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The Working Life: Pastor Denny Wayman

Divine intervention leads the 35-year pastor of Free Methodist Church into a life of ministry

Pastor Denny Wayman has served 35 years in one congregation — Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. “This congregation is amazing,” he says. “They embraced my wife and me and allowed us to fulfill our dreams.”
Pastor Denny Wayman has served 35 years in one congregation — Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. “This congregation is amazing,” he says. “They embraced my wife and me and allowed us to fulfill our dreams.”  (Jenn Kennedy photo / www.kennedypix.com)

A fourth-generation anything is tough to ignore, let alone when God is involved. Pastor Denny Wayman heard his calling early but resisted his path. Today, the friendly, charismatic doctor of divinity says he has no illusions and no regrets.

Wayman was raised in various rural parts of Oklahoma in a family of wheat and cattle farmers. He spent his summers on his uncle’s horse ranch, plowing fields and building fences. His father was a country pastor, so they moved frequently.

“Two years was the typical length of stay, so pastors would prepare their sermons for that period, then move on to a new congregation, so their material would be fresh and inspiring,” Wayman said.

At age 16, Wayman had what he describes as “an experience with God.” A child of the 1960s, he resisted following in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he ignored his divine calling and participated in all the chaos of the day.

“I thought it would be cooler out there than it was, and so I tried just about everything during my ‘Prodigal Run,’” he said. “I realized one day that I had become someone I didn’t recognize.”

After five years of wandering, Wayman recommitted to a life in the ministry. He earned his master’s and doctorate of divinity, with a focus on counseling. He has served 35 years in one congregation — Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, 1435 Cliff Drive.

“This congregation is amazing,” Wayman said. “They embraced my wife and me, and allowed us to fulfill our dreams.”

Wayman said the Internet provides a source of fresh ideas and stories to illustrate the Scripture in his sermons, so he doesn’t need to move, as his father did.

Wayman and his wife, Cheryl, a licensed marriage family therapist, envisioned a church that supported and provided for their community. To that end, they have formed the Cliff Drive Care Center, a facility that grew out of the need they saw for local, affordable day care for working parents. Additionally, they now host senior lunches, and offer kindergarten preparedness and extensive ministry counseling. Wayman serves as administrator and his wife as clinical director of Cliff Drive Care Center.

As the name implies, Free Methodists trace their heritage to original Methodism as led by its founder, John Wesley. When Methodism came to America, churches and annual conferences spread across the country. In 1860, in western New York and Illinois, the Free Methodist Church came into being.

A key issue of the day was slavery. While the mother church did not take a stand, those who took the name “Free” Methodist opposed slavery. Another issue in that time was the widespread practice of renting and selling church pews, thus relegating the poor to benches in the back of the sanctuary. “Free” Methodists called for free seats for all and emphasized tithes and offerings to support the church’s ministries. Freedom in worship, in contrast to deadening formalism, was also important to “Free” Methodists.

Free Methodists have expanded across North America and into nearly 50 countries around the world. Wayman has participated in ministry trips to the Philippines and oversaw the organization of Team India, a resource for tsunami victims that included the construction of a school and infirmary after the 2006 Indonesian tsunami. He also notes efforts on the part of Santa Barbara parishioners to other at-risk areas, such as Costa Rica, Ecuador and Ethiopia.

In addition to his pastoral duties at the Mesa church, Wayman holds the position of lead superintendent, overseeing 60 Free Methodist Churches in Southern California. Technology has made his communication with his fellow pastors considerably easier, as he regularly uses Skype to conference with colleagues.

Locally, he has served on the La Mesa Community Improvement Association, the Friends of Westmont, the Cottage Hospital Pastoral Care Committee and the Santa Barbara Clergy Association.

Wayman is now looking toward a retirement filled with family and travel. In preparation, the church is making the transistion to younger leadership. Wayman will continue his counseling, which he cites as his favorite part of his work. And he’ll continue to write his syndicated column, Cinema in Focus, for Noozhawk. The column, which he writes with Hal Conklin, reviews movies from a sociological and spiritual point of view.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work.

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