How to build a parsonage

I’ve always loved the idea of a “barn raising”.  The whole community gets together and does their part in helping a family build their barn.  Some people heave parts of the building into place.  Other people are cheering on from the sides.  I imagine still others are making sure there is enough food on hand for everyone, and that someone is watching all the kids.

I’ve always loved that idea because I love how it’s such a powerful view of what genuine community looks like.  We’re not exactly raising a barn, but something like that…

Before I ever arrived at Murphy First United Methodist Church, the wheels were well into motion for building a new parsonage.  In the United Methodist world, lots of churches have parsonages where their pastor’s family lives.  Maintaining a parsonage is part of the bigger picture of “itinerancy” (our denomination’s practice of moving pastors around from time to time in order to match the right pastor with the right church for the sake of ministry).

To make this happen, Murphy FUMC formed a Parsonage Committee that studied requirements by our denomination’s Book of Discipline, found a lot and selected a house plan, made arrangements with builders and banks, planned details of the house, and consulted with the District and Annual Conference offices.  They’ve been to countless meetings and signed lots of forms. In short, they’ve done a ton of work, and still are!

It takes all that work and more to build a parsonage.  At the end of the day, the church is building not just a house, but a home, and one that will be lived in by pastor’s families for decades.  There’ll be birthdays and holidays.  Kids will grow up there, and married couples will grow older there.  Special meals and everyday meals shared around the table.  A place for gathering and fellowship, and growing in God’s grace.  What a gift!

This past Sunday (1/6/19), we invited the congregation to visit the under-construction parsonage to write blessings and Bible verses on the still-exposed frame.  The reason for doing this is summed up by one of the Bible verses that was written on the wall: “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).  This parsonage is built with blocks and lumber, shingles, wiring, and plumbing.  But more than that it’s been built by God.

Through this process, I have been seeing how God builds homes through a community of generosity and love.

Isn’t that the hope for every home?  For your home?  That the structure of your family is framed in generosity, where there’s always enough room and time, and even when there isn’t, you make it so by sacrificing some of your own.  That your home is a place where other people can peer in and say, “Oh, that’s what God’s love looks like–it’s patient and kind, it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, it’s full of joy.”

And it takes a community.  People freely sharing their lives with one another.  Helping each other.  Sacrificing for one another.  Sharing each other’s joys and burdens.  Playing and laughing together.  And a community that embodies Jesus’ teaching that we love one another.

I’m deeply grateful for the way that this parsonage is being built by the whole church.  And our family is grateful and blessed to be the first one to live in this special home.  I wonder how we can get help from God and build all of our homes in the same way–as a community of generosity and love?

I want to share with you the pictures of the blessings and verses that were written on the walls.  Soon they’ll be covered up by insulation and drywall.  But these kinds of blessings don’t usually stay covered up; they’ll come to life, through the grace of God, for everyone who walks through these doors.  Because God is the builder.

If the writing is too small to read, you can click on one photo and then scroll through the pictures like a slide show.



Windows in the World

Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, a day I’ll bet was hardly noticed by most of the world.  Google didn’t make an animated graphic on their homepage, and it lacked the meme-potential and social media appeal of something like National Dog Day.  But for the churches that took notice, I hope it was a powerful experience of celebrating the communion shared by God’s people throughout the world.

In my sermon, I talked some about John 3:16-17 and God’s love for the world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I tried to think about how these verses are a window into the heart of God.  When we peer into God’s heart we find 1) that the starting place for God is love, 2) God’s love is for the whole world, and 3) God’s mission is to save the world through Jesus.  None of this is all that surprising when we remember God made the whole world along with everyone and everything in it.  Of course God loves the world!

As much as we often think about John 3:16 as a verse about me and my decision to believe in Jesus–and that’s there, for sure–it’s more-so about God and God’s love for the world.  See I’ve come to believe that whenever we peer into the heart of God, we find another window into the world God loves so much.

