News and Views

Wunderlich appointed new Cumberland-Hagerstown Superintendent

Posted by Melissa Lauber on

By Melissa Lauber 

If there’s one thing the Rev. John Wunderlich wants you to know, it’s that he’s excited about serving in the Cumberland-Hagerstown District.

Wunderlich, the pastor of First Saints UMC in Leonardtown, has a reputation for being an innovative, risk-taking, church-growing teacher and preacher.

At first glance, leading the more rural region of Western Maryland, with its many smaller, lay-led churches, might not have seemed like the most natural appointment.

But Bishop LaTrelle Easterling saw potential, and so does Wunderlich.

His grandfather’s grandfather was an EUB circuit rider. Wunderlich grew up in Carroll County and has an affinity for the mountains. He’s looking forward to the natural beauty of the region. He’s also excited about working with the people.

“I’m not so idealistic that I can’t see there will be challenges,” he said. “But my default posture is to find opportunity in the face of challenges. I’m hopeful about being greeted by people who are the same, people who know there are challenges, but can envision opportunities.

“I believe the best days are in front of us,” he concluded, but then quickly added, “by the grace of God.”

The grace of God is important to Wunderlich.

As a student of history, he’s watched it in action. In his own life he’s noted how God has been at work in one part of his life preparing him for the next.

Wunderlich felt a call to ministry as a teenager at summer camp but didn’t enter the ministry until 1992. He served, at St. James/Stone Chapel in Westminster; Wesley Freedom in Eldersburg; Christ-Ballenger Creek in Frederick; and, in 2008, landed at First Saints.

First Saints is a multi-site church, with four worshipping communities in four locations in St. Mary’s county. The four communities are one congregation joined by a shared vision, mission and leadership structure.

The “one church in four places” arrangement allows for unique collaborations and “lets us contextualize things for the communities where we do ministries,” Wunderlich said.

Each of the locations also, intentionally, has a strong relationship with the school closest to them. In fact, the California campus meets in a school.

Operating in this unique multi-site structure has called for creativity, Wunderlich said. “We try stuff, we take calculated risks. I’m not scared or threatened by change. Things that don’t change tend to atrophy. Being creative in ministry is a way to keep things alive.”

Lately, Wunderlich’s creativity is being broadened by the increase in reading he’s doing in his personal life.

“God is pushing me to read more and to read more diverse authors,” he said. “The result is that I feel God challenging me to do deeper with my spirituality. … It’s easy to think you’ve arrived. But I think God always has something to teach me.”

Wunderlich is accompanied on his ministry journey by his wife, Carol, with whom he graduated seminary. Her ministry is with children and youth. They have two sons, John who is a youth pastor in an Episcopal Church in Virginia, and Joshua, who is in college.

For those in the Cumberland-Hagerstown District, meeting Wunderlich for the first time, they might notice his earring.

He got it in college, but not as a fashion statement. During that time in his life, he was struggling with his faith and what to do with his life.

In his struggles, he read about a tradition from an ancient culture in Exodus 21:1-6 and Deuteronomy 15:12-17. When a slave was freed but chose to remain in the service of the household, the master of the house would stand, very publicly in the doorway, and pierce the ear of the former slave.

It was a way to signify liberation, and a willingness to serve because one freely chose to, of his own accord.

Since age 19, Wunderlich has intentionally been choosing to serve God. “It’s a way to remind myself about what I choose. Some days I do better than others,” he admits, “but it’s a commitment I make over and over again.”

Steve Daigle Apr 15, 2019 11:18am

Could not have made a better choice. I am from Westernport went to school at Bruce and attend pastor Johns church in Leonardtown. There is no better pastor and will miss him but what a blessing for western Maryland. God bless everyone

JANINE ADAIR Apr 15, 2019 12:34pm

First Saints will miss you, John, but I know you will be a blessing to the conference and your new district. Blessings on you, your family, and your ministry!

