Long before Timothy Hale became the new pastor at Floyd United Methodist Church, he was familiar with the town of Floyd. A fan of old-time music and a fiddle player himself, Hale said he had visited Floyd and the Country Store before he moved to the area on July 1. And Southwest Virginia generally is familiar to him, as he’s a native of Galax and a graduate of Emory & Henry College, where he studied religion.
Hale is glad to be home serving the Methodist congregation. “It’s great; it feels like home,” Hale said. “I think the people in southwest Virginia are just so kind and respectful to each other.” Although Hale is new to the church in Floyd, he said his introduction to the congregation has gone smoothly because all the members share a common faith and goal. “I have the same mission as the church has, to share the Christian faith with others and introduce people to Jesus. So we’ve all kind of united around that mission.”
It’s a mission Hale has held close since his adolescence, as he discerned his call to ministry at age 15. Prior to that, he thought he might be a schoolteacher, as both his parents had been. “That influenced me a lot,” he said. “The reason why they were teachers was because they thought it was so important that children learn to read. They saw that job as sort of a missionary effort…I saw the difference it was making,” he recounted.
But then in high school, Hale began teaching a bible study, and realized he could help people find peace and comfort through their faith. “Getting to know Jesus—I believe it’s a life-transforming experience. So that’s when I really decided on (ministry).” Even now, when writing his sermons, he said he is guided by “a deep sort of concern and compassion for people” and seeks to relate scripture to the struggles people face each day.
Hale said that his call to ministry was both incredibly joyful and a bit overwhelming, because being a faith leader is such an awesome responsibility. Hale recalled one mentor’s advice on the subject: “I had a mentor tell me, ‘if you think you can do anything else with your life and be happy, do that instead,’” he said. But for Hale, there was no other option—in his view, ministry has defined his life. “I see my purpose in life; really everything I do is moving toward that calling,” he said.
Hale said as a pastor, strangers immediately trust him and view him as a confidant. While he may only preach for one hour on Sundays, his work is literally full-time. “When I introduce myself and tell people I’m a pastor, people often talk about their faith journey, whether or not they’re involved in church, or some difficult things they’ve gone through in life,” Hale said. “I think it’s great, but it also carries some weight with me.”
Besides being a minister, being a resident of Floyd leads to much more small talk and person-to-person interaction than Hale would find in bigger cities, like his prior home of Durham, North Carolina while a student at Duke University—and he’s grateful for that. Hale is a member of Floyd Fitness (“the only gym in Floyd,” he pointed out) and said, “I haven’t gone without having a full conversation with someone. I’m a people person, so I do like it.” Hale (who’s quite tall) also gets stopped in grocery stores and said, “It’s nice to have a conversation with someone in the store that doesn’t start off with, ‘Can you reach this on the top shelf?’”
Outside of his pastoral duties, which include office hours, visitation to local nursing homes, home visits with members of the congregation and sermon-writing, Hale finds time to play tennis and disc golf, as well as honing his skills at piano and guitar. He credits the faith community in Floyd and his own congregation with making community-building easy. “The church is already an open and welcoming congregation, and it’s growing,” Hale said. “I just hope we can continue that, and continue in our outreach ministries—to be a place where the community can come and feel at home, or come if they have any needs.”
Hale good-spiritedly fielded a few rapid-fire “fun fact” questions near the end of our chat. His favorite book (besides the Bible)? C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. His favorite food? Fried chicken. Alison Krauss & Union Station is his favorite band. Pastor Hale conducts Bible study on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and Wednesdays at 11 a.m.