By Mary Ann Ferguson
For the Pioneer
What name says humble, loving, kind, concerned, gracious, a calming influence, good humor, openness to others, and patience?
When describing Delbert King on Sunday, May 4th, as he retired as a Methodist minister, those words rolled off the tongues of Williston's First United Methodist Church members.
Rev. Delbert J. King, a long-time volunteer minister at FUMC of Williston, on Sunday was invited to offer "the sermon he has always wanted to give."
Following his sermon titled, "To God Be the Glory," church members hosted a luncheon attended by members of the other six Florida churches Delbert has served, as well as fellow ministers he has known over his 261e,,2-year career.
Rev. King has an impact on many in our community and beyond. He and other members of Williston's FUMC conduct a weekly prison ministry at Marion County Correctional Institution. Upon learning that, while Delbert was officially retiring, but would continue his ministry at MCI, Israel, one of the inmates said, "We thank Jesus for the goodness you send in the likes of men like Delbert." This sentiment was echoed by the 30 prisoners in FUMC's men's prison ministry, and by Jack Kearney, another member of this ministry, who said, "The inmates truly love him."
Delbert's wife of 43 years, Maureen, whom he met at a dance when he was 17 years old, says he was called to the ministry from his early youth in Graceville, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio's Rio Grande College and working for a time outside the ministry, Delbert began his studies at an Ohio Methodist theological seminary and in 1984 graduated from Chandler School of Theology, Emory University, with a master's degree. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1984 and an Elder in 1986.
Rev. King's ministry included Gainesville's Christ United Methodist, Faith United and Grace UMC. He later moved to churches in Keystone Heights, Largo, and Lake Panosoffkee.
In 2003, Rev. King was awarded a disability, but his desire to serve his fellow man in ministry has not wavered. For the past five years Delbert has served as a volunteer minister at FUMC of Williston, a role he plans to continue. Driving from Gainesville three or four times a week, he sings in the choir, participates in the prison ministry, fills in for the pastor when needed, and recently started a communitywide grief ministry called Helping Hurting Hearts. A participant said, "Delbert is a calming influence and continually extends graciousness. He gave me his home and cell number and said to call him any time. When I did, he was there for me."
Delbert, a large man with a deep tenor voice, might be imposing were it not for the twinkle in his eye and a face lined from a life time of his wide smile. He is loved and respected by those who know him, One of his three daughters, paid him the highest compliment one can pay a parent, "I hope my son Ethan grows up to be just like him. A Christ UMC member, Adrian Compton, related that when his wife Mona died of Alzheimer's Disease, Delbert was with her every day for the final six days of her life.
Rev. Ken Hostetler, Pastor at Micanopy's FUMC said, "He made a difference in my own life when I was facing challenges; he's what Grace is about." Regardless of how far they lived from one another, Rev. King has met to mentor Rev. Hostetler at least once a month for more than 20 years. Rev. Barry Andrews, a former pastor at Williston FUMC, said, "He wrote the book on humility, there is no guile in him."
When asked about his impact on FUMC, members talked about how he influences them to be better Christians. The current pastor at Williston FUMC, Rev. David Paul, summed it up best when he said, "When I see him, I see someone who is gracious, and has absolute love for the Lord and for people. He is valuable member of our ministry team, and as long as he desires he will continue in that role."