Wal-Mart job helps prepare new elder


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Mary Hutson spoke with tongue in cheek – mostly – when she said, “The skills I learned being a department manager at Wal-Mart helped more than seminary in pastoring a church.”

Hutson said the management and people skills she learned working for the world’s largest retail have been a big asset in serving churches and making her way from local pastor to ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.

Hutson was among nine people ordained as elders in full connection June 14 in the closing session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. Also, 11 candidates were commissioned, one ordained a deacon, one received recognition of orders and 18 were licensed for pastoral ministry.

The Service of Ordering of Ministry celebrates all called to ministry, both clergy and laity.

“Talk about dealing with conflict resolution, Wal-Mart will do it,” Hutson said with a laugh. “It’s right in line with being a pastor in the United Methodist Church.”

Hutson’s journey to elder has been a long one. It began in 1998 when she became a local pastor. She served the three-church Walnut Charge in Tippah County, but said she felt called to do more.

“As I prayed through and worked through, I felt the call to ordained ministry,” she said. “At 42 years old, I felt that call. I really believe I am called to be set apart and that’s what ordination means.”

Hutson faced some obstacles, starting with not having a college degree. She started attending Blue Mountain College part-time in 2003 and earned her degree in 2006. She enrolled at Memphis Theological Seminary.

“Eleven years ago if someone had told me what each step was like, I would have said I’m too old and too tired for that,” Hutson said. “At times I thought it was way too much dealing with three churches and the process. A lot times doing all this was overwhelming. You just have to take it one day and one step at a time.”

The Rev. Lisa Garvin, director of Ministerial Services, praised Hutson’s determination.

“While the ordination ‘process’ can be long and tedious, Mary’s faithfulness in responding to God’s call is inspiring to many who would respond to God’s call with excuses,” Garvin said. “God’s call is persistent – even, especially, when we wish it would go away. God’s call has no regards for obstacles of gender, age or any other category which marks any one of us. Mary Hutson is a loved pastor and a gift to the Mississippi United Methodist Church.  Her witness is an inspiration to all who seek to respond faithfully to God’s call.”

Hutson served the Walnut Charge for 10 years before being appointed to Ruleville and Glendora United Methodist churches last June.

Along the way, Hutson said she received great support from her church members and others. She cited the Rev. Rod Borders, who was her pastor at Tupelo Wesley UMC when she entered the ministry; the Rev. Bert Felder, who was the New Albany District superintendent; Dr. Douglas Bain of Blue Mountain College; the Rev. Higdon Harrington, a Baptist pastor in Ruleville, and Martha Lee Wilson, a member of Campground UMC.

Hutson offered some advice for those considering the ordained ministry. “Don’t limit yourself by what you think you can and can’t do,” she said. “Don’t try to second guess everything. Do all those things that are supposed to be done. There is a reason for them somewhere. You will get through it. God will help you do what you can’t do yourself.”

Garvin said closing with the Ordering of Ministry could provide a chance to respond to the call similar to Hutson.

“We believe that God is calling others among us to ordained ministry in Christ’s church,” she said. “Throughout Annual Conference, those who are sensing a call to ministry – be it lay ministry or ordained ministry – had opportunities to respond. The Bishop’s Task Force on Calling was available to pray with those who respond at the close of the Service for the Ordering of Ministry and to connect them to other tools and resources for discernment.”