I was thinking a lot about windows this past week and weekend.  I’ve learned about a Jewish tradition that says a place of worship should have 12 windows, with at least one of them facing toward Jerusalem.  The tradition favors clear glass over stained, advising that the purpose of the windows is to keep the congregation outwardly focused.  The tradition of windows comes from Daniel praying in his upper chamber, looking out an open window that was facing toward Jerusalem–that is, in the direction of his heart’s longing.

I was thinking about that, along with all the lovely stained glass windows in our sanctuary and the beautiful photographs of the church building.  I shared that with all those windows and photos, this is by far my favorite:

Murphy FUMC 1954

It is my favorite view because it looks out from the church steps into the world and reminds us of the direction of God’s longing and love.

We live in a world full of windows.

A few years back, Lea and I traveled to Chennai, India to visit a group of orphans and vulnerable children our church supported through ZOE.  Lea has powerfully told the story of our trip and what God is doing in India through photography.  One of the of the most inspiring photos she took, and which hangs in my office is this one:


I remember her taking it as we were leaving one of the group meetings.  This group was meeting in a church, and I can’t help but notice how the window reminds me of a stained glass window, sans the glass panes.  The frame is there, but the rest is open.  The window is filled by these boys.

I am particularly captured by the boy on the left.  I do not remember his name or his story.  I could fill in some details with general information I know about other kids in India who are in ZOE: he is orphaned or maybe has one living parent; no longer attends school because it’s all he can do to keep himself fed; without help he has little to no hope of escaping desperate poverty; he is vulnerable to illness, exploitation, and child slavery.  I wonder about all these things.  I wonder his name and what he is doing now.

It is interesting for me being on the outside.  Usually I’m on the inside of a church looking out of the window.  Now the roles are reversed.  He is on the inside, experiencing profound life-change, and belonging to a family of steadfast love and devotion.  I am on the outside, watching it all unfold.

His eyes and expression seem to be an invitation in, to come and see what God is doing through him.  As if he’s saying, “Watch me” or “Remember me” or “See what God will do.”  On World Communion Sunday, I remember and celebrate all that God is doing through ZOE, how children are discovering a future of hope and abundant life.  It makes me hopeful for these boys.

Stained glass windows are for the purpose of helping tell the story of our faith.  This window, this boy, helps tell the story of our faith.  It is a story about a God who loved the world so much that God didn’t just pine away at the window sill, rather, in Jesus, God climbed out of the window and into the world in order to love the world and bring us all home.  

When we were in India, we met the program directors, Jabez and his wife Ligi.  They are people who’ve learned to follow Jesus’ lead of climbing out of the window and into the world in order to love these kids.  Every Sunday morning, hear a benediction, sing a response, turn and then walk through the doorframe (or is it a window frame?) out into the world.

We live in a world full of windows that are colored by the lives of the people and the world God loves so very much.  World Communion Sunday was about more than people all over the world receiving a piece of bread and dipping it in a cup of grape juice or wine on the same day.  Our communion is about belonging to one another.  It was a celebration of kinship and connectedness.  It was a chance to peer into and through the heart of God, to give thanks for God’s love and God’s mission to bring us all home.


Wow! Thank You!

Ann Lamott wrote a book about how our three most essential prayers are Help, Thanks, and Wow.  After being at Murphy FUMC for almost two months now, I kind of think she’s right.

I have had a tremendous amount of fun with our series of Home Gatherings, and I am so grateful for the folks who have been willing to host them.  All said and done, we had 8 Gatherings with 103 people participating.  Wow–that’s wonderful!  Thank you to everyone who hosted and participated!

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The Home Gatherings were simple.  They were a time for me to get to know as many people as possible, and to listen for what God’s been doing in their lives and the life of FUMC.  I always asked the same questions:

  • What is your name?  What brought you to First Murphy?  and What keeps you coming back?
  • Tell a story about when you saw First Murphy at its best.  What was going on?  Who was there?  What was it like?
  • What are you proudest of right now at First Murphy?
  • How has God made a difference in your life through the church?
  • How has God made a difference in the community through the church?
  • What are we already really good at, that God might want us to do even better?

The Gatherings weren’t strategic planning sessions where we devised a 5-point vision for First Murphy for the next three years.  Instead, it was a time for storytelling.  I love a good story.  And everyone has one!  You are living one now.

