Neal Retires as Pastor at Wesley Chapel UMC – Henry County Times
The Reverend Dr William Bert Neal III said he “always had a deep and abiding faith in Christ”.
Yet he didn’t always envision being a pastor. He said his mindset changed on a certain Sunday nearly 25 years ago.
“I answered the call to ministry on Father’s Day 1998,” said Neal, 70, of McDonough. “I kept feeling this tug of the Holy Spirit on me to do something other than sit in the pew on Sunday mornings. I felt God saying, ‘Bert, I have something to do. for you.’ »
Neal will retire on July 1, after nine years as pastor of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, 397 Racetrack Road in McDonough. The church will host a breakfast in Neal’s honor on May 21 at Eagle’s Landing Country Club in Stockbridge.
The retirement festivities will continue on June 25, with a tailgate party in the Wesley Chapel parking lot. Neal will preach his last Sunday sermon as a pastor on June 26.
Neal was born in Augusta to a military family and was baptized when he was eight years old. He said that although he grew up in a Christian home, he didn’t always plan on being a minister.
“I’ve always been to church,” he says. “I just didn’t know that Christ wanted me to be in pastoral leadership.”
Neal served in the US Army for 21 years. He then worked as an assistant executive director for the Atlanta Housing Authority from 1994 to 1998, and as a contract manager for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice from 1998 to 2005.
Neal said when God called him to ministry, he was attending Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta. He served as children’s minister there from 2000 to 2004.
I answered the call for him to use me for his glory,” he said. “It was during this time that I attended Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta. I graduated from the seminary in 2005 and became Minister of Outreach and Social Concerns at Ben Hill United Methodist.
Neal was appointed in 2006 and became the associate pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, where he remained until 2010. He then planted Sacred Praise United Methodist Church in Lovejoy and remained there. during three years.
Neal came to Wesley Chapel in 2013. While a pastor, he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2019 from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
Neal said he was proud of the way Wesley Chapel looks after local residents. This, he said, includes distributing food and back-to-school supplies to families in need, or helping them pay bills and living expenses.
Neal originally planned to retire in 2020, but those plans changed with the advent of COVID-19. He said the past 27 months have been the most difficult for him as a pastor.
“I think the pandemic threw a major curveball on all of us in what we wanted to accomplish,” Neal said. “I woke up on a Sunday morning in March 2020 and the church had to be closed. I never thought in my entire life that the church would be closed for worship.
“As a nation and as a local community, we weren’t prepared for this to happen and last for this long,” he continued. “I think one of the challenges right now is how do you get people to recommit to ministry when they’ve been disengaged for 27 months? I think it’s going to be a challenge for the next generation of churches.
For the past nine years, Neal has delivered supplications at McDonough City Council meetings. This, he said, reflects his commitment to the community, not just his church, and his desire to “lead by example.”
“As a pastor, your parish is not limited to people worshiping with you on Sundays,” he said. “Your parish is the community.
“You can’t just pontificate on Sunday morning and live the rest of the week differently,” he added. “What I strive to do is live up to the same expectations that I have for others.”
Neal and his wife Denise have two children – Tiffany and William IV – and a grandson, Isaiah. When Neal retires, Reverend Belinda McCastle, currently at Red Oak United Methodist Church in Stockbridge, will take over as pastor at Wesley Chapel.
Neal said he still plans to make Wesley Chapel his home church. He gives glory to God for what he has accomplished at Wesley Chapel. His ministry mantra, he said, is II Corinthians 10:17-18.
“I’m not bragging,” Neal said. “I let the Lord take care of it for me. I only glory in the Lord.