Self proclaimed “life-long Methodist” and newly appointed double duty Kiowa County pastor Mark Fillmore says he’s really enjoyed his first couple of months at his new churches.
“We absolutely love Mullinville, Haviland and Kiowa County,” said Fillmore. “The pace of life is significantly slower and we’ve enjoyed that. I have really loved the people here. Everybody has been very warm and friendly. It reminds me of my hometown many years ago.”
Fillmore, his wife and teenage daughter have moved to Haviland to pastor at the United Methodist Churches in Haviland and Mullinville.
Kiowa County is his first appointment and as he has chosen a path of itinerancy. He will serve as pastor while continuing his education at St. Paul Seminary in Kansas City. Itinerancy is typically seen as a life-long path in Methodist ministry where “a clergyperson is willing to go where sent. This system assures every pastor a church and every church a pastor. It also matches the gifts and graces of an individual with the needs of a particular church or area of service" according to the official United Methodist website UMC.org.
Fillmore grew up in Belle Plaine, a 1,600 population city about 20 miles south of Wichita in Sumner County, and comes from a family of grocers. Although this is his first official appointment, he has been involved in ministry for the better part of 20 years.
“I served for many years as a lay-pastor,” said Fillmore, who, like a number of pastors in the Methodist Church, preached without an official church appointment. “The biggest difference between a lay-pastor and a pastor with an appointment, there is a certain amount of authority that you carry by being an appointed pastor. That authority comes from Christ and it recognizes that you are not your own anymore, that you belong to Christ and his people.”
Fillmore said he takes his responsibilities to his church and congregation very seriously.
“The opportunity to do good is so much greater,” he said, “but with that authority comes much greater responsibility. With that authority you can also do much greater harm.”
While visiting Kiowa County in March and escorted by Mullinville congregation members Paul Kendall, Fillmore said the community reminded him of Belle Plaine when he was a kid.
“Everybody waves here. It doesn’t matter if they know you or not. In my hometown they stopped doing that 20 years ago because of the influx of people from Wichita. I had cousins that came to visit from California and we were walking down the street and people would wave. They’d ask if I knew the person and I’d say ‘no.’ That’s just what we’d do.”
Page 2 of 2 - With two churches, made up of different congregations on either side of the county, Fillmore was asked if felt there were a particular challenges in a double appointment.
“Time is a challenge,” he said. “Recognizing that there is ministry in both communities and both towns, that’s also been the challenge. I know pastors that have much bigger distances to travel than that. Three churches is not that uncommon. It’s actually been a real good experience.”