Ministry in the Wiregrass: Our Living Heritage
By: Wes Kelley, Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Dothan, Ala.
When I think about Methodists in the Wiregrass, I can’t help but think about the importance of family. Our family has Methodist roots going back to 1904 at the Pleasant Ridge Church in southern Coffee County, Alabama and to Williams Chapel Church, which our ancestors, the Williams brothers, founded near Brundidge in the 19th century. When I felt God’s call to the ministry, I was given the humbling honor by three congregations in my family’s heritage to stand in their pulpits and preach the Word. The Elba, Ham, and Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Churches gave me opportunities to discern God’s call in my life with hands-on ministry. It is a grace indescribable to minister in the houses of worship where my great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather worshiped more than a century ago.
As my wife Meghan and I were finishing up with seminary in North Carolina, we were overjoyed to learn that we would be sent by Bishop Leeland to serve United Methodist congregations in the Wiregrass—that cozy little corner of Alabama that our family has called home for longer than any of us can remember. In seven years we have served churches in Slocomb, Hartford, Enterprise, Ozark, and Dothan. We know our way around every blade of grass in the Wiregrass!
Every day, Meghan and I remain grateful for the Stegall Seminary Scholarship. When we were far away from home at seminary, we were encouraged by the correspondence we shared with the Methodist families back home who were contributing to our scholarships. Those homeward connections transformed our first days in ministry into a homecoming! We knew we would be received with open arms by Christians who had never forgotten about us—who prayed for us during our season of preparation.
Now it is our turn to pay it forward! Our family gives regularly to the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Foundation, because we know the difference God has worked in our lives through this incredible fellowship of support. Please join us in continuing this important ministry that touches every church and every community in the Alabama- West Florida Conference.