Cynthia Stateman knows adventure.
She spent seven months in Africa, for example, from Cape Town to Cairo.
She has also worked extensively in the field of conflict management, consulting with cities, school districts and other entities with civil unrest.
But she’d never thought life would lead to her latest adventure. She never thought she’d be a pastor.
“Absolutely not,” Stateman said with a laugh. “I was not cut out for ministry.”
Stateman is the new pastor at Hanford First United Methodist Church. She took over July 1, leading the church of 70 or so members.
“[Hanford UMC] has a great history of being there for the community,” Stateman, 63, said. “My objective is to help the church really listen to how God is moving in their midst.”
Born in West Virginia, Stateman soon found herself growing up in Southern California. College took her to Northern California, and eventually into her conflict management career.
That career once brought her to Porterville in the late ’70s and early ‘80s, where she consulted to help ease tensions between a growing Hispanic community and the public school system.
Eventually she enrolled in classes to become a licensed chaplain, which would help her work in jails and prisons. Still. ministry wasn’t on her mind.
But a classmate brought Stateman into the adventure of a lifetime.
She recommended Stateman to a small church in Colorado, within a tiny community of about 400 people. The congregation needed a pastor for the summer, to help survive a wave of infighting.
Stateman agreed to take a phone call from the church.
“It turned out my ego needed work, because if you flatter me, I start to believe it,” she said with a laugh.
The flat pay was $1,000 for the summer.
She took the job, but caught second thoughts while driving through Nevada. She cried herself to sleep, promising herself that she would wake up, call the church and back out.
Instead, she spoke to God. And, she said, He spoke back.
“I dried my tears and said, ‘Tell me what to do.’ God’s response was, ‘Good girl.’ ”
She took the job, excelled and later found herself enrolled in seminary.
As it turned out …
“I had been preparing for [ministry] all my life,” she said. “My role was bringing people together, bringing new understandings.”
She has been a pastor since 2000, with her longest stay being in Quincy for 11 years.
Now she’s in Hanford, where she loves the food but is not too fond of all the flat land.
She was appointed by national church leaders to replace Susan Foster, who had served for seven years in Hanford. Foster is now pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Reno, Nev.
As with most pastoral appointments, Stateman doesn’t know how long she’ll be in Hanford.
But as she settles into her latest adventure, she said she looks out over a church with a strong collective heart and affinity for bettering the community.
“There’s so much room to grow, so much potential,” she said.