By: Dezaray Barr
Reverend Jacqueline (Jaci) D. McNeil is the pastor of Faith Wesleyan Church in Rockford, Illinois. She was ordained in 2002 through IWU’s online adult program. “Being an older student, with small children, IWU offered me the chance to get ordained via the internet,” McNeil said. “It’s a fantastic way for people like me to further their education.”
“I had worked in youth ministry for 20 years and began to feel that I should pursue ordination, but having been raised in a denomination that is against female ordination, I couldn’t believe
that’s what God wanted for me,” McNeil shared. “I fought it for about two years. Finally one night, I prayed that if God wanted me to become ordained that He would make it crystal clear to me. That week, a
total of 5 men came up to me and said things like, ‘You’d made a great pastor,’ or ‘You should get ordained.’ After the 5th man spoke up, I quit fighting and began my journey.”
McNeil has been at Faith Wesleyan Church for 11 years. “The congregation was told by the District Superintendent that they had two choices: 1. Close the church or 2. Accept a pastor of the District’s choosing. At that point there were only seven people left in the church. Those seven people didn’t want to see the church closed, so they accepted the District’s condition,” McNeil said.
Today, the church has over 50 people. “Our church is a multi-generational church, the oldest member being 88 and the youngest member being 5. We believe all generations should worship together on Sunday morning,” McNeil said. “There’s no such thing as ‘Children’s Church’ here. We are so invested in everyone worshiping together that we even have an 11-year-old boy singing and a six-year-old boy playing the guitar with the band.”
Her advice for IWU students is, “Learn to do something PRACTICAL. Yes, we ministers need to
learn to preach and pray and visit the sick, but sometimes we need to step in and fill a void. Maybe learn to do plumbing or woodworking. When we first came to this church there were zero musicians. Zero. We started doing karaoke, but knew if we were going to grow the church, we were going to have to change that. My husband and I gave our 14-year-old son a guitar for Christmas and told him to learn how to play. I bought myself a bass guitar and learned how to play. Later, I learned how to play the acoustic guitar too. Today, 11 years later, we have a fully stocked band, complete with drummer. No more karaoke for us!”
“Pastor Jaci has remained a dear friend over the years. I first met her over 20 years ago, as she served to mentor and equip young people. I have admired her heart for ministry and her love for knowledge, and I believe she makes an excellent pastor today!” Rick Carder, IWU’s Director of Alumni and Church Engagement, said.
Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU, Dezaray runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.