Bro. Tony McDonald, new pastor of Magee First United Methodist Church, says coming here is like coming home. He and his wife Jennie moved into the parsonage this past June.
McDonald was raised in the Lone Star area and graduated in 1980 from Mt. Olive High School. He enlisted in the Navy and served four years, graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, married and had children before submitting to the Lord’s call on his life to become a pastor, he said.
He enrolled in the Candler School of Theology on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and spent three years commuting weekly from Wayne County, where he served two churches while attending seminary. The McDonalds were raising their three sons at the time. Those boys are now grown and the McDonalds are grandparents to three: a 10- year-old boy and a set of 8-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. “We have a lot of fun but I’m getting to where they wear me out! It’s hard to keep up with them.”
Having been a pastor for 20 plus years, McDonald has remained in Mississippi with his last charge being in the Delta for eight years, again serving two churches. Before that he served primarily in the Pine Belt region.
McDonald said of being at Magee, “It’s great. It’s like home for me. When I was a kid I’d come up here and ride the block in Magee, Collins, Mt. Olive. I know a lot of people here already from that. I’m continually meeting other people that I haven’t seen in years but I run into them. It’s wonderful. I loved being in the Delta; I love anywhere because I love people. I’m excited about meeting new people and discovering their gifts and graces that God’s placed in their lives.”
While preaching is a gift of his, McDonald also believes his love for people is equally if not more of a gift. “Love for people is important to the pastoral ministry. We can do a lot of things administratively and that’s ok. But for me, caring for people, being there for people, encouraging people, learning from people…I think God has designed us as relational beings because He is very much that way and desires us to be. The more we can intentionally take the time to get to know people, visit with people, that kind of thing, we’re all better off in the long run for that. That’s probably what I do best is love people,” he explained. His preference is to be out and about instead of behind a desk. And in the last year and a half Covid has made that a difficult thing to do.
Additionally, McDonald, is all about empowering lay people. He said, “For so long the church has been top down driven and that’s not effective; the cookie cutter approach is never effective. Each Body of Christ locally is different, made up of those graces and gifts God has placed here to build the ministries, to develop a disciple-making system through which people can connect with God and the Body of Christ. In turn they use their gifts in service to the Kingdom. We’re here to make disciples for Christ. In the end if we’re not careful we’ll lose that, losing that first love.”
Magee FUMC continued to meet on Sunday mornings even through the Covid Delta variant. McDonald has also brought back Wednesday evening Bible study. The group is currently studying the Book of Acts, the foundation for the church today.
McDonald is excited about the future. “This is a wonderful church. It has a wonderful spirit in it. Preaching is a love of mine obviously; I love to share God’s Word. July 4 was the first Sunday I preached here; it was just an overwhelming spirit. Anytime you have that the possibilities are limitless. Folks that love God love one another.”