of 689 members, and the church is growing in many ways, he said.
"I'm very, very proud of how the church is doing outreach," Flynn commented. One of Kern's most successful outreach programs is the Angel Food Ministry. The program began in November 2004, when church members ordered 80 boxes of food. Within months, members and others in the community were ordering 670 boxes of food.
"We have a diverse church. Every denomination is represented, and we're able to show what it means to love and care for each other," Flynn said.
People used to look for a Methodist church or another church when they moved to a new area based on how they grew up, Flynn said. That has changed.
"I believe more people are less and less loyal to a denominational title and are looking for churches that meet their needs," Flynn said. "They are trying different styles of worship now. People were just talking about that in 1989."
The future is looking bright for Kern UMC, Flynn said. "We're already pushed space wise," he said, noting the church needs additional parking and plans are in the discussion phase to start an additional worship service, maybe on Saturday evenings.
"We're learning what everybody needs, and we're trying to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks."
Flynn was in high school when he received the call to ministry. Receiving the call, he said, happens on two levels. "It happens internally and through the congregation. It's very much a feeling of 'I fit in here.'"
In high school, Flynn was active in theater, Young Life, and his church. The Knoxville native attended West High School, graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in English literature, and graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1988.
He and his wife, Annette, met while both were students at Duke in Durham, N.C. Annette Flynn, a native of upstate New York, is also an ordained minister.
Flynn's first appointment, which lasted for three years, was at the Hillsville Circuit (Wytheville District). His family moved back to Tennessee in 1992, where he was the minister at Fountain City UMC (Knoxville District) for three years, then at Wheeler UMC (Kingsport District) for another three years.
Kern is Flynn's fourth appointment as a minister. He, his wife, and two daughters, Anna and Mary, have lived in Oak Ridge for the last seven years.
Flynn recently was reappointed to lead Kern Memorial UMC for an eighth year, beginning in July.
"Coming to Oak Ridge was, in a sense, like coming home. It's just down the road from home," Flynn said.
Reprinted with permission, The Oak Ridger
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