I was blessed to hear so many stories about what God has done and is doing in your lives and in this congregation.  I have tried to retell some of them in my sermons on Sunday mornings.  There was the story about how a high school student lost everything in a house fire, and by the time one a teacher (who is also a member) called the church, one of our UMW circles was already busy buying clothes and supplies for the student.  Then there was the story about how another student had to complete a descriptive writing assignment on the subject of “Home”, and she brought a photograph of First Murphy.  I loved how one person said that when she was sick, her beside was surrounded by cards from the church, and it was like getting a big hug.

Of course, you told lots of funny stories too!  Stories about sitting in the same pew, about fun times in MYF or Alpha, about the hilarity and hazards of decorating for Christmas.  You know, the sorts of stories a family tells when they’re all gathered around in the living room.

Family.  Home.  That’s how every group described First Murphy–from folks who’ve been here 50 years to those who’ve just recently moved to town.  That’s how the New Testament writers described church too.  They said we are all God’s children, not by birthright or because of our own effort, but because we’ve been adopted by his grace, and made into brothers and sisters with one another.  That’s a beautiful kind of family.

In our Home Gatherings, after celebrating what God has done and is doing, we started to dream about what God will do in you and in this congregation.  This is an exciting time to be at First Murphy!  I know I’m still new, but I’ve learned more than enough to see what a special community this is–rich in gifts, experience, heart, and love.  This church has been blessed by years of wise and faithful pastoral and lay leadership, and I am beyond grateful for their ministry!

It was a gift for me to get to hear your stories, and I want you to hear the some of the stories that you may have missed or haven’t heard before.  So for the next few weeks, I’ll try to echo back to you the wonderful things I’ve heard from this church.  And I’ll invite you to join me in paying attention to and celebrate what God has done and is doing in First Murphy, and to dream about what God will do as together we try to keep up with the Spirit.


Therefore Go

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Two weeks ago in a sermon, I asked everyone where they thought Jesus might tend to hang out in Murphy, NC.  We livestream our services and they are broadcast on the radio, so I was a bit nervous that no one would answer back.  We are United Methodists, after all.  Typically we don’t talk in worship unless it’s during the passing of the peace or the words in the bulletin are in bold.  But the list the congregation gave me is long.

People said Jesus might tend to hang out at:

  • the jail
  • Wal-Mart
  • schools
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Chevelle’s and The Daily Grind
  • the park and out in nature
  • Industrial Opportunities Inc.
  • the homeless shelter

And the list went on.

I asked the question because the great commission is for Jesus’ disciples to go.  Of course, it’s important that we invite people to come to worship with us on Sunday.  But the great commission is for us to go.

I shared this line from A River Runs Through It where Paul, one of the main characters, says, “Nobody’s put in a good days fishing unless he’s left a few flies hanging in the trees. You can’t catch fish if you don’t dare go where they are.”  Or another way to think of that: you can’t share the good news of Jesus with people if you don’t dare go where people are.

We often ask the question, “What does God want us to do?”  I think a better question is, “Where does God want us to be?”  And even better than that, “Who does God want us to be with?”

I have a list of places in Murphy where people are, and where Jesus has gone on before us.  Jesus is up to something here, and I want us–First United Methodist Church–to be part of it.  So I/we have this list of places.

When do you want to go?  If you’re already hanging out in these places, I’d love to come with you.


Coming up Sunday

Hi, First Murphy!

One of the things I love about preaching is that is forces me to pray over, live in, and wrestle with a passage of scripture for a while before standing up on Sunday morning and talking about what God might have to say to us through that passage.  This Sunday I’m preaching from Matthew 28:16-20.  I hope you might spend some time with that story before worship this Sunday, and we can wonder together about what God might have to say to us.


During worship and in the bulletin, we’ll talk about some upcoming opportunities for you to sign up for a Home Gathering, where I can get to know you, hear some of your story, and talk about where you see God leading us to do even more for God’s kingdom.  Whether you’ve been here 2 weeks or 20 years, I hope you’ll sign up for one of these Gatherings.

