Pastor Penny Dollar has suffered great loss and tragedy in her life, but her faith in God remains strong. As pastor of the Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Dorrance, she’s used her loss to comfort others in similar situations and to give them resolve to keep their faith.
Pastor Penny, who gave her last sermon Aug. 30, has now retired for a quiet life on the river with her husband, leaving behind a congregation who will miss her dearly.
“I’ve enjoyed my tenure here,” she said, smiling and looking around at the half-packed boxes all around her office. “I’ve tried to bring the people closer to God, that’s what my purpose has been.”
Having lost loved ones in her life, Pastor Penny related that it’s been these losses that have helped her give others strength. “It’s helped me to be empathetic,” she said. “I show people that God can help you get through it....Hopefully, I’ve helped people through God.”
At age 69, Pastor Penny said she felt it was time to retire. “It’s been a nice run, but people told me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time to retire.’ And I just know,” she related.
In her time at Emmanuel UCC, Pastor Penny oversaw the construction of a pavilion, for outdoor services and community events, and helped start a food pantry at the church. She also traveled each year with the church’s youth group on their mission trips, to help rebuild homes damaged in disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.
“The kids really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it,” she recalled of the mission trips. “They enjoyed helping people.”
Emmanuel UCC formed in 1849 as a German Reformed Church where locals would gather to worship in a one-room schoolhouse. Now, about 60 to 100 people attend service there, in a beautiful modern church.
Pastor Penny has tried to preach according to changing times, she said, realizing that families are often busy with sports and other activities being scheduled on Sundays. She hopes she’s taught members of her congregation “how to be Christians,” she remarked, adding that being closer to God is reflected in actions, not just in labeling oneself as Christian.
She will miss the friendships she’s made at Emmanuel, Pastor Penny related, including the older members that she’s regularly visited and enjoyed lunch with. She added that she’ll miss the church’s many turkey suppers.
“It’s a nice congregation,” she said, describing it as close-knit. “In this area, it seems everyone is related to everyone.” Members of the church held a retirement party for Pastor Penny after her last Sunday service. They will now use an interim pastor until a new one can be found.
Pastor Penny is the fourth generation in her family to preach. She spent part of her childhood in Minnesota, Virginia, and a few other southern states. With a pastor for a father, she was always close to God and always wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps. But, she said, in the 1960’s, not many females became pastors.
She instead went to college and worked in medical technology, later specializing in blood collection. She also married and had children, and led a difficult personal life.