Pulpit, leadership change at Main Street United Methodist Church

By Bruce Yarnall

Members of the Main Street United Methodist Church were greeted by a new minister Feb. 7 when the Rev. Andrew Thompson assumed pastoral duties at the congregation following the retirement of the Rev. Jean Cooper.

Thompson adds Main Street to his current charge consisting of the Belmont and Lloydsville where he has served as a minister since 2017. The 29-year-old Noble County native, the son of Brian and Lisa Thompson, is married to Alisha Darnell-Thompson. He graduated from Shenandoah High School, Muskingum University and attended seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

With Thompson’s arrival, Sunday services at Main Street move to 9:30 a.m. The service at Lloydsville is also at 9:30, where he preaches once a month, while guest speakers fill the pulpit on other Sundays.

Rev. Andrew Thompson

At Belmont, the service begins at 11:15 a.m. Thompson notes that the service is broadcast live on the congregation’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/belmontunitedmethodistchurch/.

The Rev. Jean Rockwell Cooper ended a 13-year licensed local pastor career on Jan. 31, at West Main, her home congregation since 2001. Her last sermon was delivered virtually on Facebook due to severe winter weather.

During these years, Cooper served churches at Jerusalem, the former Beallsville congregation, Somerton, and Pleasant Ridge (Stumptown) where she also ministered 2018-20.

Cooper is a local proponent of food banks. While at Jerusalem in 2016, she launched the Beallsville Mobile Food Market at the old Beallsville High School. The Jerusalem congregation continues the monthly giveaway. “These markets provide free fresh perishables and other food items for all people in need,” Cooper said.

At Barnesville, she took over leadership of the Mobile Market program in July 2019. The Rev. Ted Buehl, of First United Methodist Church, started the program in 2014 with a monthly distribution at Barnesville Depot. “They (Mid-Ohio Food Bank) bring in food and the local site is responsible for getting it unsorted and distributed to participants.”

COVID has forced the market to adopt a drive-through operation, Cooper noted. Participants need a picture ID and proof of address to sign up. During the current economic time, income guidelines are waived.

For the next several months, the Rev. Cooper said she will continue coordination of the project sharing leadership with Rev. Van Fisher of the First United Methodist Church.

The Barnesville native started her ministry as a bi-vocational local pastor. Before accepting the call to minister from the pulpit, the Rev. Cooper’s work focused on mothers and infants in the medical arena.

She received a BSN in Nursing from the University of the District of Columbia working in neonatal intensive and pediatric home care in Washington, D.C., from 1988-96. Returning home, Cooper worked two years at Barnesville Hospital and at Eastern Ohio Regional in Martins Ferry until 2011, when she retired to focus full-time on the ministry. During her Martins Ferry years, she worked as a labor and delivery nurse, mother/baby nurse, and certified lactation consultant.

While she has stepped down from full-time duties, Cooper shared, “I have retired from pastoral ministry but not from serving God and God's people.”

She and her husband, Fred, are settling in at their small farm on Waterworks Road with plans to spend extended visits with their daughter, her husband, and children in Georgia and with other grandchildren in Maine and Florida.

Bruce Yarnall, a local historian, is the former general manager of the Barnesville Enterprise.  A Muskingum College graduate, he is currently an employee of the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) Historic Preservation Office.