Rev. David Hall finds purpose, happiness in ministry
FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — Reverend David Hall’s office is still undergoing some changes.
In the four months, he has been a part of Valley Chapel United Methodist, a small, yet dignified, brown and white church that sits on Pleasant Valley Road, he has still been adding personal touches to the office that he inherited. Bookshelves that span an entire wall are filled with theology texts, a dark wood desk is a resting place for stacks of folders and papers, and a black music stand against the wall next to the window carries lesson outlines for the bible study class he teaches on Wednesday nights.
In 11 or so years, or sooner if he’s appointed somewhere else, he will have to retire and clear out the office to allow his successor to fill the office with his personal effects. But Rev. Hall doesn’t want to leave.
He likes it here.
“Where is God leading me? Where is God saying He wants me next?” Rev. Hall said. “I do feel God has led me here. I feel that the appointment is valid. It’s a good appointment for me. It’s a good match.”
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Although he was born in Charleston, West Virginia almost 62 years ago, Rev. Hall spent much of his childhood moving around for his father’s vocational rehabilitation counseling work, then his father’s research. Then, his father became a teacher and the family finally settled down.
“By the time I was in fifth grade, I had been to seven different schools,” Rev. Hall said. “First grade, one place. The first half of second grade, someplace else. The second half of second grade. Third grade, in one place. The first half of fourth grade, in one place, and then the second half of fourth grade in another. Fifth grade, six, seventh, eighth, ninth, in one place, and then I graduated somewhere else.”
After graduating high school, Rev. Hall studied to be a music teacher at West Virginia Tech and then taught music and band in some of the schools in southern West Virginia before becoming the choir director at Montgomery. While a choir director of his church in 1995, Rev. Hall was planning the worship service.
He was reading Jeremiah 1-10 and suddenly realized God was speaking to him through the text. In the passage, God tells Jeremiah that he will go where God sends him and say what he told Jeremiah said.
“In reading that scripture, God was no longer talking about Jeremiah,” Rev. Hall said. “He was talking about David Hall. I talked to my pastor, and my pastor said ‘Consider you may have been called into ministry.’”
The next three years of his life were spent in Candidacy, a process which begins as a period of exploration and is followed by the formal application, mentoring, meeting additional requirements, and evaluations of spiritual, personal and professional qualifications.
Finally, in 1998, Rev. Hall entered into Seminary was ordained a deacon in 2003 and, three years later, ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church. Rev. Hall was then appointed from church-to-church — spending five years in Kentucky, two years in Princeton, New Jersey, nine years in Bluefield, West Virginia, and four years in Spencer — before receiving his appointment in Fairmont.
“When I was in Seminary, I thought ‘This is crazy. Nobody can do this,’” Rev. Hall said. “But, that’s the whole point. It’s not what I can do, it’s what God does through me.”
While in high school, Rev. Hall said he felt even then he was being encouraged by to become a bigger part of the church but said he didn’t listen because he wanted to go into music. But, looking back, he knew he was miserable.
Now he feels content and knows he is where he’s supposed to be.
“The first 40 years of my life were spent in music,” Rev. Hall said. “The next 40 years will be in ministry.”
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Rev. Hall was not new to the Methodist Church and had grown up with it, just like the Methodist Church is not new to the United States, as it had also grown up with the country.
Rev. Hall’s family, from Scotland, were all Scottish Presbyterians, and in his youth, he had also gone to Sunday school in the Presbyterian church. When the family lived in St. Alban’s, his father was the father of the Presbyterian Men at Highlawn Presbyterian Church.
However, the family switched to the Methodist Church — his mother’s church — and Rev. Hall eventually became the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and also went to summer camps. Rev. Hall said, in the past, the United Methodist Church was extremely active — there were even four churches in Pleasant Valley.
While the system of faith and worship, as well as the belief in and worship of a personal God or gods, is what defines religion, Rev. Hall doesn’t like that term.
“I don’t call it religion,” Rev. Hall said. “Religion is man’s attempt to reach God. Christianity is God’s attempt to reach man. So, I’m a Christian and I profess faith in Jesus Christ. Religion is something that I try to fight because religion is a man-made institution and I don’t like man-made institutions. I’m not in favor of a democracy, or a republic. I’m in favor of a theocracy where God is in charge.
“The United States is founded on religious freedom. That meant that we would be free to practice our faith. What happened is they ended up saying we have the freedom from religion, which, I guess, in a sense we do. But, that would break the hearts of our founding fathers.”
Rev. Hall was appointed to Fairmont’s United Methodist Church after the previous pastor moved to Sistersville, and said the pastor who replaced him at his previous church was from Friendsville in Maryland. Since the pastor who replaced that pastor was previously in Sistersville, Rev. Hall said the four of them did a “dosie-do.”
Although Rev. Hall and his family came from Marshall territory, he said the family is learning to appreciate West Virginia football. Rev. Hall also said Fairmont is a wonderful place.
Rev. Hall likes the environment and said there’s a lot of things to do in the area. He also was blown away by the fact that he could be in Pennsylvania in an hour and the high activity of the Valley Chapel.
“The culture here isn’t very different,” Rev. Hall said. “It’s very open, very friendly. West Virginians are, by-and-large, nice people. I was concerned when we moved first north to Spencer that it was going to be clannish, or ‘we don’t welcome strangers’. I was welcomed there. I have been welcomed here by very friendly people, much like any other part of the state of West Virginia...For the most part, West Virginians are caring, loving, very open.”
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One of the things Rev. Hall needs to do when he gets to a new place is to find the meaning of the town in which he will preach.
“Part of the job of the new pastor is to learn what Valley Chapel’s all about,” Rev. Hall said. “What Bentons Ferry is all about. We’re all called to proclaim the gospel, we’re all called to reach the needy, and help, and all these things, but how do we do it differently than someone else? What makes Valley Chapel, Valley Chapel? What makes us special here? What makes Valley Chapel unique?”
Rev. Hall recalled his previous appointment in Kentucky, and how that calling was taking young pastors and turning them into more mature pastors. In Bluefield, he said was very involved in the community, but had also been there for nine years.
“Here, I haven’t quite found my place yet,” Rev. Hall said. “But, I’ve only been here four months. I’ve just got to figure out what makes Valley Chapel — what makes Bentons Ferry — unique in their own setting and how can I guide them into doing what God has called them to do.”
Rev. Hall mentioned how the church just made about 1,400 pounds of sausage to sell this past week, how the boy scout program (Troop 7) is one of the largest in the area, how the preschool is very prevalent.
“This church is very active,” Rev. Hall said. “Very community-minded, looking for ways to help out, looking for ways to participate in community activities, and I guess that’s why I’m here. I’m just the guy who points these things out. I preach a little bit, teach a little bit. I’m basically just here to help the ministry and to point them in the right direction.”
Rev. Hall said his duties are to organize the “life of the church”. While they consider him the pastor, which means he essentially runs the show, Rev. Hall has never been like that.
“The Methodist Church was founded on the laity,” Rev. Hall said. “When the people came from Europe and moved to what was then the colonies, it was the lay people — regular, down-to-earth-folks, working laborers — that brought Methodism with them.”
Rev. Hall said while preachers moved between the various churches in the area, it was the people who belonged to those churches that ran the church. He considers himself the rallying point, rather than the commander.
“I’m not the CEO of Valley Chapel,” Rev. Hall said. “I’m not the CEO of Bentons Ferry. I’m here to help the church to do its ministry. The Church is the people. I’m here to help them do their job...I’m here to teach and preach and help wherever I can.”
Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com