After a year without a pastor, East Paris Baptist Church in September called a Paris native home to lead the congregation in worship and in community service.
The Rev. James Moody preached his first sermon as pastor Sunday, and he and his wife, Sherry, moved to Paris this week from a lake cabin near Mineola where the couple has been living since selling their home in Arlington after resigning in April as president of Arlington Baptist University, where he served for 30 years, the past 10 years as president.
“I hope to serve out the remaining years of my ministry here,” the 1977 North Lamar High School graduate said Wednesday from his church office at 725 N. Collegiate Drive. “Paris is my home, and I am so fortunate the congregation called me here; I just love these wonderful people.
“God has been so good to Sherry and I over those 30 years away; we have friends literally all around the world through my ministry at the college and as a past president of World Baptist Fellowship,” Moody continued. “And now for us to get to come back home and finish our journey here is amazing, and I am so humbled at the grace of God that he is letting us come home.”
Because Paris is home, Moody said he and Sherry will not have to spend time acclimating to a new community but are ready to begin making a difference.
“East Paris has been such a key factor and influential part of the city of Paris, and I want to see that nurtured,” Moody said. “I believe we are not to be apart from the community, we are to be a part of the community because Christ never isolated himself from the work to be done.”
Emphatic about cooperation and collaboration with other church congregations, Moody said, “Together everyone accomplishes more. The future is bright and there are just so many things that can be done, and we can do them together.”
After graduating in 1977, marrying his high school sweetheart in 1979 and being called into the ministry, Moody headed to then Arlington Baptist College where he graduated in 1983. During his senior year, Victory Baptist Church, 3155 Pine Mill Road, called him to pastor and the couple moved back to Paris for seven years.
In 1989, Moody joined Arlington Baptist College where he first served as director of Institutional Advancement and later Dean of Students and chairman of the Pastoral Ministries Department until being named college president in 2009. During his early years at the college, he attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago earning a masters degree and then a doctorate from Covington Theological Seminary near Chattanooga,Tennessee.
Moody also pastored Pleasant View Baptist Church in Arlington from 1994 until he became college president in 2009 during a 15-year period the pastor termed “a loving and fulfilling experience.”
In 2018, Moody and Sherry began to “feel God doing something in our lives.” At the time, he was preaching somewhere every weekend when church administrator Michael Julian of East Paris Baptist asked him to fill the pupit for the month of November.“
Although usually full, the whole month of November was open, which just shows God’s hand in our lives, Moody said, adding he returned in February for another month and for a couple of Sundays in April. “Like the old rock song, ‘I fooled around and fell in love.’”
Although not guaranteed a position at the church, Moody resigned as Arlington Baptist University president, the couple sold their home in Arlington, stored their belongings and moved to the cabin near Mineola where they waited on God to give direction for their next ministry.
“I had told the search committee at East Paris I did not feel comfortable submitting a resume while I was president, and when I did submit a resume I told them I did not expect to be given any special consideration,” Moody said, explaining he was not asked to give a candidate sermon until Sept. 15 when the congregation voted to call him as pastor.
“I just want to finish my journey here,” he said, “just loving people and preaching the word.”