First United Methodist Church Alexandria celebrated the installation of the Reverend Dr. Henry C. Blount, Jr. as Pastor Emeritus during the 11:00am service on Sunday, December 1st. A reception preceded the service in the Gallery Hall of the church, which is located at 2727 Jackson St. in Alexandria.
From 1989 to 1995, Dr. Blount served as pastor at First United Methodist Church Alexandria (FUMCA) four different times, including an attempted retirement in 1992. His roles have included service as minister of visitation and as associate pastor, during his career of more than 60 years in active ministry. Blount, 87, has been a United Methodist minister since 1947.
“Henry Blount has been an incredible leader at First United Methodist Church and in the Louisiana Conference,” said the Rev. Donnie Wilkinson, who is senior pastor at FUMCA. “Many of my closest friends in ministry through the years were deeply influenced by Dr. Blount’s ministry, and many of them are pastors today because they saw in him Christ and he saw something in them that was called into ministry,” he explains.
“As for the position of Pastor Emeritus, First United Methodist Church has a long and great tradition, and Henry Blount’s right at the center of that tradition for the last few decades. This Pastor Emeritus role is a way of celebrating how Henry has been there for the church during good times and in bad. He’s been a source of strength, a source of encouragement, a source of stability in tumultuous times, and for all his years of faithful, dedicated servanthood at First United Methodist Church, we want to honor him with the highest honor that a pastor can receive, being named Pastor Emeritus,” says Rev. Wilkinson.
“The ‘Pastor Emeritus’ is a way of honoring someone who’s been an important member of the congregation, an important leader in the congregation, even after their retirement, while they’re still alive, to say, ‘We hold you in a special place in our heart and you will always be a pastor in this congregation.’ This role is a ceremonial role, with no official responsibilities, but lots of honor, and just a way of saying, ‘Henry, we love you, and we so appreciate everything you’ve done for First United Methodist Church through the years,’” Rev. Wilkinson adds.
On a personal note, Rev. Wilkinson said that when he was appointed at FUMCA “and began to look at the scope of need here in this congregation, it was very easy to begin to be kind of overwhelmed. But then, shortly after the first week or so, Henry and I sat down and he began to share with me some of the stories of the church, and he’s been someone who’s encouraged me,” he recalls.
“Every week, he comes through and he has a strong word of encouragement about the service, about what’s going on at the church, and he’s somebody that I look to for counsel and advice as we move forward,” Rev. Wilkerson said. “He has more years of experience as a pastor than I probably ever will, and he helps me as we are dreaming our way forward. it’s great to be able to tap into that source of wisdom as we move into the future,” says Wilkinson.
Different circumstances led to Blount’s four-time tenure at FUMCA that began due to the death of his predecessor. Blount was serving as the Ruston District Superintendent in 1988 when then-Bishop William Oden called. “My plans were to go to Lake Charles and open a Samaritan Counseling Center, and the bishop, (and) the cabinet, had other plans, so here I am,” recalls Dr. Blount. “Tracy Arnold was before me, and he had a heart attack,” Blount explains. Arnold died November 21, 1988. “I came in March of the next year…and the church, of course, was grieving over the loss, and I guess I helped bridge the gap, in a healing kind of way,” he says.
The illness of another pastor also contributed to the circumstances that kept Blount in service at FUMCA. “They called me back three times other than the time I was senior pastor and retired—I came back, and finally settled in as an associate, and stayed until about ’99,”. Dr. Blount agrees there was “a lot of overlapping,” adding that “I’ve served, in other words, different places in the church—wherever there was a need, I tried to fill it.”
During his pastorate, a financial campaign to build the church’s Johnson Activities Center ensued, and Disciple Bible Study had just begun. Blount describes a theme of his time as FUMCA pastor as spiritual formation, saying, “I wanted to help deepen the spiritual life and let people know that they’re not bodies with a spirit, they’re spirit with a body.” Asked about being honored as Pastor Emeritus, Blount says, “Well, I never thought I would receive an honor like that, and it’s certainly one that I will cherish as long as I live.”
Ruth Brooks, a FUMCA member since 1970, has known Dr. Blount and his family for many years. “Henry Blount has been as Christ for many of us. He is my teacher, my friend and my inspiration. I am grateful for his role in my spiritual development as well as his role in the spiritual development in the lives of my family members. He has been with our family through the joy of weddings and he has been with us in times of great sadness and sorrow,” she says. “I cherish the memory of a multitude of shared meals between our two families. What a joy to celebrate Henry as our Pastor Emeritus!”
Allyson Marlowe, a FUMCA member since the mid-1980s, said, “Obviously, he’s very special to us—he married Lee and I and baptized Maddy. He means a lot to our family. His faith and wisdom are very inspirational to us. I’m very pleased the church has extended this honor to Dr. Blount.”
Longtime FUMCA member Paul White, Sr. describes Blount as “a very close personal friend with my whole family, has been at least 20 years, maybe even longer than that.” “I think it’s great that he is going to be our minister emeritus,” said White. “I think it’s very late; I think it should have been done 15 years ago because he’s been so active in our church all those years. He loves all the congregation that he serves,” White explains. “He’s one of the best writers that I’ve read when it comes to the preaching part of it. He writes a lot of articles for Cenla Focus magazine, and most of them are outstanding,” White says. “And then, of course, he’s a self-made artist, and he’s made me buy a lot of his pictures,” he adds with a laugh. “Henry’s a very easy person to like and to love. He knows so many people, and everybody who knows him loves him. You never heard anybody criticize Henry except that sometimes he’s too lazy to do work, you know, but other than that, he’s all right,” jokes White. “It’ll be our first preacher that’s become emeritus as far as I know in the history of the church, and I’ve been going to the church since 1928,” White explains.
The Rev. Gary Van Horn, a retired United Methodist pastor who now serves as FUMCA’s minister of visitation, said he’s known Dr. Blount since 1969. “Henry has been a leader in the United Methodist Church as long as I’ve known him, a true leader in his life and in the work he’s done.”