Written by Abigail Walker/photo by Sarah Kate Griffin
As a United Methodist pastor, Rev. Ricky James knows the challenges involved with a life of ministry. But through changes and uncertainty, his mission remains steadfast. “Don’t get in the way of what God is doing,” he says.
As of this June, James is the new Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Clinton, having previously served as Senior Pastor at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Fondren for the past 9 years.
Originally from Hattiesburg, Miss., James graduated with a B.A. in philosophy and religious studies from Millsaps College, where he met his wife Megan. He earned his Master of Divinity from Duke University in 2007 and his doctorate in biblical interpretation and proclamation from Emory University in 2017.
James grew up Methodist, attending Parkway Heights Church in Hattiesburg from a young age. He was the Associate Pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson for 3 years before being appointed to St. Luke’s.
When he first arrived at St. Luke’s, James says he noticed a need to bring more families and children into the church. He was able to lead the congregation through a time of renewal, literally tripling the membership. Now St. Luke’s has a thriving children’s ministry and boasts an acclaimed preschool program.
James says his attitude toward growing a congregation centers around “honoring the older, faithful members, while also making space for young families.” He stresses the necessity of both building upon what is good and incorporating fresh ideas. James believes it’s important for the different generations to interact with each other. “Find peers, look up to mentors, and look behind you at the next generation,” he says.
James also emphasizes the importance of being “a good community partner.” By making sure St. Luke’s had a presence at events in Fondren and by providing activities for children, he was able to help the church reach out into the surrounding community. “We just had to be willing and open to be a part of it,” says James. “Proximity to the people that you want to reach is important, and we should do whatever we can do to lower that barrier.”
He brings with him that same missional spirit to FUMC Clinton and looks forward to investing in a new community. “I am excited to build on the church’s honored history and dream about the next century of ministry for First Methodist Clinton,” says James.
“In addition to outstanding credentials, Ricky comes to First Methodist Clinton with an exceptional track record of spiritual and organizational leadership,” says Sharonda Medina, Associate Pastor at FUMC Clinton. “It’s an exciting new season for our church!”
No matter how he is serving, James’ attitude toward ministry is to focus on the big picture and not get too caught up in the details: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
“I want to be present and fully committed to our church and to focus on what God is calling me to do now,” says James. “I’m excited to see what God’s going to do through the people of the church.”
Ricky and his wife Megan have been married for 12 years. Megan is the Alumni Engagement Associate at University of Mississippi Medical Center. They have two children—Henry, 8, and Kathryn, 5. When he’s not in pastor-mode, James loves to read nonfiction, listen to podcasts, and travel with his family. He also enjoys running and is training for a marathon.