New pastor at Mennonite Brethren Church
by Sherrie Norris
In an effort to welcome him and his family to the church and community, church members hosted a fellowship meal in their honor on Sunday, Feb. 2, following morning worship services.
Mathes is certainly no stranger to the Boone church, said Roberta Jackson.
"He has been in our church conference all of his life, so we have known him for a long time. We had heard him preach and knew that he did a great job. We knew that we were getting a good pastor. We are all excited and happy about him and his wife, Venice, coming to be a part of our community," Jackson said.
Mathes is equally enthusiastic about his new assignment. His hope and vision for his new church, he said, is, first of all, to seek God's direction by prayer and with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
"I want us to walk together in Christian love and to strive for the advancement in knowledge and worship," he said. "It is also my hope that we will contribute to the Junaluska Community as we spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Mathes said he also wants his church to connect people to Jesus and to each other, as his church "builds disciples, while growing in faith and serving in Christ's name."
"Pastor Mike" as his congregation refers to their new leader, is a High Country native who was born in Newland to Ray Mathes (deceased) and Jennie Bell Mathes. He was among the first graduating class of Avery High School in 1969 and attended Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton. He and his wife of 42 years live in the Lake James community and have two children, Dawnice and Micheal.
Mathes pastored at Beech Bottom Mennonite Brethren Church, his hometown church, for eight years, and said he has now "been commissioned by the Lord" to lead Boone Mennonite Brethren Church. After 40 years in the trucking industry, Mathes retired on January 31.
He serves as the assistant moderator of the North Carolina District of the Mennonite Brethren Conference and as a board member of the Mennonite Central Committee of the East Coast in Philadelphia, Pa. Mathes is also president of the Union Fellowship, consisting of 14 churches, and he volunteers on the Young Adult Summer Services Program Reference Group in Ephrata, Pa.
The Boone Mennonite Brethren Church is the only historically black church in Watauga County; its Junaluska neighborhood is possibly the first continuing black community established in Western North Carolina, according to church historians.
The Boone church is the largest of seven congregations included in the Mennonite Brethren North Carolina District, located across the mountains and Foothills. It is part of the only Mennonite Brethren Conference in the United States with a majority of African-American members.
Former pastor of the Boone church, the Rev. James Isbell, once said, "Any black person in Boone, in this community, identifies in some way, connects, to this church. They're all family and every black person in this community at least has a relative or friend who attends or is a member of the Mennonite Brethren Church."
The church, now nearing its 100th birthday, opens its doors to any man, woman, boy or girl, regardless of where they might be on their spiritual journey. A message on its website says it all: "We like to treat every Sunday like it's "Super Bowl Sunday" for God. Vibrant music, friendly and welcoming people and a relevant message of Good News in plain English that you can apply to your everyday life. Dress casual, let loose and be prepared to have a good time."
Sunday morning services begin at 11 a.m.; a men's Bible study is held every Monday night at 6:30 at the church, and the youth group meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the church.Boone Mennonite Brethren Church is located at 161 Church Street in Boone.