If you can’t be here in person, and want to watch online, you can do so on our church Youtube channel.

See you Sunday!


Pastor Wil

See You In Worship

Hi, First Murphy!

I haven’t had a new post here in a few weeks, but wanted to share this quick message with you before worship tomorrow morning:

If you are unable to be with us in worship in person, I hope you’ll join us for worship via our live stream by clicking here.

Also, I hear there’s lunch after worship!

See you tomorrow.

Pastor Wil

Bullet-Point Blog Post

At the moment we are up to our eye-balls in moving boxes, so I’ll skip the narration and fluff and get right to the point with a handful of bullet-points about the next week or so:

  • We are currently in the throws of packing…lots of boxes, bubble wrap, and paper!
  • We’re moving in to Murphy on Saturday 6/30.  If you want to help unload, we’d love the help!  We’ll get in around 1…we think.
  • The week of July 1, we’ll be settling into the house, and I’ll be settling into the office.
  • July 9 is my first official day in the office.
  • July 15 is my first day preaching and in worship.
  • Did I mention we are swimming in a sea of boxes?
  • We are excited to meet you and get rolling in life and ministry in Murphy!
  • This is a full and busy time–you are in my prayers, and we ask for yours as well.

Ok, that’s the end of the bullet-point blog post.  We look forward to meeting you, and can’t wait to jump in at Murphy FUMC.

See you Saturday!


Our Story

In a previous post I took some time to tell you some of my story–where I’ve come from, growing up in the faith, and how God got me into ministry.  In the FAQ post I tried to answer and anticipate some questions you might have about me, my ministry style, and a little about my family.  So you’ve gotten a sense for some of my story.  Now I want to tell you a little more of our story, so you can get to know Lea (my wife) and Nathanael (our son).


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Lea and I started dating on my sixteenth birthday.  I waited until then to ask her out so I could drive and we could actually go out.  I was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Suwannee High School.  (When I’m telling this story to people, some groan and others say “awe”, depending on how much you like sappy love stories.)  We only ever dated each other.  All the way through high school and during college, even though we didn’t go to the same colleges.

After high school, I went to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL where I earned a B.A. in English.  After Lea graduated, she went on to play softball at community college and then landed at Florida Gateway College where she completed the Physical Therapy Assistant program. She has been a practicing P.T.A. for 8 years.

We became engaged at the end of my junior year and her second year in college, and got married 1 1/2 years later on December 19, 2009.

IMG_1704Lea and I both are passionate supporters of ZOE Ministry, a mission that grew out of the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.  ZOE is a 3-year empowerment program that helps some of the most vulnerable children in the world move from desperate poverty to a self-sustainability and dignity.  We traveled to India a few years ago to visit the group of vulnerable children FUMC Hickory was sponsoring at the time.  Lea is a good photographer, and some of her photos are on ZOE’s website and other materials.




Our first babies had fur and four legs.  We have two good, sweet dogs: Zoe and Tilly.  We rescued Zoe during seminary.  She’s a labrador-mix.  A few years later we added Tilly, a golden-labrador mix.  They love going for walks and playing around in the yard.




The biggest and best change in our lives has been the birth of our son, Nathanael James Posey.  He was born on April 6, 2017.  He and Lea share the same birthday, so when we were celebrating Nathanael’s first birthday, we also celebrated Lea’s 30th.  It was a big day in the Posey household!

At 14 months old, he is walking all over the place, loves to laugh, will eat just about anything, and is tirelessly exploring the world around him.  Needless to say, he keeps us on our toes, and we love it!  As I type this, our family is at Lake Junaluska for a few days of rest prior to the beginning of Annual Conference.  To my right is Nathanael’s toy dump truck, in front of me are his bubble wands, not far away is a little ball, and all around me are pieces of porch furniture arranged to keep him from falling down any stairs.  That’s kind of our life.  Parenthood is such an adventure.  Lea and I have learned and grown so much–I guess you have to!

