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Straight-talking Lawrenceville pastor leads small church of 'ordinary sinners'

Meet the Rev. Ric Feeney, pastor of Grace Community Church in Lawrenceville, the only Brethren in Christ church in Georgia.

Married for 32 years, he's a father of four young adults and a grandfather. Feeney has a "shoot-from-the-hip" style of speaking with conviction about the church and its role in the community.

Q: How and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do as your life's work?

A: I had met (wife) Leigh Anne, and we had gotten engaged. I was working with emotionally disturbed children at the time, which was shift work. I thought I'd go back to teaching school, which had regular hours.

I sensed God saying to me, "Ric, I want you to preach for me." Instead of going back to school, we got married. Our honeymoon was driving to seminary, where we spent three years in Portland, Ore.

Q: Did you ever consider a different career?

A: Well, working with emotionally disturbed children and teaching. Right now, I am also a special-needs bus driver for Gwinnett County. And I have a watercolor on exhibit in Lancaster, Pa. (Visit www.ricfeeney.com to view Feeney's paintings).

Q: Who would you say was the greatest influence on you and your choice?

A: No one, really. It was a direct God thing.

Q: What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job?

A: Probably challenging people to grow without hurting their feelings too much. It's a pastor's lot to make people uncomfortable enough to change.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing?

A: Getting to journey with people as God transforms their lives.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person considering entering the ministry, what would it be?

A: Start today. Don't go to school. Just start. Find someone that's doing what you want to do and become their best friend.

Q: What educational background do you have? Is this required for your job?

A: I have a bachelor's degree in fine arts and a Master of Divinity. I have a preschool director's license and have studied family and marriage counseling. None of this is required, but it's all helpful.

Q: What are your long-term goals as pastor of your church?

A: I'd like the church to grow numerically. It's small (about 40 regular attendees).

Q: Who would you most like to meet?

A: Shane Claiborne, the author of "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical."

Q: If you had to name one thing that's changed the most in Gwinnett's worship and religious trends over the years, what would it be?

A: This is a guess, because I've lived here a little over three years. Everybody seems to be in spiritual lake about a mile wide and about an inch deep.

I believe that (Grace Community Church is) one of the largest contributors of food to the Lawrenceville co-op. For a church of 40 to be one of the largest contributors, that's sinful in my opinion.

I'd love to be wrong. The smallest churches shouldn't be the leaders in helping people.

Q: What is your favorite Scripture?

A: 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

We're kind of a rescue church. We don't have any perfect people; we don't allow them to come. Some are addicts, some have been in jail. We're all just ordinary sinners.

Grace Community Church is located at 2149 Five Forks Trickum Road in Lawrenceville. To learn more about the church and for service times, visit www.yourgraceplace.com or call 770-979-1878.

Each week, the Daily Post profiles a different religious leader in Gwinnett. If you have a suggestion on who we should profile next, e-mail features@gwinnettdailypost.com