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St. Paul UMC associate minister builds strength in gym and the community

The Rev. Angela Johnson works with children at the church off Washington Street in Gainesville

POSTED: January 7, 2017 1:30 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Angela Johnson is St. Paul United Methodist Church's new associate pastor and children's minister. The church is off Washington Street in downtown Gainesville.

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Editor’s note: This series introduces one minister from a faith-based organization in the community each month.

The Rev. Angela Johnson can be found with boxing gloves on throwing punches in her garage three times a week. But the rest of the week, the tough pastor can be found guiding her flock at St. Paul United Methodist Church off Washington Street in downtown Gainesville. 

“I might be Angie Ali soon,” she said. “It’s a good workout. It will make you sweat and get out any frustrations you may have. I like that.”

When she’s not channeling her inner Mohammad Ali, Johnson works with children from birth to fifth grade at the church. As associate pastor, her main role is to cultivate children’s faith and help them grow in the church.

Getting their parents involved is important, too.

“You can’t have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry without being engaged with their families,” said Johnson, who started working at the church Nov. 1.

But tending to children’s faith is not her only job. Her other duties extend into pastoral care, teaching and relationship building.

The 31-year-old also preaches when the Rev. Geoff Grubbs isn’t around, which the senior pastor appreciates along with her litany of credentials.

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a concentration in broadcast journalism and a minor in theater before continuing going into religious studies. She received her master’s degree in Christian education and theological studies from Wesley Theological Seminar in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with Pfeiffer University in North Carolina.

The Greenville, S.C., native worked in two churches in her home state and two in the metro-Atlanta area before coming to Gainesville. She also served as the campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

“(Johnson) is an extremely organized person. So anytime you can bring someone like that on staff, I think it elevates everyone’s level of administrative acumen,” Grubbs said. “She’s done a great job of seeing and helping us to see the minutia in what we’re doing ... She’s such a great influence on us paying attention to the details.”

He described her talent, spirituality and kindness as an asset to St. Paul and deemed her a game-changer that makes the team at St. Paul a lot brighter.

“We were super lucky to get an opportunity to get her on our team,” Grubbs said. “Sometimes the stars just align and you end up with someone you could never have hope for that God sends your way.”

The single woman who enjoys going for walks and traveling sat down with The Times earlier this week to talk about her work.

 

Question: What is your favorite part of being a pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church?

Answer: The people. Out of all the churches that I have served, these individuals, these families, happen to be the most loving people that I have ever been around. They give me hope as a single woman, that my family will one day be as loving and kind as they’ve been to me.

 

Q: What are some of the strengths of this church community?

A: The church’s strength is their hospitality. Church members are willing to be flexible and they’re willing to try new things. I think one of the big things that the church is moving toward is welcoming the community. We often ask, how can we be more open to other people through all walks of life?

Q: What are areas that need growth or improvement?

A: We could always work on our spiritual growth and the ways that we reach out to people. We can always grow and always be willing to learn and find places that we can serve. I think sometimes that if we look at scripture, it will say serving the least of these. I think a big part of it for me is stepping out of my comfort zone, or our comfort zones, and serving people, who don’t look like me, who maybe don’t smell like me, but they’re still children of God and we have to realize that.

 

Q: What are your goals while at St. Paul United Methodist Church?

A: To have some spiritual growth but also grow with children and parents in the community. One of the biggest things we’re doing is reaching out to two preschools in the community, a Gainesville city school and a Hall County school. They’re primarily elementary schools that we can engage and partner with, but also some communities that may be considered underprivileged here in the Hall County-area. There are ways we can work and partner together and maybe create ministry opportunities by going to another area of the county and inviting people in. We’re just looking at ways we can really do ministry different. Ministry doesn’t really happen within these four walls. In order to do that we have to step out.



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