Small-town life suits Suzie

Temporary position leads to 17 years in Stanhope

Suzie Moore outside the Stanhope community center.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the January Our Hometown Magazine. It is reprinted here for the enjoyment of our readers.

STANHOPE — When Suzie Moore accepted a job in Stanhope in 2000, she planned to stay two or three years.

Seventeen years later, Suzie is still happily in her post as pastor at Stanhope Parish Church, after agreeing to fill in for three weeks back in 2000 while the congregation looked for a new pastor.

“When I was given the offer to fill the position, I was in shock because I never thought they would go with a new minister, especially a woman,” Suzie recalls. “I even thought, ‘God, what are you doing?'”

But she trusted the direction He presented, moved into the parsonage in Stanhope, and set about getting acquainted with the little town and the people in it. Her congregation as well as the Stanhope community has benefitted from her decision ever since.

“Oh, it was a culture shock at first, going from a town of 28,000 to one of 460,” admits Suzie, now 62, who had lived her whole life in Marshalltown until then. “There was no MacDonald’s, and you have to drive everywhere.”

Besides small-town living, it was an adjustment for Suzie to go into ministry full time. After completing her A.S. degree in computer science at Marshalltown Community College, she had worked at Iowa Valley Community College District continuing education for thirteen years before she moved to Stanhope. Along with raising a young son as a single parent at the time, she completed a three-year independent study course to become a commissioned pastor with the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest. Although she had done pulpit supply for several years, Stanhope is her first full-time pastorate.

Getting acquainted with her congregation and getting to know folks around town wasn’t difficult, according to Suzie. “Making connections was easy through neighbors and coffee groups and sitting at the convenience store with the guys,” she says. “I think it is important for a minister to know the community, especially in a small town.

“If folks see me around town and get acquainted, they’ll call when they need support getting through an issue,” the pastor continues. “I’m not trying to be everyone’s pastor, but I want people to know I am there if they need me.”

Beyond such coffee times and serving her congregation, Suzie found another way to become part of the community: by volunteering. For ten of her 18 years in town, she served on the Stanhope city council, where, as she jokes, “I’ve learned more about electricity, storm sewers, and water than I ever wanted to know.

“But I’m also proud that I had a small part in the new park shelter and the new substation and in improving main street,” she adds.

Suzie has also served on the Stanhope Development Group, Inc. for four years, the last two as secretary. She is on the board for the county economic development group (SEED) and also part of the Hamilton Hometowns team, a sub-group of SEED. For three years while on the council, she was on the Squaw Creek watershed committee, and she still serves on the water source planning team. “We work with Iowa rural water district to look at water sources and safety,” she explains. “We want to make sure that Stanhope is getting the best water we can.”

In addition to these activities, Suzie finds time to lead Bible study at Athens Woods Estates in Stratford regularly. And she gets a chance to spend some time with her grown son, his wife, and their two young children, who live in Story City.

And, oh yes, she also points out that she is one of the Crazy Crafty Quilters group, who get together regularly to pursue a favorite activity. The group has made table runners for the tables in the community center, several quilts of valor, and the stylized American flag quilts they made hang on a wall at the community center, in addition to tending to their individual projects.

All of these activities since she’s been in Stanhope have warmed Suzie’s heart and benefitted the community that has come to feel like home, like where she belongs. “I love it here!” she exclaims. “I know all my neighbors. I can wave to everyone. It’s really like family in this community.

“Relationship is everything. Jesus tells us that. Love God, love your neighbor,” she goes on. “We need to take care of each other, and a small town does that better than a big town.”

Beyond that, what keeps Suzie active in her community and the county? “I do it for the community because I love it and the people who are affected by it,” she answers. “I am only a small part of these amazing groups who do big things. I’m lucky to be part of a group of really caring and creative people who love Stanhope and love the church.”

The challenge for all small towns, as the pastor sees it, is the change that has seen them evolve from family-based towns to bedroom communities. “That makes it harder and harder to get people involved and volunteering,” she notes.

Suzie’s decision to get involved in her adopted hometown has served her well. “Volunteering allows me to contribute, to build relationships, and it allows me to help make a difference,” she said.