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Pingpong-playing pastor is the new minister at New Hope United Methodist church

PROCTORVILLE — Economics major Dwayne Shugert was sitting in a Calculus II class at Marshall University when he heard God asking, “Why do you need this class if you’re going to be a preacher?”

That was the first time Shugert, now 37 and the pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church in Proctorville, felt God pointing him in the direction of a career in ministry.

“I remember looking around the room, hoping someone else heard it too and that He wasn’t talking to me,” Shugert laughed. But Shugert said now he can’t imagine doing anything else.

Shugert has been the pastor of the church for about a month and said the church has been very welcoming to him and his wife Melissa, and their three children, Grace, 10, Joel, 9, and Malachi, 7.

“They’re a wonderful group of folk that have accepted myself and my family and treated us with dignity, and respect and radical hospitality,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”

Shugert said the hardest part about starting somewhere new is just the unknown.

“I was at the previous place for nine years and you knew what to expect,” he said.

Shugert was the pastor of Eastview United Methodist Church in Whitehall, near Columbus. He has also authored the book, “Fierce Love: Finding God in Harry Potter.”

Shugert said uprooting the family is never easy either, especially with a 10 year-old daughter.

“A month ago, I was not her favorite person,” Shugert said. He said they have adjusted now and they are enjoying getting to know the people of the church and becoming part of the vision.

Shugert is from the Portsmouth area and having also gone to Marshall University, he has not had any trouble finding his way around the area.

“It’s like coming home,” Shugert said.

Shugert said the over-arching quest of the church is to figure out how to infect the world around us with the love of God.

New Hope United Methodist Church has two services each Sunday, a traditional service at 9 a.m. and a contemporary service at 11:30 a.m., with Shugert preaching both times.

“I’m glad to be here,” he said. “The church is awesome and there’s a great spirit and a great heart and unity that a lot of churches don’t have.”

A lot of churches also lack a good pingpong challenge. Shugert said he has put the challenge out there that if someone can beat him at pingpong, he will buy the winner lunch.

“I haven’t taken anyone to lunch yet,” he said.