by Elsie Walker
Rev. John Callanan recalls once talking with the cook from a container ship which brought goods to different ports, and required the crew to be on board for long stretches of time. “The cook’s daughter was completing her studies as a concert pianist and was already building worldwide recognition for her talent. His son was a practicing physician. The cook was very proud of their accomplishments, and of the fact that his toil at hard labor and years away from home made it all possible. Yet, he carried deep sadness over the fact that he was never home and missed all their significant milestones,” said Callanan. As a chaplain for those on container ships pulling into a port after months at sea, at a hospice for those at the end of life and in ministry in many other settings, Callanan will tell you that the most rewarding part of his 34 year career has been hearing stories and helping, comforting those who tell them. Callanan said that his call to ministry has never been static,but is his own on-going journey. He is now in his latest step of that journey. Although first asked to serve as interim pastor, Callanan officially became the pastor of Drakestown United Methodist Church at the beginning of this month.
Callanan got his calling to be a minister 38 years ago. He grew up in the Harmony United Methodist Church in Stillwater. “Our family life revolved around the church,” he explained. For Callanan, it was the place where he felt accepted and trained to be a leader. “For me, as a young person, the experience of God’s grace was transformative and powerful,” he said. He wanted to help others experience it. Although he considered going into other fields, like computers or forestry, he always came back to the church as a career choice. He said his mother told him that she was never surprised by that.
Callanan graduated from Lycoming College Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History (Cum Laude). He got his Master of Divinity Degree (Cum Laude) from The Theological School at Drew University in Madison.
Throughout his career, he has sat with many in difficult situations. He remembered visiting a hospice patient who was a leader and mentor in her church, but who became depressed and angry at God because her prayers for recovery were not answered. Callanan would visit, listen to her life stories, and talk about faith. After her passing, Callanan was moved when a note from her family told him how much he had helped. “Helping others access the hope and inspiration of their faith to give them strength to persevere and find peace in the face of adversity is a unique privilege that traverses very sacred space,” he said.
Talking about his latest role, that of returning to pastoral ministry, Callanan finds it rewarding to be back. He was looking for his next chaplaincy assignment when the District Superintendent of the Skylands District of the United Methodist Church asked, earlier in the year, if Callanan would like to be the interim pastor of a church. That assignment became permanent this month. Callanan believes his variety of experiences is something special he brings to pastoring a church.
Callanan’s family includes his wife, Ellen and their 5 1/2year old orange and black cat, Mara, who they adopted from a rescue. Callanan’s interests include model railroads “and the real thing”. He likes military history and the history of the early Methodist Church. He is the Greater New Jersey Conference (United Methodist Church) Historian and Chairperson of its Commission on Archives and History