Marion Hart grew up in a family that wasn’t very active in their church.
Little did she know then, as a child being raised in small communities just south of the Quad-Cities that had only two churches – Baptist and Methodist – she would someday be a church pastor.
Hart, who has been pastor of First Church United in West Liberty since 2009, retired as of Oct. 31 and says although her family wasn’t active in the local church, she was always sent to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and even attended a religious youth group, MYF.
After marrying her husband, Arnie Hart, she found herself attending the First Presbyterian Church in Wilton after being invited by a neighbor.
“After years of participating in numerous Bible studies, women's ministry and starting up a midweek children's ministry ¬– oftentimes writing the curriculum – my pastor approached me with a handful of papers,” said Hart of minister Bruce Giese. “He said, ‘You need to do this.’”
The paperwork was an application to begin taking classes to become a Commission Lay Pastor. Hart said she had “several excuses” not to pursue a career in the ministry including the fact she had a job as director of the Durant Children’s Group along with raising a family, struggling with finances and “a great fear of public speaking.”
“Eventually, God removed all those barriers,” she said.
Hart completed the requirements in 2004 and was then hired by First Church United in 2005 as their Christian Education Director. When Pastor Al Zimmerman left the parish in 2008, Hart added “pulpit supply” to her other duties, filling in for pastors taking a vacation or churches temporarily without a minister.
It was then she realized she had a calling to become a pastor and completed additional classes to satisfy requirements to serve under the care of the Disciples of Christ denomination as a licensed minister before getting installed as a full-time pastor of the parish in May of 2009.
Hart has been highly active in the community, working sometimes through her membership in the Rotary Club of West Liberty to get things done like the Operation Warm coat drive she started several years ago ¬– last year supplying about 200 new winter coats to over 100 local families. Hart has also been instrumental as well in leading the West Liberty Food Pantry that is housed at First Church United, helping feed and get household supplies to local families in need.
“My biggest goal was to feed people in body, mind, and spirit, being as creative, inclusive, and fun as possible in worship and hands-on ministry,” Hart said. “I'm proud that First Church United houses the food pantry and offers their building use to many groups” (from monthly bloodmobiles and health clinics to local organizations), including just adding a new office in the facility for the Muscatine County Salvation Army to provide services two days a week.
“My biggest hope is that the folks of the West Liberty community stay as generous and helpful to each other as I have witnessed them being for 15 years,” she said. “I retired my pastor position, but do not feel God is finished using me yet.”
Hart says she hopes to write a couple of books and take on community volunteer work with hopes of someday having occasional pulpit supply responsibilities.