By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference
Photo right: Ray also carved the medallions for the altar table. The Alpha and Omega will go on the face of the altar columns. The Agnus Dei will be on the strut between the columns. Photo courtesy Rev. Andy Ray.
Photo bottom right: The altar table tier is removable. The columns are open in the back with two shelves for storage. The columns have casters for portability and each has a locking stop to keep stationery when in place. The top will lift off to allow moving. Photo courtesy Rev. Andy Ray.
The Ray family, deep-rooted in Mississippi United Methodism, shares more than 200 years of service as clergy. According to the Rev. Andy Ray, his father Wilson Ray, grandfather Guy Ray, and three great-uncles with the same last name are deceased Methodist pastors. His great-grandfather, Franklin Elmore Ray was a district lay leader before he passed away.
In 2016, Ray retired as a superintendent for the Mississippi Conference's Senatobia District. He served 45 years and led 65 local churches where he made a family connection at all but 12 churches.
"The good thing was I didn't have to apologize for my family at any of those churches," he humorously stated.
Ray also jokes about hoarding items such as Bibles and ordination papers that belonged to his ancestors.
"I don't want to have to start a Ray museum. I've got Bibles that date all the way back to 1832. It's quite a treasure. I don't want this stuff to get lost."
Speaking of lost, Ray also doesn't want his family's legacy to the church forgotten. His retirement was significant-marking the end of clergy with family's surname.
But thanks to a good friend and layman, Ray found a way to honor his family. He and Tom Wicker, a member of Tupelo First UMC, are building a portable altar table that will be a gift to the Mississippi Conference in honor of the Ray family.
"I may not be known for my intellect, preaching or counseling ability, but if there is one thing I'd like to be known for goes back to my grandfather, and that is I got lay people involved in the church wherever I have been. I think everybody has to use what gifts and skills they have to do whatever they can and this is one thing I can do for the church and my family," Andy Ray.
The maple wood table weighs roughly 450 pounds and breaks down into three parts. It will debut at the 2017 annual conference session in June in tribute to the Rays.