When the Rev. Pat McKinstry was named pastor of Upton United Methodist Church 17 years ago, she was supposed to prepare the West Toledo church for its last rites.
It was when the church was dying. They just wanted me to follow their programs. But why should I follow a program that was not giving life? Mrs. McKinstry said in an interview this week.
The pastor decided to hold two Sunday services, one for the longtime members biding their time until the church closed, and a second with lively music and a solid Gospel message.
That new service started with a dozen people and steadily began to grow.
Attendance has climbed to the point where Upton is drawing more than 500 people on Sunday mornings, packing its wooden pews to the max.
Mrs. McKinstry said the congregation includes people from throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, and even a couple from Cleveland who drive to the Sunday service every week.
We don t have just a neighborhood church, she said.
With no room to expand the church building on Upton, and no place to add more parking spaces, the congregation is moving to a new facility that is being built on an 8.5-acre site at 4747 Hill Ave.
Mrs. McKinstry said the Rev. Margaret Mallory, former Toledo district superintendent, twice offered her the land on Hill Avenue, but she turned her down.
But then I started to get a vision, she said.
The new church will be built in several phases, starting with a $2 million sanctuary that will be added onto an existing, smaller church. The old sanctuary will be transformed into a fellowship hall.
Mrs. McKinstry said the new church, called Kingdom Worship United Methodist Church, is being built by Midwest Church Construction and is scheduled to be finished by Dec. 21.
The Rev. Fred Heath, former Toledo district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, said Mrs. McKinstry is the first woman pastor in the denomination in Ohio to build an edifice of more than 20,000 square feet.
It was Mr. Heath, who recently retired from ministry and is living in Cincinnati, who brought Mrs. McKinstry into the United Methodist denomination 18 years ago.
I just thank God, because in my heart and spirit I know we would be boarding up the church if it weren t for Dr. McKinstry, Mr. Heath said.
A native of Lexington, Ky., Mrs. McKinstry grew up in Fremont and had been an evangelist in the Church of God in Christ, a Memphis-based Pentecostal denomination with 6.5 million members.
She said she comes from a long line of ministers in her family, and her Fremont pastor, the late Bishop William James, founder of Toledo s St. James Church of God in Christ, felt that she, also, was destined to be a minister.
I was 11 years old when he laid hands on me and anointed me for ministry, Mrs. McKinstry said.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Heath visited St. James Church and heard Mrs. McKinstry preach.
I was just spellbound at her gifts and graces, Mr. Heath said.
He called my pastor and asked if he could borrow me for a few months, Mrs. McKinstry said with a chuckle.
She served for six months at Maplewood United Methodist Church on Airport Highway, ministering mostly to college students.
That loan for a few months to help a Methodist congregation has turned into 18 years and counting for Mrs. McKinstry.
I was never intending to stay. I think I just got caught up in ministry, she said.
She was allowed to transfer into the United Methodist Church without the traditional credentials, something that is not unusual, Mr. Heath said.
Mrs. McKinstry downplays the differences between the predominantly black, Pentecostal Church of God in Christ and the mostly white, mainline Protestant United Methodist Church.
They both are based on the Wesleyan tradition, she said, referring to the teachings of John Wesley, the 18th-century theologian and founder of Methodism.
Asked to describe the style of services at Upton, she said: I wouldn t say Pentecostal. We have a lively worship service that involves everybody.
The church s music minister is Chris Byrd, a nationally known recording artist and songwriter who has been at Upton for 10 years, Mrs. McKinstry said.
A year ago, the church made headlines during Holy Week when a neighbor complained that the church was too loud. Police came in and interrupted the service.
Mrs. McKinstry laughed in recalling how one pundit called it a miracle that a United Methodist church got in trouble for making too much noise. She pointed out that it was the only such problem in her 17 years at Upton. The incident was blown out of proportion, she said. We are very considerate of our neighbors.
Mrs. McKinstry said her role in the Methodist church has not always been an easy one.
Being a black female in a predominantly white denomination, there are barriers, she said. Some churches just wouldn t want a female, or just wouldn t want a black. But if you know you ve been called [by God], you know you will have troubles.
She said she never got caught up with you do me a favor because I m black.
Mrs. McKinstry, 58, who drives around town in her dream car a black-and-silver H3 Hummer was named one of America s 10 Most Dynamic Female Pastors by Gospel Today magazine in 2003.
She has received two honorary doctoral degrees, one in divinity and one in theology, from Pentecostal Bible College in Tuskeegee, Ala.
She and her husband, Luther McKinstry, have been married 39 years.
I have a wonderful husband. He s always supportive. When we re at church, I m my husband s pastor. When we re at home, I m his wife, she said. We don t get those roles mixed up.
In her spare time, Mrs. McKinstry said she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and swimming. But her hobbies are far behind her church when it comes to priorities.
I love ministry and I love people, she said.
Contact David Yonke at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6154.