UPELO – The Rev. Carl Grubbs likes to refer to songs by the Eagles in describing his ministry, but as he retires he says there’s one title he’ll have a hard time accepting, “Learn to be Still.”
Grubbs, 67, is moving on after serving six years as the superintendent of the Tupelo District of the United Methodist Church.
His career has spanned 46 years and 12 charges, from his first in the tiny town of Keownville, where “the whole place smelled of creosote, from the rail road ties,” to overseeing all 113 churches throughout the Tupelo District.
It’s spanned the unification of the church, the ministry of seven bishops and the institution of female ministers.
Grubbs said change hasn’t always come easily. As a young pastor he was a vocal advocate for the 1973 merger of the white, North Mississippi Conference with the black, Upper Mississippi Conference.
One evening a woman called his home and suggested that she could easily lose control of her car and run over Grubbs’ daughter, who often played in a sandbox near a curb.
Despite the many challenges, Grubbs has kept a sense of humor.
“The church must be of God,” he said. “If it wasn’t, we’d have destroyed it a long time ago.”
He has served in some important administrative positions, including 13 years as conference secretary, but he said small churches have always been close to his heart.
Seventy percent of the 1,142 churches in the Mississippi Conference have a Sunday attendance of less than 50, and Grubbs said he’s “taken special pleasure in serving small communities in an age when most people think bigger is better.”
The Rev. Donny Riley, pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church and Oak Hill United Methodist Church in Tupelo, served with Grubbs on the conference’s Rural Life Committee for three years.
Grubbs, he said, displayed a strong vision and always performed the small acts of kindness that characterize rural Southern ministers.
Riley added that Grubbs’ leadership in developing the lay speakers program has aided churches big and small.
“He was the pastors’ pastor,” Riley said.
Grubbs and his wife of 45 years, Diane, are moving to the Jackson area where he’ll help another church transition into a new phase in its history.
They’ll be closer to their three daughters and five grandchildren.
Their oldest daughter, Susannah, recently was ordained an elder at the Annual Conference. As part of apostolic succession, in the ceremony Grubbs laid hands on his daughter and passed her a lighted candle.
“It was one of the great joys of my life,” said Grubbs.
The Rev. Geoffery Joyner, who will replace Grubbs as superintendent in Tupelo, said he has great admiration for his predecessor’s work and hopes to build on his successes.
Joyner, 54, comes to Tupelo after serving nine years at Crawford Street United Methodist Church in Vicksburg. He said he’s excited about this, his sixth charge, and has heard great things about the strength of Methodism in the area.
Grubbs said that in retirement, he plans to enjoy golf, gardening and spending more time with his family.
He said he’s grateful for the privilege of having worked with so many good clergy and laity over the years, but now its time to step back.
But he also knows he’ll continue to serve in some capacity.
“It’s like the Eagles’ song ‘Hotel California’,” said Grubbs. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal