During a series entitled “Church Characters,” I’m recalling some memorable people from decades of ministry.
This week’s blog culminates my articles on church characters. Each played a role in shaping my soul and informing my ministry. I decided to conclude the series by focusing on the biggest church character of all: ME!
I graduated seminary in May 1982. A month later the bishop appointed me as pastor-in-charge of Mount Carmel and Emory Chapel United Methodist Churches. The congregations outside Newnan, Georgia formed a two-point circuit in order to support a full-time minister.
I preached at Emory Chapel, the smaller of the two congregations, at 9:45 a.m. Then I sped to Mount Carmel for the 11:00 a.m. service. The larger church also held a weekly Sunday night service, which meant preparing two sermons weekly—and weakly!
The Mount Carmel members built a parsonage next door to the church. The 3/2 home served the needs of a single pastor. The congregation dismissed central heat and air as extravagant luxuries. A wood heater warmed the front part of the house. An attic fan sucked air down the hall during the summer.
I moved to town with all of my worldly possessions in the back of a friend’s pickup truck and my Honda Civic. A 19-inch TV with rabbit ears provided 3 channels of static-filled entertainment. I bought a microwave my first Christmas and felt like royalty.
Four suits composed my entire ensemble, and I wore one per Sunday on a monthly basis. I possessed two pairs of dress shoes and various colors of dress shirts. As a bachelor with no fashion sense, I owned an iron but no ironing board.
Reminiscing on those first years of ministry, I wince at my inexperience and callowness. However, the two congregations adopted me as their own. They treasured their role in raising “boy preachers” to maturity. The members assured me that I would serve great churches in the future. I assured them that I already served great churches in the present.
I am who I am today because of the people who mentored me in the past. Thanks be to God for church characters. Amen.