What about the rest of our family?  My parents live in Tallahassee, Florida, and Lea’s in Dowling Park, Florida.  They love being in North Carolina and are best friends with one another, so you’ll be seeing them from time to time. Having their only grandchild up here is also a pretty strong draw.


In the back are Wil’s parents, Stan and Gail.  To the right are Lea’s parents, Jim and Jan.

Lea and I each have one older brother.  They both were in the same graduating class from our high school.  My brother, James, is a Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S.M.C.  He and his wife, Jessica, are stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC.  Lea’s brother, Curran, and his wife, Krysta, are both in the Army Band and are stationed in Hawaii.  He anticipates beginning Officer Candidate School very soon.


Our story is also full of church mission trips, camping, playing games, going to movies (well, not so much these days), hobbies and interests, and family stories.   There’s always more to tell, but this is a start.  Everybody has a story.  I believe they are all unique and beautiful–even in their complexity and sometimes messiness.  We look forward to getting to know you and your story, and finding ways to share life together.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long have you been a Pastor?  I have been a pastor for 5 years, all of which I have served as the Associate Pastor at Hickory FUMC.  I was ordained as an elder at the 2016 Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska.  I am excited to begin my 6th year serving as pastor at Murphy FUMC!

During seminary, I served as an intern in three different settings: Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, Gethsemane UMC north of Greensboro, and as a Hospital Chaplain Intern at Duke University Hospital.  Prior to that I worked for one year as the Coordinator of Children and Youth Ministries at my home church, FUMC of Live Oak, FL.  I’m thankful to have had experiences in churches of all different settings and sizes, with a variety of ministries and worship styles.  Each experience has been a gift that has helped me grow in ministry.

Where are you from?  I grew up in Live Oak, Florida, a small town just 15 minutes south of the Georgia border.  A good bit of the activity and economy in Live Oak revolved around agriculture, and, of course, there were all the offices and opportunities it takes to make a county and town run.  My wife, Lea, grew up in the same area, and we started dating when we were in high school.  In high school, I played soccer and was in the marching band for a few years.  After college, we moved to Durham, NC so I could attend seminary at Duke.  Once you come to North Carolina, it’s hard to imagine leaving.  We fell in love with Western NC, and believe the Western NC Conference of The UMC is full of strong ministries and visionary leadership.  While in seminary, I changed from the Florida to the Western NC Conference, and since then NC has been home.

Are you married?  Do you have children?  I am!  And we do!  Lea and I have been married 8 years, and will celebrate our 9th anniversary on December 19.  We have one son, Nathanael, who just had his first birthday this past April 6, which also happens to be Lea’s birthday!  That’s right, Lea and Nathanael have the same birthday.  Makes it easy for me to remember, right?

How old are you?  Old enough to rent a car, but not old enough to run for President 🙂  I  am 31 years old,  and turning 32 on March 6.

What is your favorite Bible verse or story?  Ruth.  All of it.  I love the book of Ruth because it is a story about people going to work, making a living and carving out a life.  It’s about family and friendship.  Ruth tells a story of loss and grief, as well as surprise and new life.  It’s about fidelity and redemption.  And God is in the midst of it all.  Here are my favorite lines:


But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
    and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”

Ruth 1:16-17, NRSV

My other favorite places to turn in the Bible are Genesis, the Psalms, and the Gospel According to John.

Do you think there is room for humor in worship and ministry?  Goodness yes!  I don’t think we can get too far in faith or life without humor.  The Bible is full of moments of irony and comedy, and there are places where I think writers expect we’ll laugh out loud.  The Bible touches on every aspect of human emotion and experience.  I believe God wants us to bring our whole, authentic selves to worship, not holding back any part of who we are–including our great joys and our sadnesses, and everything in between.

What kind of preacher are you?  I love studying Scripture and being surprised by God, and I hope to share that journey when I preach.  I like to tell stories, and I always try to say something true about God, and something that builds up the church.  I think a sermon is part of the bigger conversation taking place in worship and throughout the week.  The length of a sermon depends on what else is going on (it’s part of the larger conversation)–sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes closer to 18-20, but longer than that and I start to have a hard time holding my own attention.

