After 30 years, McNeely pastor will ‘turn it loose’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2001

In 30 years, the Rev. Julius Roberts has seen his congregation at Church of God on McNeely Road through births, marriages and deaths. And now he is making what he calls his toughest decision: Roberts and his wife, Katherine, will retire April 1. &uot;I’ve just got to turn it loose,&uot; Roberts said.

During his tenure at the McNeely Road church, Roberts has seen the congregation triple in size, from 214 in 1970 to more than 600.

And he has seen generations of families through some of the most pivotal moments of their lives.

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&uot;He’s preached the grandparents; married the parents; dedicated the babies,&uot; Mrs. Roberts said. &uot;And some of those babies have had babies. God has been good to us. … This is home to us, more than anyplace else.&uot;

The Robertses will remain in Adams County after their retirement, although they plan to take some time to travel – and see their four grandchildren more often. Daughter Rene\u00E9 lives in Cleveland, Tenn., with her husband, Thomas Moore, and their children.

The couple will remain supportive of the church, said Roberts, who has not given up his vision of seeing the church grow to 1,000 people.

In 1996, the church expanded its facility to provide seating capacity for more than 650, with an overflow capacity of 100.

&uot;There’s a vision I have had of getting the church where I want it to be,&uot; Roberts said. &uot;I envision at least 1,000 people, with an outreach to others in the community to get them to know the Lord.&uot;

Roberts knows he will still be called on to perform weddings and funerals, but he said he hopes to direct congregation members to the new pastor, the Rev. Larry Hays, who will arrive on April 8.

&uot;We want to support the new pastor,&uot; Mrs. Roberts said.

Roberts, who has been a pastor for 42 years, preached his first sermon at the age of 23, at a youth conference. A native of Sunflower County, he has been pastor of churches in Gulfport, Clara and Greenville.

In 1976, not long after the Robertses’ son, Butch, was killed in a car accident, Roberts briefly took a position as the Church of God’s evangelism and home missions director for Mississippi. But after a year and a half, the McNeely Road congregation asked him to come back.

Roberts has served as a member of the church’s general editorial and publication board, committee to the ministry to the military, state council, state youth board, and state evangelism and home mission board. He has also been district overseer and district youth director. In November 1999, he was inducted into the Church of God Hall of Prophets by the Church Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tenn.

For his retirement next weekend, the congregation will honor Roberts and his wife with a reception at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 1, at the church fellowship hall. The Rev. Ray Garner, administrative bishop for the state of Mississippi, and the Rev. Dennis McGuire, first assistant general overseer of Cleveland, Tenn., will be in charge of the morning service that day.

Roberts said what he will miss most about his position is leading his congregation on a daily basis.

&uot;The people are unique, and have a love and appreciation for their pastor,&uot; Roberts said.