2006-06-02 / Community

Reverend Powell Takes Mission To Illinois

By Howard Schwach

After more than five years as the pastor of the First Congregational Church on Beach 94 Street, the Reverend Jan Powell will be moving to a church in Oak Park, Illinois next week.

And although she is moving to a much larger congregation, Powell has mixed thoughts about leaving Rockaway.

"This is a tough place to leave," she told a Wave reporter. "After five and a half years, I definitely have sand in my shoes."

Powell, who had involved herself with many community service organizations and causes, said that congregational ministers always have their resumes "out there for all to see."

She said that the Pilgrim Congregational Church called her and asked her to come to the Chicago suburb to speak about a position there.

"They found me and came to me out of left field," she said. "You have to go where God sends you."

Her new church will be very different than her Rockaway pulpit, she said. It is much larger than her Rockaway congregation and the building itself is "Prairie Style," and very different from her Rockaway church. It also, she says, houses a shelter for those who have no home. Like Rockaway, however, she says that it is "inclusive and diverse."

Powell said with a laugh that her new church is called the "donut church" locally. She explained that the church rents out its parking lot each week to the village for a sort of flea market.

Each week, women from the church get up at 4 a.m. to make donuts, she explained. They sell the donuts at the flea market to raise funds for their ministry.

"I am told that people line up around the block for those donuts," she said, adding that the women made more than $80 thousand last year by selling donuts.

Powell, who is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, is happy to be going back to the Midwest and to her "Cubbies." An inveterate baseball fan, Powell rooted for the Cincinnati Reds before coming to New York and then The Mets. Now, it will be the Cubs.

"I guess I'm just a National League person" she said.

In order to get her new position, Powell had to travel to Illinois for both interviews and try-outs.

Finally, the entire church membership, including the teens, had to vote to offer her their pulpit.

She does intend to come back to New York City, however.

"This will probably be my last position before I retire," she said. "When I do, it will be to this city. I consider it my home."

She added that she wants to thank all those in her church and in the community who made her stay here so wonderful.

"I will miss you all, she said. "But I will be back."

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