At age 15, Marvin H. Dennis discovered what he wanted to do with his life. More than a half century later, he looks back with satisfaction on a calling well spent as Pastor Dennis.The 54 intervening years, including the past quarter century in Carson City at Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church, stemmed from that calling in his mid-teens at a church camp.“I love it here,” said the 69-year-old pastor, who grew his Carson City church from a small cadre of followers to more than 200. “I wouldn’t be leaving if it weren’t for my health.”The pastor some years ago was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic as having Parkinson’s disease, which now has progressed to the point he considers it prudent to retire. “I’ll tell you, I never expected Parkinson’s,” he said. Though it hampers some detail-oriented skills, it doesn’t stand in the way of his relationship with the people he serves.“It has been a blessing to have him here these 25 years,” said Joan Hendricks, church secretary a dozen of those years and vice chairman of the current church board.On Saturday, there will be a retirement open house to recognize the pastor’s service. It will be at the Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, 801 S. Carson St., from 2-4 p.m. A ceremony is planned for 3 p.m. Pastor Dennis reflected recently on his years in the ministry. He recalled starting in Carson City with a tiny group in a small chapel, which later expanded considerably to accommodate growth.“When I came here, we had 17 people,” he said. As the congregation swelled, so did the physical plant. “And it’s all paid for. It’s a blessing. That’s the material highlight.”But he said the most important highlights are spiritual and personal rather than material, involving the people he served, getting to know them and watching as they grew in trusting the Lord as their savior.“It’s hard to leave them,” he said.From the day he heard a pastor preach at a church campground in Denton, Md., and felt the call, Dennis didn’t waver in conviction regarding his life’s work.The Wesleyan church calling has provided him with ample purpose, but there was less money initially.A 1966 graduate of United Wesleyan College, he then got a teaching certificate from Glassboro State College so he could augment low ministerial pay.He taught for four years in New Jersey, three more in Kansas before going to Janesville, Wis., to lead a church and start a certified church school there using the Accelerated Christian Education program.When he moved to Nevada, however, he left that education component in the past and concentrated on community service along with building his church and ministering to his flock.For example, he was chaplain to the local sheriff’s department under two sheriffs. He also was a chaplain at the state legislature and, along with others, at Carson-Tahoe Hospital. He served on the board of Sierra Sage Hospice and at one point was president of the Carson City Ministerial Association. Come Sunday at Good Shepherd Wesleyan, Pastor Dennis will deliver his final message before heading to Arizona and retirement near the family of his daughter, Pamela, his son-in-law and his six grandchildren.For the pastor, it almost always comes back to people and spiritual matters. Even when talking of his daughter, who was born in Camden N.J., during his early adulthood, the pastor focuses on relationships.“She was an ecumenical baby,” he said of Pamela, smiling while recalling that as a Protestant she came into the world in a Catholic hospital with a Jewish doctor in attendance at the moment of her birth.
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