Rev. Mike Leedom Apr 15, 2019 12:45pm

Welcome brother to you and your family. We are thankful for Conrad's leadership these past years and know that through prayer and wisdom, you have been chosen for "just such a time as this." It is an exciting opportunity for us all. Our prayers are already with you! - Pastor Mike, Union Chapel UMC, Berkeley Springs, WV.

Anonymous Apr 15, 2019 1:17pm

What a powerhouse of ministry leadership Cumberland-Hagerstown is being blessed with! I will miss John and Carol being in the Washington East District, but am so happy God is moving them to the next level of spiritual growth in ministry!

F. Kevin Silberzahn Apr 15, 2019 1:42pm

Congratulations, John! I remember your days at Wesley Freedom fondly. My prayers are with you as you embark on this next step in your journey with God.

Patrick Herring Apr 15, 2019 4:18pm

We will miss your presence dear brother but know that we are never far apart in Our Lord.

Sheila Galanie Apr 15, 2019 8:51pm

We have been so very blessed to have John pastor us at First Saints for the last 11 years. He encourages, challenges, mentors and teaches us. He is genuine. He laughs and cries. He is part of us, yet leads us. He will be sorely missed. Thank you, John, for leading your flock in SMC. You will have a larger flock as superintendent, and you will, no doubt, continue to meet people where they are and lead them to where Christ wants them to be.

Mom Apr 16, 2019 4:09pm

I am so very proud of you. I have known since you were ten that God was calling you, and calling you to do great things for His kingdom. I knew one day, when God was ready, this appointment would come. I know you will continue to do great things for God as you listen to him and walk where he would have you walk.

BettieAnn Apr 16, 2019 7:23pm

So happy for you and Family. I knew you were an amazing person who would positively influence others, when you were 18! Blessings on this new journey.

Pastor Sandy Burchell Apr 18, 2019 1:00am

Welcome to the wonderful west!
We will be praying for you and your wife, Carol, and look forward to meeting and working with you.
Sandy & Harry Burchell
The Creek Run Cooperative Parish
Mount Savage and Ellerslie UMC's

Concerned methodist Apr 19, 2019 12:22pm

Good write up and sounds like a well credentialed person for the job. However in a district of only 2 counties and 84 churches I cannot even remember a time when we actually had a visit or support from the conference or the district to our struggling church. So my question is what exactly is the purpose of this position and what value does it provide our church????

Rev Cindy Caldwell Apr 22, 2019 8:47am

John, welcome to the Western Region! We look forward to your unique perspective and the gifts and graces you will bring as our new DS. You and your family are in our prayers in this time of transition.

Cindy & Mac Caldwell
Benevola UMC, Boonsboro MD

Hal Atkins May 6, 2019 10:14am

Welcome to the Western Region! We are grateful for your appointment and we look forward to see what the Lord has in store for you as our new DS and for us as we work together to make a difference for Christ! We will continue to pray for you and your family as you make this important transition.

Grace and peace,

Hal and Ann Atkins

Retired Clergy, Cumberland MD

Diane Wood May 24, 2019 3:28pm

Blessed immensely by John as our pastor. He is genuine and a fantastic leader as well as a wonderful servant of Christ. We will greatly miss you John but are thankful for knowing and serving with you. I know you will be a blessing to many more and very excited for your future!

Gaither Becker Jun 1, 2019 9:19am

God bless you and be with you !! My Brother in Faith...You are not alone.....The Lion of Juda is with you...Faith and Love !!

Sandra Shoemaker Jun 9, 2019 11:04am

First of all Welcome. We look forward to meeting with you for introductions.
Our Church is a struggling church and needs your guidance. We feel certain that you will give us that guidance.

Sue Bowen Jun 17, 2019 10:03am

John...I always knew that God had other plans for you. Continue to follow the path He leads you prayers are with you and Carol during this transition. Challenges await you but I know you can handle them with God at the helm. Blessings...Sue n Ken

Barry Cornwall Jun 17, 2019 10:07pm

I recall a leadership day event - you presented a session on worship and explained what you did and the multi-campus approach to worship. Your session was very informative and uplifting. You went out of your way to provide me with the media slides you used. I pray your time as a DS will be filled with continued messages from God TO the people in your district. Peace