Tuesday, August 09, 2016

TOP STORY >> New minister eager to serve

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville First United Methodist Church has a new pastor. Rev. Nathan Kilbourne has been at the church for three weeks listening to the needs of the congregation and the community.

Kilbourne, 31, was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and grew up in Johnson City, Tenn.

He went to Emory in Atlanta and Henry College in Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology. He earned a master’s of divinity degree at Duke University in North Carolina in 2009.

Kilbourne’s father, grandfather, brother and an uncle are members of the United Methodist Church clergy. He said God called him into ministry while a college student.

While at Duke, he met his wife, Lynn. She is a pastor at North Little Rock First United Methodist Church. They have been married for seven years. They have a 20-month-old daughter, Eleanor.

Kilbourne moved to Arkansas in 2009. He served churches in west Little Rock and most recently was minister at the Vilonia United Methodist Church for three years. He was there when the city was hit by a second tornado in three years in 2014.

“I learned there are really good people in the world. When the tornado was on the ground there were people already waiting to come into the community and help. It restored a lot of faith in humanity. We were inundated for months with people willing to lend a hand. I learned how strong a community can be. People never gave up hope. The church building was destroyed, but the church’s hope was not. Center Point Freewill Baptist Church opened their doors for us. We then met in a little trailer on the site until the building was rebuilt. It was amazing to watch people come together to care for one other,” Kilbourne said.

Kilbourne is still learning about the Jacksonville community and the church.

“My hopes and dreams are for our church to become a vital part of the community’s continued growth. We want to be a church that helps the new school system. We’ve been talking about ways to do that. Last weekend we were at (former) North Pulaski High School weed-eating, trying to get it cleaned up for the middle school students. This church believes this is our community, and they want to see it thrive. As people of faith, we believe that we are called to love our neighbor and for our community to do its best,” Kilbourne said.

“For those on the edge of the community who don’t have a lot, that struggle, we want to help build them up. For those who don’t know that God loves them, we want to share that message. For those who don’t have a place, we want to be a home where they can come, grow their faith and know they are cared for and loved. God wants to make even this community a sign of goodness in our world,” he said.

Kilbourne said a dream for the congregation is for it to be known for the good things it does in God’s name. The church has a feeding ministry on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

He wants Jacksonville known for the good things that are happening with the school district and its growth and that the church plays a part in helping to make that happen.