by Mary Anne Pikrone
The Rev. Michael G. Dunnington’s message to St. John’s is simple: “My hope, my being there, just like I did for All Saints and Ascension, is to bring some stability and love. I want to get things stabilized for the next priest who’s coming. “
Dunnington, 75, has accepted our vestry’s call to be Interim Priest for at least six months while we move through the discernment process to call a new Rector or Priest in Charge.
Dunnington presided at our in-person Easter service and will begin his six-month service on April 25. He will be in the church office Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
A native of the Baden Riverview area of north St. Louis, Dunnington comes to us after a varied career that included, most recently, shepherding the challenging merger of the historically Black All Saints and Ascension Episcopal churches.
Dunnington grew up Roman Catholic and attended the old Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. He graduated from St. Louis University High School and went on to SLU, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American History. He aimed to teach and entered the Jesuits, but left after six years, when he decided the celibate life was not for him.
The Vatican II Council of the Catholic Church was going on when he was in Jesuit formation, so he entered while Latin was used, but the next year switched to English in worship.
He recalls that he and others in his class fully embraced the reforms. Now, they are the older generation, and his fellow classmates find themselves more liberal than younger Catholic priests, who studied during the reign of the more conservative Pope John Paul II.
He began a career in industrial sales working for a company that manufactures pumps and lubricating equipment here. Over the years, he was promoted and moved to different companies until he ended up in Charlotte, N.C., in 1991. There, he went through downsizing. During those years, he came to realize he was not that comfortable in the Roman church anymore.
Dunnington spent two years as Assistant Rector at Holy Comforter Church in Burlington, N.C., then became rector of Holy Innocents Church in Henderson, N.C. An only child, about that time he came to realize his aging father needed assistance, so he moved back to St. Louis. Once here, he reconnected with his high school sweetheart, Leslie Holdsworth, and they were wed in 2000. Their blended family—he was married previously—now includes five children and 10 grandchildren.
Beginning in 2001, Dunnington spent a total of 16 years as Priest-in-Charge individually at All Saints and Ascension, and then at the merged congregation. The merger process, from 2015 through 2017, upset parishioners in both congregations, and at one time a group of All Saints’ parishioners sued him and the Senior Warden during the process.
The Rev. Marc Smith, Vicar of Ascension at the time, worked with him during the merger, and later was appointed the Bishop’s full-time Deputy for gun violence prevention.
“I know about Amy being there, some of the painful things you’ve gone through,” Dunnington said.
He says he has talked to the Rev. Kevin McGrane, who served as our Deacon before moving on to Trinity, St. James, and he wants to talk to the Revs. Sally Weaver and Dr. Warren Crews, who were with us most recently.
“I want to help work through those challenges, do what I can and ease the transition to your next pastor,” he says.
Mary Anne Pikrone is a retired journalist, and a member of the Communications committee at St. John's.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at email@example.com
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