After 33 years behind the pulpit, including the last 13 at Granbury First United Methodist Church, the Rev. J. Neil Norman is retiring.
Sunday, June 29, is Norman’s last Sunday as senior pastor at Granbury FUMC. A reception is planned following the 9 a.m. worship service. The community is invited to the gathering in the church’s Christian Life Center, 301 Loop 567.
In an interview last week, Norman recalled his first congregation in Abbott. “I received $600 a month and a house with no air conditioning,” he said.
At that time, Norman and his wife were still going to school three times a week to complete their degrees. To help the young couple, the congregation decided to give the Normans a pounding.
“We didn’t know what a ‘pounding’ was, and wondered if the church was going to beat us,” he said with a laugh.
Lucky for them, a pounding turned out to be groceries and every day needs.
Norman grew up in Graham, and felt a call to become a pastor his senior year of high school.
“I felt a pull that this is what I was meant to do,” Norman said of becoming a pastor.
Upon graduating from high school he attended Texas Wesleyan University for his undergraduate degree and then completed his graduate work at Texas Christian University.
In 1980, on a family trip to Colorado he met Patrece. Her father was a Methodist minister as well as her brother, so she told Norman she wasn’t going to get involved with him, he recalled.
She ate those words.
“A few months later we were engaged,” Norman said. They were married in July 1981.
That same year, they moved to Abbott where Norman began his career as a pastor at the church Willie Nelson grew up in, Abbott United Methodist Church.
Norman had served at several other churches when the opportunity to become senior pastor at Granbury FUMC was afforded him.
Norman’s boss nominated him to be the pastor at Granbury FUMC and Norman agreed to take the position. He said he was always open to go wherever he was sent.
Norman came to Granbury in 2001 with his wife, Patrece, and two children. He has seen many changes both personally and at Granbury FUMC over the past 13 years.
When the family moved here, son Eric was starting college at Texas A&M and daughter Erin was entering middle school. Now they are both out of college and married.
When the Normans arrived in Granbury, the Methodist church met on the square, at the corner of Pearl and Crockett streets. Since then, the church has constructed a new facility on the corner of Loop 567 and Highway 51 to accommodate a larger congregation.
Norman now plans on making a big change by retiring and moving to Weatherford to be closer to his children in Fort Worth.
Norman said his favorite part of being a pastor was spending time with people during both the difficult and joyous times of life. With his job, he said, he got to celebrate with people during weddings and baptisms, but also was there for them in the hard times.
In retirement, Norman and his wife look forward to traveling. He also plans to be involved in some church work, such as stepping in with help, going on mission trips and preaching occasionally.
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