I don’t have many recordings of sermons that you can watch or listen to, but here is a link to a sermon I delivered as the guest preacher at Plains UMC in Canton, NC the Sunday before  Palm Sunday this past year:

I think this gives you a pretty good idea of who I am as a preacher.

What are your passions in ministry?  I think ministry is simple: love God, love our neighbors as ourselves, and go and make disciples.  It all comes down to the greatest commandments and the great commission.  And everything in ministry is about relationships–with one another, with God, and with our community.  It’s simple, but anyone who has been following Jesus for more than a day knows that “simple” isn’t the same as easy.  We wholly depend on the strength and guidance of the Spirit.

I really enjoy preaching and teaching, dwelling in Scripture, and seeing where God’s story comes to life in our own stories.  My two great passions in ministry are around schools and prisons/jails.  Being involved in both are essential to me.  I also get excited when it comes to looking at how we can be the church outside of the church building, how we can go to and be the church in the community we already call home.

I have loved getting to hear about the things God is doing at Murphy FUMC, and I can’t wait to join with you in ministry.

What are your hobbies?  So much of mine and Lea’s life right now revolves around things we can do with Nathanael, which includes playing at parks and playgrounds.  We also enjoy being outdoors, camping and hiking.  We can’t wait to explore in and around Murphy.  It also feels like now is the time to get a pair of kayaks so we can get on the river, and it’s time I dust off my fly-fishing rod.  Of course, I wouldn’t turn down any help learning how to use it.  I also enjoy reading, writing, and playing at woodworking.  I look forward to poking around at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  Lately I’ve been rediscovering the joys of baseball–mostly going to games, and being in the atmosphere.

Where did you go to school?  I graduated from Florida Southern College with a bachelors degree in English.  FSC is a small, United Methodist liberal arts college in Lakeland, FL.  From there, I went to seminary at Duke Divinity School where I graduated with a Masters of Divinity.  Once basketball season rolls around, now you know where our loyalties lie 🙂  Part of what I love about being United Methodist is how we talk about loving God with our heart and head.  I’m a life-long learner, and I look forward to growing with you at Murphy FUMC.

When are you moving here?  We will move in on Saturday, June 30.  If you are around that day and want to help unload the truck, we would sure appreciate it.  That next week we will be settling in at home and the church.  The Conference builds in transition time for moving pastors, so my first “official” day in the office will be July 9 and my first Sunday preaching in worship will be July 15.

What are your priorities when you arrive?  I learned an important mantra from a prison ministry I’ve been part of: “Listen, Listen, Love, Love”.  My first priorities are to listen and love–to hear what God is up to at FUMC and in Murphy, and to join with you in loving God, one another, and our neighbor.  From there, if we’re hanging out together with God, kingdom-building will happen.

What else?  I’m sure you have other questions that I haven’t touched on.  If you do, please comment below, and I’ll answer there, or send me an email at  You can also find me on social media: on Facebook, I’m “Wil Posey”, and on Instagram and Twitter I’m @wilposey.

What about you?  One of the first things I’ll be doing when we arrive in Murphy is listening and getting to know you.  I’m really looking forward to that!

My Story

Setting up chairs in the Fellowship Hall for our Sunday evening worship service and taking out the trash after a potluck dinner were as much a part of my growing up as going to school.  In my family, we were regularly the first ones there at First United Methodist Church in Live Oak, FL, and the last ones to leave.

I kid my Dad about it being his fault that I’m afraid of the dark because he’d usually send my older brother, James, and me to make sure all the lights were out before we left for home.  Walking through the darkened sanctuary and down creeky hallways was a bit on the scary side for me as a kid.

cabin boys

Us boys.  On Sundays our families went to worship, lunch, then played a little ball.

My fear of the dark aside, I grew up in the church, and I loved it.  FUMC in Live Oak was family for me in the way you hope church should be.  Most of my biological family lived in Alabama, so my family became the people I worshipped with, ate and played with, and also happened to go to school with.  My family and three others in the church became each others’ family.  I like to say I grew up with 4 sets of Moms and Dads, and I still think of all of them that way.

