Retiring Methodist minister reflects on 19 years in Demopolis

Rev. Art Luckie says God’s grace led him to Demopolis as Pastor of First United Methodist Church, and that same grace allowed him to stay far longer than he expected.

“God put us together for a reason,” said Rev. Luckie, who is retiring in June after 19 years at the church and 43 years in the ministry. “I came to Demopolis having never been to Demopolis, and I soon realized it is the best-kept secret in the (Alabama-West Florida) Conference.”

luckie picThe Conference is made up of Methodist churches in the lower half of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. While in years past it was commonplace for Methodist Conferences to move pastors regularly – generally every four years or so – Rev. Luckie said the mutual love he and his wife Rosemary share with the people of First Methodist allowed him to be an exception to that pattern.

“Today, if a church is happy with you and you are happy, then you stay,” he said. “Still, 19 years is unusual. But that’s due strictly to God’s grace.”

The Pastor called it “an honor” to serve the people of First United Methodist. “Their willingness to trust and serve God has been the biggest blessing to me,” he said. “Some of my fondest memories are of watching people grow spiritually, seeing the church grow numerically and watching some of our programs expand.”

He noted in particular that, to his knowledge, First Methodist is the only area church that holds both a contemporary and traditional Sunday morning service.

“The people of First United Methodist have also allowed me to grow spiritually,” he continued. “They have allowed me to develop my leadership skills, my Biblical knowledge, and they have allowed me the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know’. They understand that we are on a journey together.”

Rev. Luckie does not care to discuss “accomplishments,” stating plainly, “I’ll let someone else tell that story. Let me just simply say that we have been proud to be a part of it. It has been a 19-year adventure.”

In fact, Rev. Luckie calls his entire 43-year ministry an adventure, but in the most positive sense. “I was a senior in college, and planned to go to work for the phone company, and God changed my plans. It’s hard to explain. I call it an adventure because I have been living by faith my entire ministry. And there is no greater adventure than when a person lives by faith and lives in God’s will, and not just in full-time ministry. If you want to live an exciting life, live in the will of God.”

Rosemary Luckie, who taught in Demopolis City Schools for 18 years (following a 20-year tenure as an educator in Florida) said the people of First Methodist have gone above and beyond the call of duty in caring for their pastor and family.

“Art has had three back surgeries, and each time we didn’t have to prepare a meal for two full weeks,” she said. “The people of First Methodist are amazing.”

Art Luckie added, “And the people of the entire community have been so gracious. The people of Demopolis have truly embraced us. People I don’t even know have walked up to me in the grocery store or the gas station and said, ‘It’s good to see you’ or ‘I’m praying for you’.”

Another example of the kindness extended to him, he noted, is his opportunity to become and accomplished deer hunter, thanks to several members of his church. “When I came to town, I didn’t even own a rifle. Now, deer hunting has become therapy to me. And people have been gracious enough to say, “Go hunting, Brother Art. Here’s the key to the gate – go any time you want to.”

Rev. Luckie’s years of service at First Methodist will end on June 23 with a single 10 a.m. worship service. “It will be painful, but I’d rather it be painful than be a celebration,” he said. “We love these people so much, and we know we’re loved in return.”

While leaving Demopolis is one of the most difficult decisions he’s ever made, the minister said a new chapter awaits he and Rosemary as they move to Crestview, Fla., to be closer to family. “Our children and grandchildren need us, and we need them,” he said. “But I’m still going to be involved. I may teach Sunday School and I may supply preach some. I am open to what God wants me to do. One thing’s for sure, He’s not through with me and I’m not through serving Him.”