Retired Methodist pastor leaves the pulpit and takes a seat on a tractor
Reverend Hughey Reynolds was once a major city preacher in Birmingham, serving as the pastor of the Highlands United Methodist Church in Five Points South from 2000 to 2005.
He once traveled to the Balkans in the fall of 2005 with Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller, South Highland Presbyterian pastor Ed Hurley and other Christian pastors. They visited mass graves, met the clergy in Bosnia, and lived tense adventures.
“We let a Bosnian drive a bus in Serbia, with guards getting on the bus at midnight,” Reynolds said. “We survived it.”
Upon their return, they compiled “Ten Principles for Living in Community”.
Most of Reynolds’ five decades as a Methodist pastor have been spent in rural and mid-sized towns in Alabama.
After this week, instead of walking behind chairs, he’ll be sitting high on a John Deere tractor on his farm in Clay County.
And it’s like home.
Reynolds grew up in Wedowee and Lineville. He returns to this region and retires to a house by the lake.
His ministerial career began in this rural region.
Learn on the job
In 1973 he was appointed to the United Methodist churches Bethlehem and Marvin’s Chapel.
“I was in my final year in high school,” he says. “I was learning on the job.
He preached the Liberty Hill Circuit (Liberty Hill, Shady Grove, Liberty Churches) in 1974-1975.
In 1976 he moved to the Union United Methodist, now the Chelsea Park Church, completed his studies at Birmingham-Southern College and a Masters degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
In 1981 he returned to Wedowee, serving where his father had been a preacher.
“I was appointed pastor of the first United Methodist Church in Wedowee for four years, then from Fairfax to Valley on the Chattahoochee,” he said.
It was once a textile town on the Chattahoochee River along the Georgia Line.
“They razed all these textile factories,” he said.
He moved to Edgemont United Methodist Church in Florence from 1989 to 1996.
In 1996 he moved to the First United Methodist Church in Sylacauga.
Then came his five years in Highlands in Birmingham.
Then he was assigned to the United Methodist Church in Latham, which was in uncharted territory, he recalls.
“Where’s Latham?” ” he said. “It wasn’t on my radar. It was in Huntsville.
But he stayed there longer than elsewhere. “This is my longest pastorate, from 2005 to 2015.”
Wherever he went, Reynolds always kept his agrarian attitude.
“Highlands was receptive to a community garden,” he said. “We started a farmers market in Latham in 2013.”
In 2015, he moved to the First United Methodist Church of Decatur, where he just completed six years as a pastor. Last year he had to preach virtually for months.
“We came back on August 16, socially distant,” he said. “In a sanctuary with 375 places, we had a maximum of 75 people. “
Church attendance gradually returned to normal as the congregation reached about two-thirds of the immunization.
These days, Reynolds has found his roots.
“I came home and got the farm back,” he said. “He’s ready to finish what I started. I have 20 head of cattle.
He plans to double the herd size once he is there full time to watch them. He will take care of a garden.
Then there are the tractors.
His father and brother, both now deceased, were tractor mechanics specializing in the maintenance of older tractors. Reynolds hopes to pick up where they left off. “I have four tractors to restore,” Reynolds said. “They taught me enough to make them work. I can do most things, like cleaning a carburetor. I’ll get someone else to paint them.
He owns a 1953 John Deere A. “Dad restored it from a dump when he was 88,” he says.
He’s got a 1956 John Deere 420. “I got it back,” he says. “He was sitting on the raining side of the road.”
His father helped him bring him back to life. “The first time he saw it he made it work,” he said.
It has a 1957 John Deere 420 30 horsepower and an Oliver 550 green diesel.
He also has a more modern tractor, a diesel Kubota.
Flowering where planted
The pastor of Methodist churches can sometimes be like servicing tractors. There are crises and stops.
Reflecting on his career as a Methodist circuit pastor, Reynolds remembers a lot of joy and pain in moving around so much.
“It has been difficult,” he said. “There is a toll this can have on your family. Sometimes I would ask myself, “Have I sacrificed my family on the church altar?” Sometimes I think I did. But there is the resurrection.
His wife, Sandra, has always handled the situation well, Reynolds said.
“My wife is celebrating this,” he said. “She liked being part of the nine or 10 communities that we were part of.”
Their two sons as children sometimes thought their lives were ruined by moves, but always made new friends at new schools.
“There were years when I didn’t want to move, and I was told I was moving,” he said. “There were other times when I thought, ‘I’ve been here long enough; maybe it’s time to go. This was not the case.
Reynolds thinks of a relevant Bible verse, Jeremiah 29: 7: “Seek the prosperity of the people among whom you dwell. “
Roughly translated, he said, it means “Flower where you are planted.” “
Ugly side of the church
In general, being a pastor can be difficult for the preacher’s children.
“My children saw the ugly side of the church,” he said. “I didn’t want them to see this. I was coming back from a finance or board meeting where I felt like we had no faith. They would see it, or people would criticize me and they would hear about it. They were gone a long time before they returned to church.
His final sermon at Decatur First United Methodist is scheduled for June 20 in the 10 a.m. service, with a farewell reception to follow.
He will preach on David and Goliath, telling the story as told in 1 Samuel 17, without much analysis.
“I just said it,” he said.
The Northern Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church has announced appointments and changes in clergy, most of which will come into effect on July 1.
The Alabama-West Florida conference also met this month and appointed members of the clergy.
One of the original seven Methodist congregations in Alabama, on the Alabama-Tennessee border, will no longer be affiliated with The United Methodist Church.