I was born in Paducah, KY, in 1976. My father (Read Williamson) was a Methodist minister in the Memphis Conference. Unfortunately, when I was three years old, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He underwent surgery and chemo and did OK--during those first few years, we would advance in his career and we moved a few times to different appointments. But when I was five, his cancer returned in a spot that was not operable, and he died within the next nine months. During this time, my mother moved our family (I have on older brother named Stephen) back to Brownsville, TN, where both my grandmothers still lived. They each played a large role in raising my brother and me, and I believe strongly in the power of intergenerational ministry as a result. My mother (Sandra) worked as a school teacher (mostly 2nd grade) while we lived in Brownsville. After I went to college, she became a school administrator, then a principal, then the state director of Early Childhood programs in Tennessee. A few years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while she is well (completed all treatment, no signs of cancer), the experience prompted her to take early retirement. Both she and my brother now live in Nashville.
I went to Davidson College (1994-1998), and spent my summers working in the Cumberland Mountains for a ministry called Mountain TOP, where I received my call into ministry. I considered becoming a religion major, but on the advice of a good friend—who happened to be a retired pastor—I chose Studio Art instead. His advice? “Study something you love and that you’ll never have the opportunity to do again, because you’ll get all the theology and Bible you need at seminary.” I found he was right!
Following Davidson, I went to Duke Divinity School (1998-2001). It was the perfect place for me, among other great things I met my future wife, Jamalyn Peigh. Jamalyn was a few years behind me in seminary (she spent a few years in sales before discerning her call to ministry), so while she finished up her studies I worked as a chaplain at UNC Hospitals (first as a CPE resident, then as contract staff, mostly within the Children’s Hospital).
Both Jamalyn and I had separately felt a call from God to experience mission work before settling into the local church, and so when we got engaged our first decision was to spend our first two years abroad. Jamalyn had connections to a ministry at work in Haiti (Family Health Ministries), and so we found ourselves newlywed and living in a small rural community called Fondwa, teaching English and managing a child sponsorship program. That two-year experience (2003-2005) has proved foundational for our lives—in many ways Fondwa is “home base” for us, a place we return to often to reground ourselves in ministry. Jamalyn and I each lead many mission trips to Fondwa (at least once, often twice, per year). Jamalyn was present in Haiti when the earthquake took place in 2010, and that was a profound experience. The next chapter of Jamalyn’s ministry will be to create a non-profit to further the work of rebuilding in Haiti.
Upon returning from Haiti, my first appointment in Indiana was a small rural church named Milroy UMC (2005-2009). Jamalyn served as the associate pastor in nearby Greensburg. While a small community, Milroy was a wonderful place to begin ministry. We grew the church from ~65 in weekly attendance to over 120, mostly through ministry to children and young families. It also was the perfect place to start our family—Margaret was born in 2006 and Nathan in 2008. They continue to the light of my life.
In 2009, St. Luke’s UMC approached us about coming to work there. While it was difficult to leave a community that we loved, the opportunity to both work full-time at the same church was too good to pass up. We each wore many hats at St. Luke’s: I have worked as children’s ministry pastor, family ministry pastor, executive pastor, worship ministries pastor, care ministries pastor, and “teaching” pastor; Jamalyn began herself in children’s ministry but found her true home in outreach. We both have grown professionally through the experience, and value the lessons we’ve gained.
One other treasure has been the opportunity to live closer to Jamalyn’s parents, who moved from Terre Haute to Indy to be close to our family. No one is happier than they are that we’re not moving far away! Every step of my journey, I have had the experience of being led. Even when making my own choices, I often had no idea what those choices would lead to, and yet in each place I’ve been enriched by experiences and friendships and lessons that I could’ve experienced nowhere else. I am confident that God is continuing to lead us to Zionsville, and I look forward to this next chapter in my ministry and in the life of our family.