Where some traditions discourage women in leadership roles, the United Methodist church facilitates women who feel led to pursue a life of ministry. Riley is pastor, wife, mother and is registered as a foster parent. She and husband, Dennis, have a 42 year old son and a six year old daughter. “For years we prayed for a little daughter and received Danaeh when she was 13 days old,” says Riley when explaining the gap in their children’s ages.
Born and reared in San Antonio, Texas, Riley admits to a challenging home life during her youth years. She felt, however, a direction she should head. “When I was around 15 years old, I felt God wanted me to do something for Him and I ignored it as long as I could,” smiles Riley.
Riley married at a young age and her little family moved to Artesia to assist Dennis’ uncle on his farm. When the farm was sold, Dennis continued to help farmers in the area while Jean sought nearby employment. Working with Brewer Oil, she determined she would be a Christian influence within the company’s office.
The United Methodist tradition provides a pathway for those who feel led to a career in ministry in middle age. Those who determine the need for education past the age of 44 are enrolled in a course of study which is tailored to fit busy schedules. When Riley and her husband were asked to assist the youth program of the Artesia church they attended, Riley began to explore educational options. She enrolled in Dallas’s Southern Methodist University’s program and later Perkins School of Theology, becoming certified through 14 summers of hard work. “I took classes in systematic theology, preaching, Old and New Testament, counseling, end-of-life studies and spent time studying racial issues.”
Riley continued to work with the youth of the First United Methodist church and later pastored Clark Memorial and Hope United Methodist church, all in Artesia. She was instrumental in creating a homeless shelter in Artesia, the only one of which she’s aware.
Pastors serve by appointment in the Methodist church. The process involves a district superintendent and a cabinet of leaders, as well as an evaluation system extending between pastors and congregations. According to Riley, the average stay of a pastor with one congregation is three years. Riley was appointed to the Capitan-Carrizozo churches nearly a year ago.
Riley’s two congregations have distinctive personalities. “Our Capitan congregation supports and volunteers at the local library. We also try to assist families in need.” Riley notes there are several children in her Capitan group due to grandparents rearing their grandchildren.
“Our Carrizozo congregation hosted four classical concerts recently.” Riley recalls at one concert, more than 150 attended with some coming from as far away as El Paso. Cellist, harpist, and vocal performances gave the community a cultural and inspirational opportunity. The ladies group of the church provided dinner prior to concerts which one patron remarked was “better than the Spencer.”
The Catholic, Assembly of God, Baptist and United Methodist churches in ‘Zozo cooperate and provide youth programs on Wednesday evenings. The Baptist church hosts the younger children, ages preschool through sixth grades, while the Methodist church runs the youth program, seventh through 12th grades. “We’ve done this for 10 years now and 75 percent of the adults who help have been with the program all ten years,” says Riley. “We don’t try to insist our individual theologies are taught to the youth, we just love them.”
Both congregations welcome visitors. Schedules are staggered to allow Riley to commute to both churches each Sunday. Capitan United Methodist Church, located at the corner of White Oak and Third streets begins Sunday worship at 9 a.m. with small groups on Thursdays at 10 a.m. Trinity United Methodist Church in Carrizozo, located at 1000 D Ave. has Sunday School at 10:15 a.m. with worship at 11 a.m. The youth program in ‘Zozo on Wednesdays begins at 6 p.m. with a meal.
For more information about either congregation, phone Pastor Riley at 575-648-2893.