Williams named new pastor at Gravette, Decatur churches
WESTSIDE — The Gravette and Decatur United Methodist churches have a new pastor. Reverend Heath Williams is now the pastor at both locations. He moved to the area in June and preached his first sermon in both churches July 2.
Williams, a Little Rock native, graduated from Hall High
School. He went on to earn a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, then earned his master of divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
Williams came to the Gravette-Decatur charge because his wife, Rev. Jeanne Williams, who is also a pastor, was being appointed to the Bella Vista First United Methodist Church and he needed an appointment nearby. He just traded places with Rev. Pat Bodenhamer, the previous pastor here, who went to First United Methodist Church in Paragould where Williams has served the past four years.
Heath met Jeanne in seminary. She was a Cookeville, Tenn., native and graduated from high school there. She was pursuing a master of sacred music degree and planned to become a choral director and deacon but she continued to feel the pull toward becoming a preaching pastor. As the feeling that God was calling her to a different path increased, she soon changed degree paths. Both she and Heath graduated with master of divinity degrees in 2010. They dated for five months before getting married on March 14, 2007.
Jeanne’s mother was a pastor, so she was following in her mother’s footsteps. Heath’s father was in the retail business, and his mother worked in child care and was a preschool teacher. He says they taught him, though, that on Sundays the place to be was in church. They took him to all church meetings and he was active in the United Methodist youth group. He knew early on that he wanted to be a pastor.
The Williams couple came to Arkansas in 2009 where they both served internships in Jonesboro, Heath as pastor at Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church and Jeanne at the Wesley Foundation at Arkansas State University. Heath’s next appointment was at the United Methodist Church in Bay, while Jeanne pastored at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Jonesboro. From there they moved to Paragould where Heath pastored at First United Methodist and Jeanne led the congregation in Walnut Ridge.
The Williams family lives in Bentonville where their daughter Natalie, age 6, is a kindergartner at Apple Glenn Elementary. They are still feeling the loss of their daughter Hazel, who was stillborn last year at full-term.
Two other members round out the Williams family. Shadow, their black lab, was rescued from the Rogers Humane Society about a month ago. Members of Heath’s congregations are already becoming well acquainted with Shadow, as the dog often accompanies him to the office. He is a welcome visitor in both Gravette and Decatur and sometimes goes with Jeanne to the church in Bella Vista. Heath says their cat, Rabbi, adopted them when he pastored in Bay. Rabbi received his name because he is solid white except for a grey patch on his head which looks like a yarmulke, a skullcap worn during prayer by Jewish men.
Williams says he hopes to be able to increase attendance at worship services, particularly to reach out and bring in more young families. Bible studies will begin in October, and ladies at the Gravette church are making plans to reinstitute their popular Wednesday evening meals.
Williams arrived in time to be a part of the Gravette church’s shoe and sock distribution, sponsored by Samaritan’s Feet, in July and plans to continue that program. He is assisted in worship services at Gravette by Margaret Pearson, organist; Corrie Couchenour, pianist; and Al Blair, choir director. Blair also manages the church website. Dr. C.L. Abercrombie assists in worship at Decatur as organist and pianist, and other members of the church assist with worship duties.
Heath invites all in the area to come and get acquainted. When not busy with his ministerial duties, he enjoys golfing, watching sports and being outdoors. He is in the Gravette church office Tuesdays and Thursdays and in Decatur Mondays and Wednesdays. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Occasionally, he leaves a little earlier to pick up Natalie from school.
Sunday morning worship at the Gravette church, at the corner of Second and Akron N.E., is from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., with Sunday school following from 10:45 to 11:30. Sunday morning worship at Decatur is at 11 a.m., with Sunday school at 10 a.m.
Williams can be reached by phone in Gravette at 479-787-5000 and in Decatur at 479752-3551 and by email at email@example.com. Gravette’s webpage is www.gravetteumc.org and both churches can be found on Facebook.
Heath Williams is the new pastor at the Gravette and Decatur United Methodist churches. He is pictured here outside the Gravette church with his black lab, Shadow, a rescue dog who often accompanies him to the church offices.