The new pastor gets a surprise departure; Fire hits rectory the day after Weedling’s first sermon | Lifestyles
On her first Sunday at Martinsville First United Methodist Church, Reverend Faith Weedling preached on the famous Old Testament story of Moses and the burning bush. Little did she know that her sermon would hit home quickly.
The following day, his home, the church rectory on Kenmar Drive, caught fire during a service installation.
“I smelled something burning and called 911, and soon there was a crazy welcome party,” she said. “The response has been wonderful with EMS, fire and police handling the situation.”
The fire started in the master bedroom and affected the interior wall, ceiling and attic, but the house remains habitable.
“Members of the congregation brought food every day,” she added. “Some went shopping, others washed clothes.”
She and her husband, Steve, had barely caught their breath when the next day the house flooded after torrential rain. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said, “but again the congregation stepped in, vacuuming the flooded areas and using towels to clean the rooms.” Then, two days later, the house flooded again.
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“The church and the community have shown unconditional love,” she said.
The first UMC is the eighth church that Weedlng has led in 26 years. She was from Bethel UMC in Warrenton. Her husband is also a pastor, running Pleasant Grove UMC in Snow Creek full-time and Chatham Heights UMC part-time.
Organized in 1839, First UMC is one of the oldest churches in Martinsville. Today, the church has about 150 active participants. The church is known for its missionary, musical and preschool programs.
A Connecticut native, Weedling met her husband in the Indiana Navy, where both were involved in recruiting. Two years later, her husband, a nuclear chief machinist, was transferred to Norfolk, where he worked on submarines.
The couple and their daughter, Aubrie, attended a small Methodist church in Virginia Beach. Faith Weedling said she was a volunteer and thought God was calling her to be the church secretary, but the pastor said “No, God is calling you for something else.” She heard a female bishop speak at a women’s conference and felt God’s call to preach. She graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk with degrees in religion and social services.
While in college, she became a program firefighter at a Methodist church in Norfolk and later a chaplain trainee at a children’s hospital.
After graduating, she, Aubrie, and their second child, David, moved back to Indiana to be closer to Steve Weedling’s family while he was at sea. There she worked on her first two years of seminar at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
After two years Steve Weedling was transferred to Hawaii and the family moved in with him. During their eight years in Hawaii, Faith Weedling completed her seminary education, earning a master’s degree in divinity, serving as associate pastor at two churches, resident chaplain at a trauma center, and later chaplain for a retirement community.
In 2004, Faith and the family moved back to Virginia where she pastored a church in Roanoke. Her husband, having retired from the Navy after 28 years, attended Eastern Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He pastored churches for 13 years.
Faith Weedling describes herself as outgoing, empathetic and focused on achieving goals. She said her goals at First UMC are to be a hands-on pastor, get involved in the community, and prepare meaningful sermons and Spirit-filled services.
“Being a pastor is a 24-hour job, so it’s important for me to take the Sabbath time to rest and connect more fully with God and my family and friends,” she said. Now that their children are adults, the couple spoil three dogs and enjoy watching television in the evenings. She admits to being a fan of NCIS, the longtime program on the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. They also enjoy camping and hiking. Her hobbies include scrapbooking and card making.
When asked if her mother called her Faith because she had a feeling she would take up a religious vocation, Weedling replied, “No. I grew up in the church, but was such a misbehaved teenager that Mom just hoped I wouldn’t go to jail. My calling was entirely in the hands of God.
“Faith’s sermons come from the heart,” said Dr. Mark Crabtree, chair of the parish relations committee, “and they are popular with the congregation. Her messages connect with every listener in a way that makes a spiritual difference in their lives.
“We are delighted that she is our pastor and hope that the parsonage will be safe from future damage.”