The Rev. Irwin Jennings Retires from Dockside Worship Service

Posted on April 22, 2019

After 12 rewarding years as Lakeside’s Dockside Worship Service Coordinator, the Rev. Irwin Jennings is retiring from the sunrise worship service that he helped develop. To thank him for his faithful service and celebrate his Lakeside retirement, all are invited to a reception at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 23 in the Hotel Lakeside Fern Room.

Lakeside has been a special part of the Rev. Jennings’ life for more than 50 years. One of his first and most cherished memories at Lakeside was his ordination at Hoover Auditorium in 1962. He continued visiting, and 11 years later, he and his wife, Janet, purchased a summer cottage for their family. By 2015, the couple moved to Lakeside where they now live eight months of the year, while spending the rest of their time in Sarasota, Florida near family.

The Rev. Jennings began his ministry 42 years ago. He first retired from Medina United Methodist Church in 2001 before joining Lakeside in 2006 to serve as the Dockside Worship Service Coordinator & Pastor in Residence. Throughout his many wonderful years, he has made a positive impact on the Lakeside community.

“The first few summers, I was always surprised when people would approach me on the grounds and comment on the sermon or service,” he said. “I respected those who came, and for them, I wanted to develop and deliver a meaningful sermon that everyone could relate to.”

Lakeside is a special place where the lake provides a natural biblical setting for many scripture readings, especially those that feature Jesus teaching from the Sea of Galilee. In addition to the setting, the lake is also a unique place where many memorable moments take place.

“An eagle landed in a nearby tree during the last service of the season several years ago,” he said. “Those who saw the eagle were transfixed and saw it as a sign of God’s presence, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31).”

As a worship leader among the community, he’s been a part of 10 baptisms. The first child he baptized makes sure to visit the Rev. Jennings every summer to show him how much she’s grown and to give him a hug.

Janet, along with the Jennings’ daughter, Beth, have been huge supporters of his Lakeside ministry and have been by his side throughout the years, serving as regular communion stewards and setting up communion tables, paraments and elements for worshippers.

Other helpful friends have been the Rev. Dr. Ned Dewire, Director of Religious Life, who introduced the Preacher of the Week and led communion during the Dockside service; Lakeside’s Religious Life interns, who brought a youthful perspective every Sunday; and Gwen Addy and Jennifer Linville, faithful and spirited accompanists and song leaders.

During his many seasons, the Rev. Jennings’ services offered hymns and songs from the United Methodist Church and The Faith We Sing hymnals. Worship included occasional soloists and guest musicians. Janet even developed a spreadsheet of hymns and songs that were used every Sunday, which will be a valuable resource for future planning.

Since retiring, the Rev. Jennings shared that he and his wife are looking forward to attending all of the Saturday evening programs at Hoover and not leaving at intermission.

"When I was responsible for the 8:30 a.m. Dockside Worship Service, and especially if I was preaching, I wanted to be home and in bed by 9:30 p.m.,” he said.

The Lakeside community would like to thank the Rev. Jennings for his 12 years of dedicated ministry to Lakeside. This summer, the inspirational Dockside Worship Service will continue at 8:30 a.m. Sundays under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Scott Wilson, and the Rev. Jennings will return to the pulpit to preach on July 7 and Aug. 11.