Pastor receives emeritus status at Pine Ridge Presbyterian

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 20, 2001

A Natchez pastor known for his service throughout the community was honored Sunday by the church he served for more than 20 years. The Rev. Joseph A. McConnell III received pastor emeritus status from Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, cited for &uot;copious labors and faithful service even after his retirement.&uot;

McConnell, a native of Birmingham, Ala., came to Natchez in 1963 to assume the pastorate at Pine Ridge.

&uot;He found out that his call also included the church at Cannonsburg,&uot; said the Rev. Billy Johnson, now minister at Pine Ridge.

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Johnson said McConnell’s reputation as a man who reached out to the entire community has basis in many activities through the 40 years he has lived in Natchez.

&uot;I don’t see how anybody could help but admire Joe.

&uot;He served the Lord for decades and not just here at Pine Ridge.

&uot;Natchez has been fortunate to have him. He has served quite selflessly, as did his wife, Jean, and their children.&uot;

Long-time member of the Pine Ridge church Pearl Henderson described McConnell as a good friend to all who knew him.

&uot;He was the type of pastor that regardless of race, color or belief, he was there and wanted to help someone who needed help,&uot; Henderson said.

McConnell in the 1960s founded the Natchez ministerial alliance still in existence today.

&uot;During the 1960s when there were so many problems, we needed a way to work things out between the races,&uot; said McConnell’s wife, Jean. &uot;Joe went to Jac Ruffin, minister at First Presbyterian, and asked his help in setting up the alliance.&uot;

A friend and one-time regular attendee at Pine Ridge Presbyterian, Betty McGehee said she has always admired McConnell’s deep sincerity.

&uot;His devotion and faith were inspirational,&uot; she said.

&uot;Joe was always down to earth and he really cared for his people.

&uot;He was a wonderful pastor, and I’ve always treasured the association with him.

&uot;He was very close to the Lord, and you could see it in all his ministry.&uot;

McConnell was attracted to the history of Natchez and of the old church he came to serve in the storied Pine Ridge community.

It was due to his efforts that the congregation undertook a restoration of the church in the 1970s.

McConnell served in World War II as an infantry company scout and worked in advertising sales before attending Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Ga.

He always has been proud of his association with the Natchez Rotary Club, his wife said. And he achieved the highest rank in that club by becoming a Paul Harris Fellow.

As he now is in poor health, he made a response to the recent honor through his wife.

&uot;I fell in love with Natchez a long time ago and I sought to serve not only the church but the city as well,&uot; he said.

The McConnells have three children, Kris McConnell Morris, Joseph A. &uot;Joe Mac&uot; McConnell IV and Kathleen McConnell.