That could be said about Pastor Jimmy Dunn, a 1959 Bluefield College alumnus and a man of God who has touched literally hundreds of lives in Buckingham County, Virginia. Whether it has been through weddings, funerals, civic organizations, or just his personal style of ministry, Pastor Dunn is deeply rooted in Buckingham and his calling.
James Wilson Dunn was born 75 years ago in Burkeville, Virginia. “My daddy ran a hardware store,” he said. “Mom was taught school for a while and was a homemaker.” An only child, Dunn did not continue the family business. “I didn’t feel to do that,” he said. It appears that there was another role for Dunn to play.
“I was about 15 or 16 when I felt the calling,” said Dunn. “I was attending a conference at the Massanetta Springs Camp. They were preaching and asking about Christian service.”
Growing up in a Christian home, this path was not unusual to Dunn. “Mom saw to it that if the church doors were open, we would walk in,” he said. Raised a Baptist, Dunn recalls the church always being a part of his family’s life. On that day at the camp, it became very clear as he walked forward to be “greeted by the preacher.”
Dunn began his ministerial education at Bluefield College, where he became involved in the Baptist Student Union, the Ministerial Student Association, and had the opportunity to speak at several different churches. He acknowledged that he was challenged to defend his decision to join the ministry.
“There were times in group discussions that I was asked to defend my choice to be a pastor,” said Dunn, “but it didn’t bother me.” One event that helped him move forward in his life choice was meeting and marrying Jane Monfalcone, a 1960 BC graduate. “Jane and I met when we were on the same revival team at Bluefield,” said Dunn. They have been married for 53 years and have three children.
Later, Dunn earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond, before moving to Wake Forest, North Carolina, to pursue master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We carried everything we owned in a 1955 Ford Coupe,” said Dunn about the move to seminary. “Jane paid for it from money she’d earned while working.”
Seminary offered Dunn the opportunity to explore his spiritually. Along with classes in church history, pastoral care, Greek, Hebrew, and theology, he took many Bible and ethics classes and a course on how to develop a sermon. “I almost quit when one of my professors graded me,” he said laughing.
After seminary, Dunn began his ministry in 1964 as pastor of Winn’s Creek Baptist Church in Halifax, Virginia. “I was ready to graduate and had not gotten any calls or interviews,” he said. “About 9 p.m. one night I got a call from the seminary’s field office. There was a five member committee from Halifax who wanted to interview me and hear me preach.”
Dunn served at Winn’s for three years before moving to Drakes Branch (VA) Baptist Church for four years. After that, he began a 20-year dual ministry for Mulberry Grove Baptist Church and Maysville Baptist Church, both in Buckingham. Later, he served 12 years as pastor of Totuskey Baptist Church in Warsaw, Virginia. Just at the time he was reaching retirement age, Buckingham County came back into his life.
“Jane and I came to Buckingham for a funeral, and we ran into Kenneth Ranson. He asked if I would serve as the interim pastor for First Baptist of Dillwyn. I met with the committee, and we agreed that I would serve for six months. I ended up being there for six years.”
Now a pastor emeritus for First Baptist of Dillwyn, Dunn is spending his retirement years ministering on call and serving as a supply pastor. He will celebrate 50 years of pastoring in May 2015.
“I reckon I’m retired,” he said, “but I preach right often, and I visit. I’ve known the people in Buckingham for 40 years, so it’s hard to not visit. We enjoyed living in the Northern Neck, but our heart is in Buckingham. When the door opened up to be an interim, we knew we loved the area and that it was an affordable place to retire.”
Although retired, he admits he still gets phone calls in the middle of the night from church members, a family member of a church member, or someone else in need. His response is the same as always.
“You just try to be a comforting presence,” he said. “Tell them your name. ‘I’m here for you.’ And, I try to bring the presence of the Lord into the situation. Their faith and spirit can bring you up. Some want to talk, some want to be quiet. I let them set the tone.”
Dunn admits he is proud of his pastoral career, which says a lot, considering his extreme humility. His passion has been to minister to people, “the best I could,” and “to train them to do their best to serve the Lord and to carry out the Lord’s work.”
“I feel like I’ve accomplished that to a considerable degree,” said Dunn. “I admit I feel good about pastoring seven churches. I feel like I’ve built relationships with people. I can’t say I have any measurable accomplishments. I’m happy to stay in small town churches. I’m a better doer than a leader. My greatest joy has been reaching out to people in need and helping them. The Lord has given me those opportunities, and I’m thankful for that.”
In addition to his nearly five decades of pastoral care, Dunn has served on five international mission trips to Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. He also has been involved with the Buckingham Ruritan Club and is a member of Historic Buckingham, the Friends of the Library, and the Baptist Ministerial Association.
Original article by Sue A. Miles of the Buckingham Beacon
ALUMNUS JIMMY DUNN STILL IMMERSES HIMSELF IN THE BIBLE, EVEN THOUGH HE IS RETIRED FROM MORE THAN 50 YEARS OF MINISTRY.
ALUMNUS AND 50-YEAR VETERAN MINISTER JIMMY DUNN (’59) WITH HIS WIFE, JANE MONFALCONE, A 1960 BC GRADUATE.