Jim King – Class of 1977
Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Valdese

Serving as pastor is a big responsibility; but pastoring a church in the area where one has grown up no doubt has its own set of challenges and rewards. Jim King knows firsthand what a special experience it is to serve the members of his home community.

“I have been a United Methodist Minister for twenty-five years, and I currently serve as the Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Valdese. Those who know me or knew me “back in the day” might find this odd or surprising. Trust me, there are times when no one is more surprised than me. The reality is that ministry is a calling. Then again, I believe every job I have had has been a calling involving my faith. So, first and foremost, being a pastor allows me to work within the calling and parameters of my Christian faith. The aspect of ministry I enjoy most is working with people, I enjoy he interaction and being able to be of help in their everyday lives. I also enjoy teaching, the process of sermon preparation, and the opportunity to blend worship each week. Along the way, we’ve seen churches grow, been afforded ministry and mission opportunities we would have never known outside the ministry. And friends…. We’ve made lifelong friends at every juncture of the way. In short, we’ve been blessed in every way. We have been very fortunate in that the churches we have served allowed for long tenures: eight years in Bostic, eleven years in Salisbury, and two in Gastonia before the opportunity to come back to Burke County.

“The two challenges that seem to be the hardest are conflict resolution and losing people you come to know and love. As far as conflict is concerned, experience has taught us that when people are willing, nearly everyone can learn to deal with conflict in a way that produces a positive outcome. However, this requires honest and open two-way communication. The latter challenge I mentioned is that one often sees and interacts with those you come to care about and are called to serve at some of the hardest moments of their lives. And yet, some of those moments, even the hardest, end up being some of the most rewarding. Without a doubt, the relationships one builds are the most rewarding part of the job. Seeing people grow and how they live life and serve others is a great part of the process.

“Growing up, I had a great role model in terms of work ethic in my father, great-uncle, and great-grandfather. They were always busy working and doing. They never hesitated to include and teach me how to do those jobs and tasks. So, it was only natural that I started doing odd jobs for family and friends when I was ten. By the time I was fourteen, I had been hounding my dad to take me to get a work permit. Might as well get paid, right? He did, and I quickly found myself at a small lamp factory called Chantry in Morganton, where I worked the next four summers. Another memorable job was learning construction and carpentry from Ray Pridgen, a member of Drexel First Baptist. Ray gave me a job I’ll never forget.

“I also worked in Law Enforcement for the Burke county Sherriff’s Department and the Valdese Police Department prior to entering the ministry. I would describe it as the most boring job and the most exciting job one could ever have. And the comradery…. Until one has worked in the fire or police professions and experienced the tight knit family these jobs tend to produce…. Well, there’s just no adequate way to explain it. It never leaves you.

“I studied Industrial Engineering and Criminal Justice at WPCC before transferring to Gardner-Webb and earning a degree in Human Services and Psychology. In preparation for the ministry, I attended Duke, Erskine, and Hood Theological Seminaries, earning a Master of Divinity. Duke was an experiment I really couldn’t afford; Erskine was a logistical no brainer; and Hood was a God thing to stretch my mind and theological boundaries. At the same time, I tell people I was on the pay as you go plan. Seriously, we had two young daughters and we couldn’t afford school debt. God truly does provide. Thanks to some folks much smarter than me, we structured salary and spending in such a way that It ended up working out nicely.

“In addition to my family, of which there are too many to include here, there were quite a few teachers, especially at East Burke who were great mentors to me. I found myself drawn more to History and English than Math and Science. Well, in all honesty, I found myself drawn to the social aspect of high school more than the academics. And because of my parents love for music, I found myself drawn towards music as well. The first history class I had was Twentieth Century Russia, taught by Everette Johnson. I still have people ask me why I know Russian History and why I know who Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, otherwise known as Lenin, was. That first class kind of whetted my appetite. Sam Wilkinson was also a favorite. And who could forget Ralph Abernethy? Shirley White, Sherron Prewitt, Phyllis Garrison, and Martha Wetmore all tolerated my less than stellar work ethic, but at the same time they helped instill a love of literature and reading -- something one sorely needs to earn a master’s degree.

“Lest I forget, the English department helped prepare me for a future of speaking to people. It began as a problem. Somehow along the way, I was needing or trying to get extra credit for my English class. I was told if I tried out for a part in an upcoming drama I could get that credit. The day of tryouts I had another project I had promised to work on, so I was the last person to arrive for the audition. Problem was, when I got there, there was only one part left; the lead. The play or drama was Moliere’s Tartuffe. I ended up getting the part because…. Well, no one else was available or wanted it. I ended up memorizing what seemed like thousands of lines. As crazy as my friends thought I was and as much as I carp about it now, the end result is that getting involved in drama and theatre ended up being a good thing. It gave me an appreciation for theatrical art, and it certainly cured my fear of public speaking. So…. After Tartuffe I went on to become a piano virtuoso named Schroeder in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and my favorite gig…. A member of the Barber Shop Quartet in The Music Man. Although I never would have imagined myself getting involved in or enjoying theatre, the process and experience was again helped along by the social aspect or the comradery we as various cast members built together. There was also the mentoring and coaching offered and received from teachers like Howard Williams, Phyllis Garrison, Helen LeCain, and others who assisted. All in all, some great memories I still cherish.

“And then there was the music program. Kathryn Siphers, Jim Williams, and Leonard Brendel all had a profound impact on my teen years. Each taught and mentored me in a myriad of ways that I have found useful again and again over the years. Their insights and dedication gave me much to aspire to. In addition, both Danny Williams and Jimmy Draughn made sure I stayed just inside the lines enough to make it through. It seems a lot of these folks saw more in me than I often saw in myself.

“As much as I initially dreaded the prospect of Drexel being folded into the consolidation of East Burke High, the end result was that I loved it. I really cannot think of anything negative about those three years. Our class of 1977 was the first class to complete all three years. And for me, those years were special. The only problem is that I was honest about my attitude towards the academics of high school. For me, high school was more about the relationships. That said, despite my shortcomings, it was a lot of what was shown, mentored, and entrusted to me by so many of the faculty at East Burke that allowed me to succeed once I got serious about earning a degree. My memories and experiences of East Burke are still something I treasure. I think that’s the way it should be.

“Although I am looking toward retirement in the upcoming years, in all honesty, I still love what I do. I enjoy people and being a part of their lives. But my family and I are looking forward to that next chapter. Wherever and whatever it is, I’m sure we will be blessed!

Published January 2021

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