BANGOR, Maine — Members of the First Church of the Nazarene this weekend will join 18,000 congregations around the world to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the denomination.
Leading the 62-year-old Bangor congregation in worship at 10 a.m. Sunday at 1465 Union St. will be their new pastor, the Rev. Richard “Dick” Devendorf, 56.
“Our congregation is excited to celebrate this anniversary with all of our Nazarene family around the world,” he said last month. “At the same time, we want to emphasize that the family never stops growing and there is plenty of room for all. In our society today, it seems that relationships often don’t last very long. We invite our community to join us on [Sunday] to see relationships that have remained strong for 100 years.”
Susan Starbird of Hampden and a member of the church board said last month that Devendorf was one of three candidates for the job. The board voted unanimously on July 6 to recommend him for the job. At the end of a weekend visit later that month, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to extend the call to him. He arrived in Bangor last month from Wyoming, Pa.
“We needed someone who could relate to people in every age group and provide leadership,” Starbird said. “Many feel about him the way I do — the minute we heard him speak, we knew he was the pastor we wanted and needed.”
Devendorf’s first task will be to strengthen the Bangor church, which has been without a pastor for nearly 20 months. Average attendance at Sunday worship services has declined over the past 15 years from 250 to 76, the number that turned out for his first sermon.
“The congregation needed someone to determine their new mission afresh, with the ability to call people to it, who has the skills to oversee the day-to-day operations,” he said last month.
Devendorf said that he is the preacher, teacher and shepherd the church needs at this point in its history.
That is a role he grew into, the minister admitted. Growing up in the Oneida, N.Y., area, Devendorf’s entire church experience before he was 10 consisted of two days of vacation Bible school.
“We made these macaroni name tags,” he said. “On the second day, the D fell off mine, so my name was ‘ick.’ I couldn’t go back.”
His parents divorced when he was 11. Devendorf went to live with his paternal grandmother and began attending a youth fellowship group at the local United Methodist Church because it got free tickets to basketball games at nearby Syracuse University. It was while he was in a membership class that he felt a call to ministry.
“Something completely unexpected and life-changing happened to me,” he said. “I had what can only be described as a mystical experience, where I heard the voice of God say, ‘I want you to preach.’”
At the age of 13, Devendorf spent eight weeks one summer as the featured preacher at Green Lake State Park in New York, which was when he decided to become a pastor.
It was through the woman who would become his bride and mother to their three children that Devendorf found the Church of the Nazarene. He was ordained in the denomination in 1979.
Since then, he has planted eight churches. The longest he and his family stayed in any one place was seven years. Devendorf has vowed that Bangor, his 13th stop, will be his last.
“I’ve told my wife, my family and the church board that I’m here until the rupture or the Rapture,” he said.
His wife, Bonnie Devendorf, works with preschool children who have special needs. The Devendorfs have three grown children and six grandchildren who live out of state.
On Sunday, all 1.6 million members of the denomination will hear the same sermon, celebrate with the same music and participate in the same reading in 23 time zones on the same day.
For more information about Sunday’s service in Bangor, call 942-7216. For more information about the Church of the Nazarene, visit www.nazarene.org.