Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Pastor continues calling for church service
The Rev. Alice Cook brings life experiences to Paoli Methodist
The Rev. Alice Cook brings life experiences to Paoli Methodist.
Tredyffrin » Pastor Alice Cook joined Paoli United Methodist Church in July with more than 30 years of ministry at seven churches in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Tennessee. Cook said she is “happy” to be appointed to the “great church” at 81 Devon Road because “Paoli United Methodist Church strongly believes in three things: loving God, following Christ and serving others.” “I had a calling to be in church work and that was affirmed within other people in the church,” Cook said.
“What I really love about ministry is getting to know people, sharing in their lives and helping them to discover their gifts and talents to be used for God’s work.” — Pastor Alice Cook, Paoli United Methodist Church
Her late father, John A. Massimilla, was an ordained minister. She said as she grew up she saw “all the wonderful things that churches do.” She began fulltime ministry in 1984.
She was 25 years old when she served at her first church. She said people looked to her as their senior pastor and she had this “awesome responsibility.” She prayed to God for support to help people who were “looking for spiritual support” and financial help.
“I knew growing up that there was such joy in working within church, but also knew through my experiences in seminary … that (it) solidified my calling,” Cook said.
Her experiences during seminary had an “impact on my life,” she said. Those experiences included when she worked in a ministry where its congregants had close ties to the nearby prison as a former inmate or because family members had a relative in prison and when she worked with people who are schizophrenic.
She had a sister who had Down syndrome. She a lso worked as an aide in a sheltered workshop with adults who have Down syndrome and she worked in mental health facility. She said that work was “significant in my development of wanting to work with people in need, but also in the context of the church.”
She started a ministry when she was at a church in Nashville, Tennessee, bringing people with Down syndrome to Sunday school and fellowship activities.
“It was neat to see how the church could be a caring community for people beyond itself,” Cook said.
She said people told her that they began their work in ministry because of something she said to them. She encouraged them, but said she did not realize the affect she had on them.
“What I really love about ministry is getting to know people, sharing in their lives and helping them to discover their gifts and talents to be used for God’s work,” Cook said.
In the Methodist tradition
there are four components that determine faithful discipleship, including scriptures, tradition, reason and experience.
“All four of those components came together in my understanding of my calling,” Cook said.
In reading scriptures and stories about others who were “called despite their inadequacies,” she said, “I knew God could use me if I would offer my vocation for God’s service.”
Through her experiences, she said she had a “strong feeling to work within the church to reach out to others in the church.” She worked to equip church members as ordained ministers.
“God works through the church,” Cook said. “With the tradition of the United Methodist Church, this was the vehicle and this was the domination that I knew that I could work within in the ministry.”
She said she enjoyed working with people who were “on the edge.”
While in Tennessee she served at a church nearby to a prison. She noted that because many church members were ex-cons, “we had a strong ministry to people who were on the edge.”
She said she noticed a “positive affect for families who came to the church.” She noted that church members helped the ex-cons to find jobs, and “helped them as they put their lives back together.” She said they created ministries, for example, that had programs for youths who had incarcerated parents.
Cook was ordained in the Eastern PA conference in 1986. She has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern University in psychology and a master’s in divinity from Vanderbilt University.