Man of FaithBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
Reverend Stockett foregoes agriculture to become Methodist minister
The REVEREND Cary Stockett, the new senior minister for Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, is a humble minister from humble beginnings. He found his way to the pulpit after struggling with his vocation.
The native Northsider originally wanted to raise cattle on his family farm in Crystal Springs. “I’m a native of Jackson. I lived here until I was eight, and then we moved to our family farm out in Crystal Springs in 1970, and that’s really where I grew up.”
Reverend Stockett was graduated in 1980 from Copiah Academy. During his senior year, he questioned his original ambition of studying agriculture at Mississippi State University (MSU) and returning to his family farm to raise cattle. “I began to lose interest in that, so I really started thinking and wrestling and praying. What was I supposed to be doing?”
One of Reverend Stockett’s high school teachers, however, discussed the importance of speaking to God in order to discover one’s vocation. “I think that God works in our lives in the very day-to-day, seemingly mundane ways, and we don’t realize that. We only see the high points that break the surface of the water… I had a teacher in high school who used to talk to us about how important it was to talk to God about what you wanted to do with your life, who you wanted to spend your life with, and that God really did have an interest in that.”
He knew he wasn’t ready to get married but continued to pray about the issue. The idea of becoming a pastor came suddenly, unexpectedly, and most of all unwanted.
“So, I began to pray about that and it actually came to me rather suddenly one afternoon. I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, surely that wasn’t you. Mail delivered to the wrong person’… The thought of being a preacher probably bore the most horror for me. I just did not want to be a preacher.”
After accepting he would be a preacher, Reverend Stockett attended Hinds Community College for one year before transferring to Mississippi College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in religion in 1984.
He then advanced to Asbury Theological Seminary, where he was graduated in 1987 with a Masters of Divinity.
The summer before his senior year at Asbury, Reverend Stockett met his wife, Mechelle, at Galloway.
“Ironically, I met her right here at Galloway. At the time, the Mississippi Methodist Conference was held at Galloway, and I met here on the southeast balcony, and I married her a year later.” That was 30 years ago in August.
Stockett had just earned his master’s and began his first appointment as an associate at Main Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg.
He spent four years at Main Street before he was reappointed to Spring Ridge United Methodist Church in Terry for seven years.
“From there I went to Carthage, and I served seven years there. Then I was the senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church here in Jackson for four years. Upon leaving there, I went to Vicksburg for eight years at Crawford Street United Methodist Church. Then I came here at the end of June.”
In the Methodist church tradition, ministers are reappointed annually by the bishop, either to the same church or to a different one.
“The healthy thing about that is that no Methodist church is ever without a pastor. When I left Vicksburg, somebody else was leaving his (church to go there). We all move in the summertime.”
Often, appointments to different churches are the result of the minister requesting a new challenge. However, the transfer to Galloway surprised Reverend Stockett.
“Normally every time that I have moved, it has been because of a realization within myself that I need a new set of challenges… This time, however, it was not that way at all. I had been in Vicksburg for eight years, loved it, was very happy there and was planning on continuing.”
Reverend Stockett was then asked by his district superintendent to consider moving to Galloway.
“At that point I felt like my vows as a Christian minister mandated that I at least respectfully listen and have that conversation with them, so I did. And they said, ‘Would just think about this and pray about it?’ And so I did, went home, told my wife, and we prayed about it. I think to our surprise, we felt at peace about it… It wasn’t what I had planned. But lots of things in my life haven’t been what I planned, and it has worked out very well, so I’m pleased to be here.”
Reverend Stockett’s most difficult challenge as a minister is the stereotype.
“I really chafe at the stereotypes that people have of what a minister… and that all they ever did was go visit people and read the Bible and things like that. I like being a minister. It’s been a good life, a very fulfilling life. But it is a life.”
Reverend Stockett says he’s still as much in love with his wife as the day he married her. He loves listening to and making music, reading, hunting, fishing, and not hearing the phone ring.
“I have a life. It’s a good one. It’s not a life that is bound or closed in by some ministerial system. It’s a life that is enriched by that, that is also a calling. But when God called me to be a minister, he didn’t take away my humanity…”
Most of all, Reverend Stockett loves seeing members of his congregation have epiphany moments.
“I think that’s part of my gift set. I love to teach. In some ways, I love to teach as much as I love to preach. When I see people get it, and they begin to understand how this impacts their own lives and how it enriches their lives, that is incredibly rewarding.”
To help people reach these moments, Reverend Stockett always looks to the power of story when preaching.
“I read a lot. I love history and biography. I also love to read fiction. I like to watch movies. So the power of story just really cranks it up for me. If you read the four gospels, you see Jesus spending a great deal of his time with stories, and that was the way he embodied his message… So, I try to embody that in the best way that I can in my teaching and preaching… ”
Reverend Stockett and his wife Mechelle have two boys: Andrew (23) and Elliot (19). Andrew works at the Winchester plant in Oxford. Elliot will be a sophomore this August at Jones Junior college, where he is studying forestry.
“Neither of them have ever even remotely thought of being a pastor… It’s a good life but it needs to be a life that you’re called to.”