Growing up in the church, I learned to have a servant’s heart by watching and imitating my Dad, who answered the call to licensed ministry in The UMC while I was in high school.  From my Mom, I learned–and am still learning–about prayer and compassion for others.  Mr. Bero, a World War II veteran, adopted me as his grandson and taught me the saving grace of a good joke and how powerful it is when an adult invests their life in a child’s.

When I was twelve I went on my first week-long mission trip with my paternal grandparent’s church, First United Methodist Church, from Haleyville, Alabama.  We went to Ojo Amarillo, NM on the Navajo Reservation.  After that first trip, I went back nine more times.  On the reservation, I encountered a Christian faith that was young, sincere, and costly.  When they prayed, they expected something was going to happen.  And when they said yes to Jesus, that meant saying no to their traditional religion.


The Christianity I met on the Reservation stood in contrast with what I knew from Live Oak, where being a Christian was the same thing as being a resident of the county.  You just were one.

But I left the Reservation hungry and more committed to my faith.  I was reading the Bible more, and looking for opportunities to apply what I was reading.  By the time I made it to high school, I’d moved from “reading” to “studying” and even earnestly “searching the Scriptures.”

Youth group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and mission trips gave me opportunities to practice leadership in the church and work out what I was beginning to sense as a calling into ministry.  The story that shaped my sense of calling was when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and when Peter said yes, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”  I’ve always taken that to mean feed God’s people with the bread of life (God’s Word) and also to be devoted to serving my neighbors.

At some point I guess most of us come to a place where we have a pretty good idea of where God is leading us in our lives, yet we still find a way to try to wriggle out of it.  When I was in college I tried to negotiate with God and come up with some other ways to serve the kingdom that I imagined might be more practical or useful, something like a doctor or an engineer or a teacher.  Before I boarded a ship for Tarshish, some wise mentors and friends helped me remember my first love and find peace and excitement about a calling into ministry.

Wil and Lea in Cameron Indoor

Me and Lea in Cameron Indoor Stadium, because basketball is part of the curriculum at Duke.

After college, and a year of working in my home church in Children’s and Youth Ministries, I was off to seminary at Duke Divinity School.  In seminary I learned an even deeper love for God through the gifts of prayer and scripture.  And the Spirit taught me that I cannot be in ministry without being involved in schools and prisons/jails.  I learned in my United Methodist polity class that my new found loves and convictions were as Methodist as potlucks and committee meetings.  In seminary I knew for sure that The UMC is my home.

I grew up in the church, and there isn’t one moment that I can point to and say, “There, that’s the moment I became a Christian.”  It’s more like I’ve been becoming a Christian my whole life.  My life has been full of surprising moments when Jesus showed up and led me in a new way or the right way, when he called me deeper or stretched me further.  All the time, I feel like God’s working extra hard on cultivating in me one or another of those fruit of the Spirit.


Easter 2018

Since becoming a parent, I find I’m meeting and relating to God in entirely new ways.  So many of my prayers begin and end with “Thank you”, and sometimes that’s the middle part too.  I’m seeing, for what feels like the first time, how all of life is a gift.  Lea and I are experiencing in profound ways what it means when the Bible describes God as our parent who loves us, is patient with us, and always wants what’s best for us.  Rocking Nathanael in my arms ,I realize what a sacred thing it is to entrust our children and our own lives into God’s good hands, and to know that God has proven time and again that He is trust-worthy.

In The United Methodist Church we talk about having the assurance of God’s Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  That assurance isn’t the finish line; it’s the starting line.  See, we also talk about growing in holiness, to the point of being filled with nothing but the love of God alone.  I’ve been becoming a Christian for a long time.  I kind of expect that will still be true at Murphy FUMC.  We’ll seek the kingdom of God together.  We’ll pray and serve together.  I’ll learn from you.  We’ll learn from Jesus.  And together we’ll see God surprise us with grace and do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine.



*My next post will be a Frequently Asked Questions kind of post.  If you have questions you’d like for me to take a crack at, you can leave them here as a comment or send them to me by email (