Letter from new senior pastor, Paul Purdue
Dear People of Belmont, Finding ourselves in Nashville, Connie and I walked around Belmont's campus. We paused to read the welcoming banner: "Belmont United Methodist Church is
a community of Christ-followers growing in love of God and neighbor. This is what we at Belmont UMC believe Christian discipleship is, what we are to be, and what Jesus meant when he sent his followers to 'make disciples.' We believe every person is of sacred worth and created in God's image. We commit to Jesus' example of inclusive love, care, and intentional hospitality with persons of every race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, faith story, physical or mental ability, economic status, or political perspective. We respect our diversity of opinion and expressions of faith. Therefore, as God loves us, so let us love and serve in the name of Christ."
Reading "Love in the Village" for the first time, Connie smiled and said, "We believe that!" Belmont's mission statement beautifully incarnates Jesus' teaching "that all the law and prophets hang on" loving God and neighbor. (Matthew 22:40) We look forward to serving together.
As a dyslexic child, struggling to read well into middle school, church was a refuge. I am sure the grown-ups disagreed about church business and theology, but I knew nothing but Christ’s love. Anchoring my in Jesus’ love and animated dinner debates, Mom and Dad provided the spiritual space for me to leave my childhood literalistic theological tradition. Twenty-seven years ago, our journey led us to the Methodist Church where we fell in love with our UMC understanding of God’s love, every-day grace, social holiness, and a reasoned faith. Even today, my spiritual journey continues unfolding, hopefully inching me closer to Christ’s love. As your new pastor, I hope that Jesus’ word, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35), will be our reality.
I married Connie Jo Starnes some 29 years ago. Connie works as a physical therapist, teaches children’s Sunday school, sings in the choir, loves our boys, holds a deep faith, and makes me a better person. Lewis is a freshman at University of Alabama at Huntsville studying Mechanical Engineering, visiting churches, and will work at Miller Family Farms this summer. Caleb will be a senior at Tullahoma High School in the fall. Connie and Caleb will reside in Tullahoma for his senior year. Caleb currently is High Brass Officer, All-State Band, Math Team, Trumpet Ensemble, Jazz Band, Swim Team, Youth Group, TFUMC Ensemble.... In June, we will hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, camping there and completing a family odyssey of visiting all 48 lower states!
Having finally learned to read I graduated from the University of Kentucky and then Asbury Theological Seminary! I have served in the Methodist Church for 25 years: Children and Youth Director at Epworth UMC (Lexington, KY), Associate Winchester FUMC, Pastor New Chapel (Springfield), Hillcrest (Nashville) and now Tullahoma FUMC. In Springfield, in a 175 year old rural congregation, we began ESL, reaching out to a growing Latino population. We relished the diversity of pastoring Hillcrest’s 14 nations and welcomed the Golden Triangle Fellowship on Sunday evenings. Tullahoma runs a large biweekly food bank, operates a ministry center adjoining our town’s Housing Authority, and leads our town in many other ways.
We are very excited to come and serve with a people committed to Jesus’ inclusive love, care, and intentional hospitality for all people. May God grow our love for God, each other, and all our neighbors!
Grace, peace and love,
Paul, Connie, Lewis, and Caleb Purdue