Following in His Footsteps

CORUNNA – Steve Spina is following in his late father’s footsteps as a pastor — but that wasn’t always his plan.

“I wanted to not be one,” Spina said. “I wanted to do something with music. I liked music a lot and was actually a music major in college.”

Spina, 65, is the new full-time pastor and serves at both Corunna United Methodist Church, 200 W. McArthur St., and First United Methodist Church in New Lothrop, 7495 Orchard St. He assumed the dual role July 1, 2017.

Spina’s father was an Assembly of God minister for 55 years, which Spina said made many people assume he would follow in his footsteps. The younger man battled that perception, but he eventually got involved in leading a campus ministry as an ordained Presbyterian at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1987.

“There was this tension,” Spina said, “but at some point, I felt like it was something I couldn’t not do. The call (to be a pastor) proved bigger than my stubborn reluctance. As Jeremiah 20:9 says, ‘But if I say, I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”‘

In 1999, he began teaching philosophy and religious studies at the same university, a position he held until 2014.

Spina earned a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and Music Education and Psychology minors from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He also received two Master’s Degrees in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

The Corunna resident chose to return and settle in Michigan because of his former University of Wisconsin student, Jeff Nelson — who he described as “powerful and gifted.” Nelson is the senior pastor at Royal Oak First United Methodist Church.

“He’s always been so delightfully affirming of me and so grateful to me for the difference I made in his life,” Spina said. “When I retired (from teaching) early, I didn’t know what to do with my life and thought I was going to go abroad and teach English. But Jeff really helped bring me over to Michigan and into the Methodist Ministry.”

Spina has two sons, Jordan, 34, who resides in Seattle, Washington, and Aaron, 30, who resides in Austin, Texas.

“(Steve) came into my life at a time when I was just trying to figure some things about myself,” Nelson said. “He was there to help me with answering some of those tough questions. I suggested to him that maybe it was time for him to come back to the local church since he was in between vocational stuff. He had the most impact on me and I know (Crossroads District of the Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church is) always looking for good and talented people at our pulpit so I reached out to the superintendent the Rev. John Hice.”

Hice said he and the other district superintendents were “very impressed” when they conducted a Skype video camera interview with Spina. “He is very personable,” Hice said. “I’ve had an opportunity to worship with him at the Corunna church in mid-July and was even more delighted than I anticipated. He can speak with diverse groups of people, his sermons are inspiring. He keeps attention of worshippers from beginning to end.”

Another factor in Spina becoming a pastor was his likeness for people, he said. “I’ve always been a people person,” Spina said. “I enjoy speaking, preaching and teaching. I draw my sermon illustrations from movies, which I watch a lot of in my free time. My dad also definitely helped shape the pastor I am today.” A book buff, too, Spina reads all titles by Ken Wilber, an American writer on transpersonal psychology and his integral theory. “He’s a prolific writer. He’s the one who’s had the most overall academic influence in my life,” he said.

While Spina is still in the process of getting settled in his new home, his experience as a pastor thus far has been a smooth transition,” he said. “I can’t please everyone, obviously, but I enjoy (being a pastor) and the diversity both churches offer,” Spina said.

Spina conducts Office hours at Corunna UMC on Monday and Wednesday, and at First UMC in New Lothrop on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He officiates Sunday Worship Services for both Congregations on Sunday Mornings.

Owosso Argus Press, Anamaria Dickerson, Staff Writer, 12 August 2017.