Minister uses camera in ministry

Published 12:59 am Saturday, September 16, 2017

By Morgan Mizell

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — The Rev. Bill Barksdale has spent two months preaching from the pulpit of Jefferson Street United Methodist Church, but measure his time ministering to locals in football downs, and his influence is already far greater.

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Barksdale preached his first sermon at the church July 2, and hit the sidelines of high school football fields in August. He carries his Bible to church and his camera to football.

The Mississippi native began his life in the ministry approximately 30 years ago. Much of his initial work in the ministry was with youth.

“I have always been involved with youth ministry, and while I was in graduate school, I noticed there were not a lot of youth pastors,” Barksdale said. “I knew there were a lot of youth leaders, but not a lot of pastors, and I wanted to do that.”

In 2012, he answered the call to become a senior pastor. At that point, he was appointed to the Methodist church in Oxford, where he has been for the past five years.

Barksdale said he knew upon answering the call to minister in the United Methodist Church that he would be moved at the discretion of the Bishop and the Cabinet. Barksdale said his most recent move has been smooth and everyone in Natchez has been very welcoming.

While filling the role of the senior pastor, Barksdale stays aware of what the youth ministry of the church is doing and says he supports its work fully. He has; however, brought an addition to the church, as he is an avid sports photographer who occasionally submits his work for publication.

“It is a way to get out where the people are instead of always asking people to come to church,” Barksdale said. “Sports photography is a calling itself, but I go take pictures of the dance teams, football teams and pep rallies. You can get out there and meet people, connect with them and network.”

Barksdale photographed Ole Miss football while in Oxford and also attended high school games of the youth members in his church taking photos of their games which he later complied and gave to them. He plans to do the same thing in Natchez as a memento for the youth.

“Many times, young athletes never get any action photos of themselves,” Barksdale said. “I do this for them, and it is a way to tell them we love them and God loves them and encourage them to live up to their potential.”

Barksdale plans to become more active with the Natchez Ministerial Alliance and also looks forward to getting involved with jail and prison ministries.“Prison ministry has always been an interest of mine,” Barksdale said. “John Wesley was an advocate for serving the poor and those who are incarcerated. So, I hope to become a regular here with the jail and prison ministry.”

Jefferson Street has a Wednesday night fellowship and Barksdale said it is a ministry they are hoping to expand. Currently, they are watching movies and exploring the Gospel messages within them.

Aside from his photography hobby, Barksdale is also a worship leader in the church adding his voice and guitar skills to the Wednesday night fellowship.

As he continues to become more familiar with his congregation, Barksdale said he knows that as a minister he is not just ministering to those who are in his church, he also looks for opportunities to reach the extended family.

Having already been in ministry for many years, Barksdale says he really doesn’t have a part of ministry that is not his favorite. However, he immensely enjoys the sports photography ministry and the smiles it brings to the kids.

While he continues to settle into his role at Jefferson Street UMC, he does not take the stature and history of the church for granted. “We want to be as open and honest as smallest church in our community,” Barksdale said. “We want to team up with the schools, other churches and all of the mission agencies in the community to make Natchez better and stronger.”