United Methodist pastor back in pulpit at age 90

By Loretta Fulton, Abilene Reporter-News…

ABILENE, Texas—The Rev. James Holman turned 90 on Sept. 20, just three weeks after starting his latest job.

Mr. Holman didn’t plan to get a new job as he approached his 90th birthday, but some pastors don’t refuse the call to the pulpit, no matter what age.

“If you’re called, it’s there,” Mr. Holman said.

On Sept. 1, Mr. Holman, who lives in Clyde, Texas, was appointed pastor at Hamby United Methodist Church, a small congregation he served part time in the 1960s when he was pastor of Grace UMC in Abilene.

The Rev. James Holman delivers a sermon to the congregation of Hamby United Methodist Church in Hamby, Texas. At age 90, Mr. Hamby accepted an appointment as the church’s pastor. “I like being around people,” he said. PHOTO BY JOY LEWIS/’ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS’

Mr. Holman had been filling in at the church for several weeks when the call came. Darlyne Gossett, a member, said everyone was pleased with Mr. Holman as an interim minister, so she suggested to the congregation that they request him on a full-time basis. The vote was unanimous and soon afterward, Mr. Holman became a fixture in the pulpit.

Mr. Holman’s appointment was made official by Bishop Dan Solomon, the interim bishop of the Northwest Texas Annual Conference. Abilene District Superintendent, the Rev. Don Boren, said he believes Mr. Holman is the oldest person serving an appointment in the conference, although retirees often serve in interim positions.

Mr. Boren, too, was glad to see Mr. Holman appointed. The two first met in 1979 when Mr. Boren attended a youth retreat at Mr. Holman’s church in Canadian, Texas.

Mr. Boren said Mr. Holman approached him earlier this year about filling in on Sundays for other pastors in the Abilene District. Mr. Boren asked Mr. Holman to take the interim position at Hamby, which turned into the permanent calling.

“James still has a lot of enthusiasm and a great heart for God and his people,” Mr. Boren wrote in an email. “I look forward to good things for both the Hamby UMC and for James.”

It’s hard to say who is more enthusiastic about the appointment—Mr. Holman or his latest flock. Even at age 90, Mr. Holman has a hard time finding enough things to do. He has been married twice, outliving both wives. Two children live in Lubbock and one in Kerrville.

His big house gets lonely, so Mr. Holman finds ways to stay active.

“I like people,” he said, “and I like being around people.”

Four days a week, Mr. Holman meets friends for breakfast, including a 6 a.m. gathering on Fridays at Cracker Barrel in Abilene. In his younger years, Mr. Holman was a hiking enthusiast and hiked part of the Appalachian Trail.

Until he reached 80, Mr. Holman was an avid bicyclist. In 1975, at age 52, he biked 275 miles from his church in Canadian to McMurry University.

Mr. Holman’s active lifestyle no doubt is part of the reason he is trim, fit, and still able and willing to pastor a church. Mr. Holman has been a pastor at heart for much of his life, but not always a Methodist pastor.

Born Sept. 20, 1922, in Heber Springs, Ark., Mr. Holman moved with his family to southeast Missouri when he was a child. He attended the first eight grades in a one-room school, sometimes taught by an older sister. Mr. Holman was 10th out of 11 children and is the only surviving family member.

Mr. Holman grew up in the Church of the Nazarene, attended a Nazarene seminary, and served Nazarene churches for 12 years before becoming a Methodist at age 37 and taking pastoral training at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

Mr. Holman traces his tug toward ministry to his junior year in high school. He said he was “naughty” as a youngster and had a conversion experience as a teen. His pastor sensed that conversion and asked Mr. Holman to preach one Sunday.

“That was the start of it all,” he said.

That experience went well and he was asked to do it again. The second time, the church windows were open and a stiff breeze blew his notes off the lectern. That threw him for a loop, and he didn’t fully recover. Mr. Holman believes the experience was God’s way of keeping him off a high horse.

“Don’t get puffed up about this,” was the message from God, Mr. Holman said.

Though humbled, Mr. Holman was sure of his calling and set out on a life of ministry. As a pastor in the Northwest Texas conference, Mr. Holman moved frequently, serving numerous churches in the Panhandle and the Abilene area.

Now, he has come full circle. He’s back in the pulpit of a small congregation, preaching from the Bible, as he loves to do.

Mr. Holman said some of his friends think he’s “nutty” for taking on a job at his age, but he doesn’t see it as a job. After filling in for six Sundays at Hamby, Mr. Holman said he knew the desire and ability were still there.

“It’s been a renewal,” he said. “I feel like I’m beginning over again.”

Reprinted by permission from the Abilene Reporter-News.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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