As a high school student, Kenn Curren, who today serves as pastor of the United Methodist Churches of Loudonville and Lakeville, became fascinated with historic boats, particularly schooners.
“I had the opportunity, when I was 15 years old, to go on a week-long excursion aboard a schooner on the coast of Maine,” Curren said. “I became fascinated with historic boats, the way they sailed, the way they were built and the way they were put together. I made subsequent trips to Maine, sailing aboard the Stephen Tabor, built in 1871 and claimed to be the oldest operating schooner in the United States.”
Intrigued with wooden boats, he returned to Maine again after graduating, in 1985, from Triway High School, and attended The Landing School of Boat Building and Design. His first boat building job was in Maine, then he went to work in a small boat shop in Sunbury, Ohio, sometimes pounding nails and shaping woodwork, and other times redrawing blueprints. He also worked in the construction business, and later used some of the same skills he used in boat-building to build cabinetry and furniture.
Back in Ohio as a furniture and cabinet maker, a personal tragedy led to a career change.
“I went through a divorce, in the early 1990s, and found myself raising my two children, a daughter, 8, and son, 2,” he said. “I was devastated. To provide comfort, my mother invited me to a service at the Wooster United Methodist Church, where I met Rev. Diane Johnson, the completely blind minister there, who made me feel very welcome.
“Rev. Johnson connected me with a representative of the Stephen Ministry, a non-denominational organization whose mission was to work with troubled persons experiencing difficult times,” Curren continued. “Later, Rev. Johnson and her husband sponsored me on an Emmaus Walk, and at that point I felt the call to become a minister, though I wasn’t sure to what extent.
“Pastor Johnson also got me involved in the Wooster Church, first as a junior high and later as a high school Sunday school teacher, member of the church council and coordinator of the church’s involvement in the Stephen Ministry,” Curren said. “She even appointed me to a committee to help run our singles ministry. I went to my first committee meeting and was confronted by three women on the same committee. A year later I proposed to one of them, Betty, and we were married in 2001.”
Encouraged to become a pastor
During this time Johnson and another pastor, the Rev. David Wilcox, became convinced that Curren possessed the traits to become a minister, and encouraged him to consider it.
“David contacted our district superintendent, who, two weeks later, advised him that he had a position for a new pastor at two smaller churches in Holmes County, Holmesville and Mount Hope,” Curren said. “I was immediately enrolled in licensing school, considered ‘boot camp for pastors,’ and in July of 2008 I started preaching at Holmesville, average attendance 30 people a Sunday, and Mount Hope, 14.”
He held that post for six years, and then moved to the Apple Creek UMC for another six, coming to Loudonville and Lakeville two years ago. Each congregation was a little bit larger than the previous one.
“A neat thing is that I had a family connection with all of those communities,” he said. “Dad was from Holmesville, Mom from Apple Creek and my great-grandparents were from Loudonville.”
In addition to preaching, doing pastoral care, counseling and leading church functions, Curren has had to meet educational requirements to maintain his status as a pastor.
“In the Methodist system we have to work our way through the denomination course of study, a 20- class program,” he said. “I took the first 19 classes through the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, and the 20th at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Delaware. They give us 12 years to complete this course, and I completed it in seven. Then I completed, through online courses with the Ohio Christian University in Circleville, a bachelor’s degree in human services and counseling this spring. At some point, I may pursue a Masters of Divinity degree, but I have no timetable on that.”
Curren added: “I love my new community of Loudonville. My passion in the ministry is community outreach, and I am very impressed with this church’s involvement in the community, and the involvement in community matters by many in our membership. I love to get my hands involved in community projects, such as the community meals we serve the first and third Mondays of each month.”
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: THIS WEEK'S PERSONALITY: Pastor Kenn Curren has intriguing story