Tuesday, April 12, 2016
TOP STORY >> Honoring Muttons’ lifetime of service
Leader staff writer
It takes a lifetime to build a legacy. Some are larger than others and some reach farther.
Last week, George Mutton, now 85, was given some measure of his decades long, unwavering service to God and church.
George Mutton of the Warsaw community thought he heard God’s calling while in his late teens, and he mentioned that fact to a Baptist preacher while attending a revival at Bayou Meto.
Mutton remembers saying, “I told him that someday I’m going to be a preacher.”
The older man told Mutton, “‘Well, you probably need to get baptized first.’”
He did, but it was at the First Buckeye Pentecostal Church (now First Pentecostal Church on Calvary Road in North Little Rock).
It was a couple years before a teenager named Mary Jackson (now Mutton) caught his eye.
They had both lived on Republican Road their entire lives but on opposite sides of Hwy. 107. As kids they rode the same school bus, but Mary Mutton remembers, “I didn’t pay much attention to him;” after all, she adds, “He was five years older than me.”
But by the time Mary turned 16, they were dating. Then Mutton got an invitation from Uncle Sam.
“I was drafted into the Marines,” he says. That was in 1951, and he served for two years in the Korean War.
Before shipping out, he asked Mary Mutton to marry him and she said yes.
Mutton says he learned an important lesson during his time in the military.
“It taught me that if you’re not going to finish it, don’t start it. But if you do, then do it right,” he says.
It was May 18, 1962, when the Lord instructed Mutton to start a church, he remembers.
The Life Tabernacle church became official in 1964, with services held in a century-old building in Faulkner Gap. Because the church was on a dirt road, driving was difficult during ice or snow.
“The weather was so bad in the wintertime that we bought a spot on Highway 107,” Mutton says.
The idea was to make it easier for members to get to and from but instead of the church taking on an unmanageable debt, they set up church in a prefabricated 25-foot-by-50-foot metal building they purchased from Sears and Roebuck for about $2,000, Mutton says. The year was 1972.
Mutton chuckles as he remembers, “It was designed for everything but a church,” but after a few modifications with a blowtorch, members settled in just fine.
At that time, Mary Mutton estimates they had about 50 members.
Later, the congregation would sell the metal building and build a proper church.
They built the sanctuary first, with members and Mutton doing as much of the work as possible. When it was completed, they only owed about $3,500 on the building—Mutton doesn’t like to carry too much debt, whether his own or the church’s.
“It wasn’t anything special,” Mutton says. Later, they added Sunday school classrooms to the rear of the building.
But no matter the construction materials, members found a home at Life Tabernacle, including Dist. 29 State Sen. Eddie “Joe” Williams (R-Cabot).
Williams says, “I have fond childhood memories of driving from Sheridan to have fellowship at George’s church…It was full of great people and the Muttons are certainly great people. They are big-hearted and giving.”
HIS BETTER HALF
A pastor’s wife is as important to church life as the pastor, and Mary Mutton was more involved than most, says her husband.
She taught Sunday school classes and still plays the piano on Sunday morning, he says proudly.
For years, both George and Mary Mutton participated in a singing ministry, first with The Spiritualettes and then with the Sounds of Life.
She also taught adult education for the Little Rock School District.
Mutton says he teased his wife about the luncheons and dinners they hosted at the church, telling her, “You don’t have to cook the whole meal.”
She says in her defense, “I always wanted to make sure there was plenty for everyone.”
Mutton adds, “Pentecostals like to eat.”
Rebecca Adams has been a Life Tabernacle member for about 20 years and says about the Muttons, “They are the rock of the church. They’ve always been there and it comes from the heart.”
Donald Canon of Canon Heating and Air of Jacksonville and a Life Tabernacle member, has known the Muttons for about seven years.
“They’re very honest people, upstanding and trustworthy. They bring those same qualities to worship and to the church.”
Their only child, daughter J’Laine Bradley of the Warsaw community has great memories of growing up in the church and of her parents.
“I had their total love, guidance and support, and they taught me to live for the Lord…They were such good parents,” Bradley remembers.
She married Darrell Bradley but remains a Mutton at heart.
Now, Bradley has two grown children — a son, Dylan Bradley, and a daughter, Holly Bradley Martin, who is expecting her first child in a few weeks.
MORE THAN A JOB
Mutton was a heating-and- air guy by day and a pastor by night and on weekends. Mary Mutton says, “He didn’t take a salary” from the church but instead provided for the family working for John B. May’s heating-and-air company.
May supported Mutton’s work at the church, and Mutton says, “He was so good to me, just like a father. If I needed to be off for any reason, a funeral, a hospital visit, he didn’t mind.”
Canon says, “George is someone you can depend on and he has a lot of wisdom to share.”
Bradley says about her dad, “He has a pastor’s heart.”
Current Life Tabernacle pastor Clyde Phillips agrees, telling the story about the time when he was injured in a motorcycle accident and hospitalized in Akron, Ohio.
Mutton paid his own travel expenses so he could wait by Phillips’ bedside for about a week. He says, “George has a good heart and he’s always been there for me.”
Phillips has been a church member for more than 30, first serving as assistant pastor, and after Mutton’s retirement two years ago, he became head pastor. The church is now more than 150 strong.
Mutton says he never regretted going into the ministry, “If you do something for the Lord, put your hand to the plow and don’t look back.”
“It was Brother Clyde’s idea to put a plaque on the front of the building in honor of my father,” Bradley says about the inspiration behind the church’s “Celebration of Legacy” and reception.
Bradley and several others from the church started planning and extending invitations to members and friends, including Sen. Williams, who decided to doubly honor Mutton at the April 2 gathering.
Williams says, “I wanted to honor him. George worked full time but unselfishly dedicated his life to the Lord. He was all about the church.”
Both he and Mary Mutton were honored by Williams’ Arkansas Senate Citation, which reads in part: “During their 64-year marriage, Rev. and Mrs. Mutton have worked as a devoted team touching many lives through their church ministry…and have been generous with their personal time…”
More than 150 guests attended. Bradley says, “I was so excited. People came from all over the state.”
In one sense, she says they celebrated the legacy of the church that her father helped build, but, Bradley adds, “The real celebration was my dad’s influence…He reached so many people, and now those people are reaching out to others. That’s his real legacy.”
Richard “Rick” Allen and his wife, Pat, attended the reception. Both have attended the church for more than three decades.
“It was just beautiful…Tears come to my eyes when I think of George. He is truly an outstanding man of God,” he says.
Phillips says, “I learned what it means to be a pastor from one of the best. I strive to be like George, but I’ll never be the man my pastor is.”
As a young man, Mutton didn’t realize all the rewards he would reap as a minister, but now says, “So many people count their blessings by what they possess but I count mine through the Lord and what he has given me through the church. I have so many blessings.”
Posted by THE LEADER at 9:26 PM