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McArter to retire after 19 years at Milton UMC

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By Jacob Blair

When Bro. Mike McArter was appointed as a United Methodist minister, many of his church placements required a move after several years. However, once he reached Milton United Methodist Church in 1999, his feet were planted here as he became part of the community for 19 years. That 19-year pastorate ends on Father’s Day, when McArter retires from full-time ministry.

McArter’s ministry journey began 41 years ago while he was at the Alexandria United Methodist Church in northern Kentucky, where he first received the call to ministry.

“I felt that the Lord was leading me to the ministry,” he said. “I didn’t know when I first received the call if it would be preaching or something else. As I went along, it became more evident that it would be pastoral ministry.”

After graduating from Northern Kentucky University in 1976, McArter completed the Master of Divinity program at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He’s pastored a number of churches in addition to Milton, including Ludlow (Wesley), Staffordsburg, Tompkinsville Ct., Pembroke, a second stint in Tompkinsville (Berea) and Munfordville. McArter recalled his initial visit to Tompkinsville.

“I wasn’t too impressed at that time with the church itself,” he said. “We were on our way back and had a flat tire. We were miles from the nearest exit, so I got the spare out. My wife (Robin) said, ‘Do you think this is a sign we should stay and not go?” I said, ‘I think it’s a sign to change a flat tire.’”

As if the winds of fate intervened again with McArter’s ministry assignment, after his time at Munfordville, Milton was initially not the church he was supposed to pastor.

“We were supposed to actually go to another church instead of Milton,” he said. “I wondered about the situation because I heard some things about the church and I talked to one of the district superintendents and they made some switching around and I ended up in Milton. We felt it was meant to be.

“You talk about Trimble County, I think there’s some good opportunities here. Many ministers have settled in and served a long time, whether they be United Methodist, Baptist or other denominations.

“There’s something special about Trimble County and I think the people are very down to earth, very welcoming. I think the people show a lot of respect for their pastors. You just feel at home here, I think that’s something my wife and I have experienced over the years. They’ve (the congregation) always tried to help us. The community is good. You feel part of something here.”

Throughout his 19 years at Milton, McArter estimated he’s performed at least 40 weddings and around 60 baptisms. While he was here, the congregation also completed an expansion of the church including a new fellowship hall, kitchen, baptistery and additional rooms.

Pastoral care

One of the duties as pastor that McArter has taken to heart is spiritual care in troubled times. The care he provided was also mentioned by several of his church members.

“I think as much as possible, if I can be there at their point of need, I would hope that I can provide the help that they require in those moments,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s just your presence. It’s not saying anything, it’s just giving them that support. Other times they want to talk about things. For instance, while their loved one is in surgery, let’s say they’re going through a four- or five-hour surgery, to be able to talk to those loved ones, to be able to hear their concerns, and maybe in some way try to set their minds at ease, to pray with them, to let them know you care.

“I care personally about my members and even though we don’t have hundreds of thousands of people, I think it’s more important to give that personal care and I think it develops that bond between me and others. I think it means a lot to people. You want to do as a pastor what is the most helpful thing. And for a lot of people, when you’re there with them in time of surgeries with the families, that’s something that is special to them.”

Family

In a retirement submission letter, McArter called his wife Robin (Sowers) McArter a true partner in both life and ministry.

“I think what my wife and I have tried to do is be as positive as we can, wherever we’ve moved and to try to get to know the people and try to appreciate what is unique about each location and each place,” he said.

They have one daughter, Nicole Ann, and four grandsons, Ben, 8; Peyton, 6; Will, 4; and Max, 3.

Organization participation

One organization McArter has got to work with throughout the years is Boy Scouts of America, through the church’s cubs and scouts since 2009. The group recently honored McArter with a plaque thanking him for his dedication. Outside of the church, McArter has also worked with the Trimble CARES Coalition on projects such as “Truth and Consequences” presented to school students and the Milton Lions Club.

Educational pursuits

From a young age, McArter has always been under the influence of a quality education, as both his parents were teachers in Campbell County, with his father also serving as principal of Grant’s Lick Elementary for four years.

Not only does McArter have an M.Div., he also has a Master of Arts in student personnel in higher education from Western Kentucky University, obtained in 1995, and an education specialist degree from Eastern Kentucky University, earned in 2008. McArter decided to pursue another master’s degree, this time in adult and higher education from Morehead State University’s online program. Recently, he was recognized as the outstanding graduate student for the program.

“I always felt like my calling was to be a pastor. And I thought about it and I’m going to continue to preach part-time in retirement, but I’ve also had an interest in higher education,” he said. “...Maybe there would be an opportunity I could do the ministry part time and work part-time in higher education and work with students.”

Becoming a UMC pastor

The process of becoming a pastor in a UMC church is bit different than a denomination structure where each church is entirely autonomous.

“When we are ordained as United Methodist ministers, we make a pledge to go where we are sent,” he said. “There is input from the pastor, they’ll ask us what would you like to do? Would you like to go or stay?”

While the pastor makes a recommendation, each church also has a pastor-parish committee that will recommend action to the district superintendent for that church. Once a recommendation reaches that point, it goes before the cabinet of nine Kentucky superintendents and the state’s United Methodist bishop.

“The bishop has the final say on who will go where,” he said. “But they try to work these out so they can make the best possible appointment for each church.”

Retirement party

The church will have an open house and retirement party for McArter 2-4 p.m. this Sunday, June 10. The following week will be his last service at Milton UMC. Mike Gibbons, a La Grange resident, will step into the pastor’s role after McArter leaves.

Although he is retiring, McArter isn’t quite ready to put ministry behind him, as he has signed a covenant to be the pastor of Shannon and Bethel United Methodist churches in Mason County.

“I was definitely interested and this would be more of a part-time, half time,” he said. “We went down in April and met with the churches and people. They’re very kind. They seem like they want a pastor and wife, family, that’s interested in them, that’ll work with them and help the move forward as churches.”

His first Sunday there will be June 24, with plans in the works to move from Trimble County later this summer.

“My wife and I both, we thank the community for their kindness and their support over these 19 years,” McArter said. “That’s the only way that you can remain in the community. We do appreciate the people of Trimble County and the people of this church for everything they have done and all of their help and support.”