Plans to learn something new
By Kathryn Schiliro
On Sunday, Aug. 8 – after more than 22 years – Rev. Jim Ross will take the pulpit of Madison Baptist Church for the last time.
Ross is leaving his position as pastor of the church to take another position, that of Vice President for Advancement and Church Relations for Morningstar Children and Family Services. Based in Brunswick, Ga., with resource centers around the state, Morningstar is a "private, faith-based organization...which supports families and children with severe mental, emotional, and behavioral disabilities," according to a letter Ross sent to church members.
"I felt it was time for a change in this season of life," Ross said.
Morningstar's goal, Ross said, is to keep children with these disabilities in their home and to provide families with the help as well as the coping and practical skills they need to make that possible. In addition, Morningstar also has a foster care program that can take children with severe mental, emotional and behavioral disabilities for periods of time.
Ross will work out of offices in Brunswick and Macon and will be out on the road traveling to churches – primarily Baptist, but other denominations as well – across the state to encourage and facilitate financial support for Morningstar, whether it be through donations, bequests, etc.
"At this stage of life, after 31 years as a pastor, with over 22 of those years at Madison Baptist, I sense a yearning for a fresh beginning, a new chapter in life, vocation, and ministry. As I look toward the future, I believe the time is right to face some new challenges, learn new skills, while still utilizing the experience I have accumulated along the journey," Ross writes, in his letter to church members.
But the family won't be leaving Madison. In fact, Ross will maintain a home office here.
"The community was so welcoming when we came here; they still are," Ross said.
In addition to being Madison Baptist's spiritual leader, Ross has also been involved in the community as chaplain of the Morgan County High School football team, delivered Meals on Wheels and has made it a point to attend community events. He has also led mission trips to southern Africa and within the U.S. as well led church groups to Israel and Jordan; in his time, Ross led two capital fund-raising campaigns at Madison Baptist that resulted in major church renovation and the purchase of property—two houses and the nearby pecan grove.
In addition to service on the local level, Ross has been involved in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia and the Georgia Baptist Convention.
"I'm thankful for relationships in the community, relationships with other churches," Ross said. "I've built relationships with many people inside and outside the church."
Ross also said he and his wife, Ann, were thankful their children – Emily, Caroline, Patrick and David – got to grow up in Madison.
Emily Ross Greenfield, a nurse practitioner, and her husband, Tom, now live in Madison; Caroline is married to a preacher, Matt DuVall, and lives in Middlesboro, Ky.; David currently attends Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.
Patrick died in 2004.
"It has been our great sadness and sorrow in life," Ross said, of his son's death. "We are ever thankful how the church and community ministered to us in that time."
Jim and Ann currently have three grandchildren, and "love being grandparents," Ross said.
Ross admitted he anticipates difficulty in backing off of the "pastoral care" aspect of his current position.
"A lot of ministering is showing up and being genuine in your love and care of people," Ross said. "I still love and care about people. It's the showing up that's going to change."
What happens now? According to Ross, the church will call in an interim pastor for six months to a year while they go through the process of finding a new pastor. The church will select a search committee, who will cull through names and resumes and narrow the list of possibilities down. From there, the committee will interview candidates and even travel to hear them preach.
In the end, nominations will be presented and the church will decide to whom they will offer the position.