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A life of service: Pastor celebrates 20 years in Shepherdstown

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Oct 30, 2020

Rev. G. Dee-Ann Dixon celebrated her 20th year at New Street United Methodist Church on the church's Pastor Appreciation Day. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — In May 2000, New Street United Methodist Church welcomed a new pastor to lead it, Rev. G. Dee-Ann Dixon. Little did the church know how much they would come to appreciate their new leader.

But 20 years later, Dixon is still dedicated to her church, with hopes of being able to remain with it for many years to come.

“It’s a great thing, but I didn’t expect [to be able to stay here so long],” Dixon said, referring to the United Methodist Church’s itinerant system of conducting a yearly evaluation on whether a pastor should remain with his current church or be moved to a different one.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be here with these folks. We’ve been a good match, I think,” Dixon said. “I’ll stay as long as the bishop allows me to, although I probably won’t stay another 20 years, because I’ll be too old by that time!”

Previously to coming to New Street UMC, Dixon graduated from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., before earning her master’s of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She then began her career, serving in churches in the Washington, D.C. area.

She first moved to the Eastern Panhandle, after being moved to the position of associate pastor at Asbury Kabletown Cooperative Parish in Charles Town. During the seven years of her time serving there, she and her husband, David Gross, built themselves an accessible home in Shepherdstown, making it desirable for her next itineracy to be in the area.

“I wanted to be at a smaller church and New Street’s smaller,” Dixon said, referring to her itineracy change in 2000. “I wanted to be in the area, because my husband and I just built a house — we had built an accessible house, since he’s in a wheelchair. So it all worked out!”

This Oct. 11, on the day that is nationally celebrated as Pastor Appreciation Day, Dixon’s congregation presented a commemorative plaque to Dixon, along with a variety of other gifts. Looking back over the last two decades, Dixon recognized how much has changed in her life, since she first came to the church.

“When I think about it, it’s surprising how things have gone by so fast!” Dixon said. “My kids have pretty much grown up at the church.”

When she first came to the church, Dixon had a four-year-old and a three-month-old to care for. Today, her three children are almost all grown up, with her youngest having two year left before graduating from Jefferson High School.

As she thought back to her time at the church, Dixon recognized that the reason she has remained at New Street UMC for so many years, likely has to do with how perfectly the interests of herself and her congregation align.

“The people here are just really good, kind people. They allow me to be creative. I think we do some really awesome things in worship and ministry together — they’re very creative about that kind of stuff,” Dixon said, mentioning she has found these same characteristics to be true of Shepherdstown’s residents in general. “I think Shepherdstown’s a pretty special place. Shepherdstown’s kind of artsy, you know!”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, New Street UMC held virtual services online, which were recorded by one of Dixon’s children. Today, its in-person services are back in session, under careful safety guidelines provided by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines include: live piano and organ music, with no singing; no hand shaking, hugging, elbow bumping or fist bumping; and an elimination of the church’s Fellowship Hour.