Caring for bodies and souls

Published 9:50 am Monday, June 8, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — At first glance there may not seem much of a symbiotic relationship between the ministry and the health care field. After all one deals exclusively with the spirit; the other with making sure the body keeps going.

But for the pastor of two small Methodist congregations right outside the village of Chesapeake daily life is a juggling act between those two worlds as one job provides vital sustenance for the other. Bill Flannery earns his daily bread working as a speech and language pathologist at Kingsbrook Lifecare Center in Ashland, Ky. However, he finds his spiritual food caring for the members of his churches — Defender and Bethel United Methodist.

What he learns in his relationship with God and his congregations he takes to work at the nursing home every day.

“My affinity and love is for pastoring. My calling is to be a local pastor. I have such a love of people in general and love the personal relationship,” Flannery said. “And the compassion I have I feel is God-given. That greatly enhances my ability to be successful as a therapist. You care for more than getting them well. You treat the whole person. A pastor is a therapist in a spiritual sense. You help them, guide them, pray for them always and love them when they feel they are not loved.”

A native of Man, W.Va., Flannery first went into the business his father had started in 1951 operating Mike and Bill’s Gulf Station.

While working at the station, he decided to go back to college at the age of 29, first at a local community college, taking education courses.

The next year he took his first steps towards his now 30-year vocation as a supply pastor. Although brought up in a Christian home, church wasn’t a constant in Flannery’s life then. However, after about a decade of marriage, he starting going to a local Methodist church.

“My wife and I fell in love with the church and we were saved in 1979,” he recalled. “I felt a passion for the church. It has been amazing to me we were saved in the Methodist Church and I have continued to pastor.”

Four years later he transferred full-time to Marshall University to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech pathology.

Throughout his secular career, Flannery has racked up a diverse resume — faculty at Marshall, a school therapist, a clinical therapist at St. Mary’s Medical Center and now at Kingsbrook.

In 2005, Flannery took over for the second time the pastorate at Defender along with Bethel on Rt. 243. Those assignments came after leading the Ironton parish of Immanuel, Pine Street and Sedgwick and Finley Chapel in Rome Township.

“The fellowship that I have with the people of the church is to feel in some way I am fulfilling a calling felt in my heart for many, many years,” he said. “When all my vocations come to a halt, I want to have my ability to work with the church as a pastor for many more years.”