The Lake and River Parish of the United Methodist Church received a new pastor, in July 2014. Reverend Nancy Stanley moved to Cape Vincent, from Morris, New York, to assume her new duties. She and her faithful senior dog, Daisy, settled in to the church parsonage. Nancy and Daisy could be seen on village sidewalks, making acquaintances with community residents and visitors alike. Daisy had a lot of experience with friendly greetings, and Nancy, good-naturedly, accepted being greeted second. Alas, Daisy passed away from infirmity in 2015.
People may have heard Nancy on the Village Green, one Labor Day weekend, singing soprano in French and playing her guitar. Speaking French and playing guitar are only two of her varied talents. She’s also a certified EMT.
I visited her office, on a beautiful September afternoon, to ask what enticed her to make Cape Vincent her home, since pastoring three separate churches, in three separate communities, is work in anyone’s book! This is her third pastoral assignment, since graduating from Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey. She said she was drawn to its relaxed atmosphere. She said people were most cooperative and patient and welcoming.
The story of her journey here, began much earlier. Nancy started her working life as a high school French teacher, for three years. That was long enough to realize she was not a morning person! She said she often felt she reached her peak of activity, let’s say, not during first or second period!
Her sense of humor came into play as she decided she wanted to find an employer, who would pay her to read and write English, so she enrolled in the only American Bar Association approved, Paralegal Assistant program, in the U. S. at the time. It was located in Atlanta, Georgia, and so began about 15 years working as a Paralegal. Nancy said to “look at the Atlanta skyline, and note that I worked in almost all its tallest buildings.”
One of her most memorable assignments was working for the Swedish Consulate, in Atlanta, during the 1996 Olympic Games. That was the year of the Atlanta bombing.
Like the rest of us, life happened along her way. Nancy said her career choice “may not have fulfilled her desire to help others”, in an altruistic sense. The time came, where in less than one year, she lost her job, her dog died, she was in an auto accident and her grandmother passed away.
She went to her next family reunion, where an aunt and uncle, living in New Jersey, were on the hunt for a live-in nanny for her young (33 years younger than her) male cousin, Bill. “For a year” they said, so Nancy moved into their library,with the foldout couch, to become “mom and dad”.
Nancy says she had Catholic and Episcopal roots, and although no one in her family was Methodist, she set out one day to find a church for her year-long nanny job and ended up at what she called; her “Charlie Brown Christmas tree church, in Rye, New York.” She’d found her home. At the end of the year, she felt happier by making a difference in individual lives than she had been in a long time. Her one-year stint turned into seven great years.
The Methodist Church has a program to train Lay (or ordinary church members, not clergy) Speakers. Nancy’s pastor and other congregants began to encourage her to take the training, as they could see her heartfelt desire to help people, and her ability to get people to work together. They kept saying she had a ‘pastor’s demeanor’.
At first, she said no, no, no; but Nancy finally agreed to try it, and said things began to fall into place, which she says happens, when we follow God’s leading. By this time, Nancy had been successful at varied jobs; one in a flower shop, another as a teacher, to homebound school students; another managing one of the largest Domino’s Pizza stores, where she put in 90-100 hours a week; another as a benefits counselor, for a church pension/benefits group. Always ready for hard work, and lots of it, Nancy found that as a Lay Speaker, she loved preaching and studying God’s word.
Then 9/11/2001 happened; Nancy remembers seeing all the pastors running to help. She immediately filled out her application for Drew Theological School, to become a full-fledged pastor, one who could help anywhere at all times.
Life threw up more hurdles during her ordination process, including the death of her father and personal experience with cancer, chemotherapy and radiation, but she persevered. After graduation, she became part of the Wyoming Conference (not the State of Wyoming) that included parishes in New York and Pennsylvania, receiving her first commission (pastorate) for the two churches of Sanitaria and Port Wave, east of Binghamton, NY. This was where she became an EMT. Half her congregation were EMTs and Firefighters on a volunteer basis so when an alarm went out on a Sunday morning, half the congregation prayed for the other half that had to leave, to respond to the emergency. She asked them what it took to become a volunteer and was told that you “had to take some classes, but we pay for them.” She signed up and then found out what “a few classes” meant! Among other things, it meant that she had embarked on yet another avenue to respond to people in their time of need and to make a difference in their lives.
Her second church commission was in Morris, New York, prior to being commissioned in Cape Vincent. With responsibility for three churches here, it doesn’t leave much free time, but she still has a goal to receive a doctorate degree in Church history someday. She’s definitely used to multi-tasking and not afraid of hard work! She also has good longevity genes! Her very active mother has been here several times and been a joy to all. Her younger brother, Ed, is on the schedule for a visit in the future. And I found out that her cousin, Bill (the one she was nanny to for seven years) received his first medical residency, and is now married.
For several months last year, Nancy, hosted an administrative intern from a ministry organization in England, called Southwest Youth Ministries. She enjoyed introducing Jemma to the United States and listening to her tales of Great Britain. New on Nancy’s plate is finishing the extensive training required to become a foster parent. She’s about two thirds of the way. Reverend Stanley is celebrating all of this and sharing in the lives of the Cape Vincent community.
By Linda Rowe
Linda Rowe retired to the Thousand Islands region in 2008. after careers in public government and school districts. She writes, “Her hope is to do good with her pen and perhaps make readers chuckle along the way.” And she does.
This article first appeared in Linda’s feature article, written monthly for the What’s Happening in Cape Vincent. She is a member of the Cape Vincent Poets and Writers Ink group. She has written an article and poetry for TI Life. She reports she is” happily and lengthily married to Tommy. All the children have flown the nest and all the pets have been laid to rest.”