HAMILTON — A typical Sunday at church for regular attendees might look like music and singing followed by a sermon, and concluded with more music and/ or singing. Members of the Hamilton United Methodist Church congregation might have heard a whole message taught through song, and all lead by Pastor Larry Dimick.
For the last three years, Dimick has been the lead pastor at Hamilton UMC, and Sunday was his last day before transitioning into a life of retirement. In the 36 years of his ministry, he has used his voice, and even hands, to share a message of love.
Dimick, who started his 30s by choosing to go to seminary, had not much talent as a musician prior to following this path; however, now in his 60s, he has learned how to play 12-15 instruments and has used many while in worship.
“Instruments sort of found there way to me. It’s a gift I got when I answered the call to ministry,” he said.
Among the instruments he can play are guitar, banjo, autoharp, harmonica and his favorite, the Appalachian dulcimer. Dimick grew up a big fan of folk music, and his love for the the dulcimer comes from that love of old traditional mountain ballads.
“I love traditional music because it explains the heart of the people at the time,” he said.
He realized that many church hymns were based on folk music, and as such, they translate well to the instruments he likes to play.
“It spices up worship, I think.”
Sometimes he will give background for the hymns chosen, bringing into focus the historical context of the songs and the relatability of the writers that these songs once may have been sung by folks around a campfire, under a starry night sky. “Folk music’s charm to me is people sitting around a living room, sharing music; it’s a certain quality of friendliness.”
“The message of the service is the mind of the church, the intellectual part. So if the sermon is the mind, the music is the heart, and I don’t think you can have too much music in a service,” Dimick says. Hamilton has only had a piano player every other week for the last few years, so Dimick would lead much of the congregational singing.
“In this church, I’ve used music as much, if not more than anywhere else,” he says
Outside the church, he has played at festivals, on the stage at the Hamilton Life Center with a local band, has made a CD, and is in the process of recording another CD all about the ocean with myth and mermaids and lost love.
He has titled it “Songs in the Key of Sea,” and it will include 12-13 folk covers that he sings and plays on his instruments. He says he has always been fascinated with and drawn to the ocean. In his retirement, he will be moving closer to the ocean with his wife, Jan, to South Carolina, to be a full time grandpa. He is particularly looking forward to setting up his studio and making music with his granddaughter, who also loves to sing.
Beyond the ministry, Dimick gave 27 years of service to the National Guard. He got his degree from Ball State University in psychology and held a job in business and advertising. When he was an advertising executive in Los Angeles, he says this is the time he started questioning his future in business and wondering if he might be meant for something different.
Pastor Dimick did not grow up in a religious family. He says he would go to church whenever the cute girls around town would invite him because, as he says laughing, “I always did what the cute girls asked.” And in the National Guard, he would attend service for a change of pace, but he started listening. When he was attending church in California, one pastor had asked him a question that turned his life around, “What, if anything else, could you do with your life to feel the most fulfilled and satisfied? And then do that.”
In 1987 he graduated from Christian Theological Seminary. He went to seminary to work in the inner city and had two placements there, one being an internship. After that, he was placed in more rural settings. He has pastored a church that would have 2,000 people, and a church like Hamilton, that on any given Sunday might have 50.
“Hamilton is the smallest town I’ve had a congregation in, which has been a different thing for me. They are just good people. They all know each other and know the people around town, but are not in each other’s business in a nosy way. They just care about each other. I have 90-year-old people who were baptized in this church. So it becomes a family in a lot of ways that in a big church you don’t get. They just legitimately love each other and find ways to take care of others in the community that need it.”
In his three years at Hamilton, he says the people have been so wonderful to him.
“They know my son is gay and that I’m proud of him for being who he his. They honor the fact that I did his wedding to his husband,” Dimick said. These folks, they’re just open and honest people and that’s who I want to be around. They get the idea of loving your neighbors as yourself. And nobody gets it all the time, but they are out there trying. And you gotta love that.”
Some of the missions the church supports are American Red Cross, Bashor Children’s Home, Impact 2818 Children’s Camp, Project Help, Samaritan’s Purse, Wannabees — a mission to serve orphanages in Jamaica — and Matthew Meal, a food service to the local community on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The meals are prepared and served in the church to everyone who walks in the door, and church volunteers deliver to the homebound. Currently, Matthew Meal averages 50 meals delivered and more served in their Fellowship Hall.
Dimick has also been the CEO of Brazil Partners for the last five years, which coordinates mission trips between the states and Brazil. “I’ve helped build four churches and a community center in Brazil.” They partner with the Methodist church in the north eastern region in Brazil, headquartered in a city called Recife. “The city is near the size of Chicago, but you don’t hear about it because most of the people are living in poverty.”
Dimick says that he believes the course the church will take in the next 50 years will look a lot different than it does now, and that it already looks much different from several years ago. He says he think the politics of the church must change if it is to include a generation intent on fighting for freedom and equal rights for all, and he welcomes and stands by that. But he believes the core of the Gospel message is never going away; the message that the God who created the universe, actually cares about each individual in it.
“We still have to figure out how to get along and honor each other as fellow human beings, because if we don’t, we’re in trouble,” as he cites political, economic and ecological changes and unrest that are on a ticking clock. “The core of the Gospel message, a message of love, is a guide to help us through it.”
In February, Dimick began as a interim pastor at Fremont United Methodist Church, where he would preach for one congregation and then leave to serve the next.
“I’ve tried to do my little part well for the world. God called me to love people. That is essentially my job. And maybe that’s all any of us can do,” he said. “But now it’s time we need to learn how to do it on a bigger scale.”