My Dad has a story of his own. One night after working at the Papermill, my Dad stopped by the First United Methodist Church of Panama City, where he accepted Jesus Christ; the evening after, God called him to pastor. When my Dad shared his story with Mom, she answered God’s call.

When I was born, my parents lived in Coatopa, Alabama, where my Dad was the pastor. I was the third of four sons to be born. The Church was the center of our lives. We spent as much time or more at the Church than at home. Home and Church became our foundation for life.

My understanding of Jesus Christ came from my parents and the Church. Like my Dad. my brothers, [Robert, David, and Joel], and I answered God’s call too. We often joked, saying Dad would stand by our bedside at night and say, “I want to be a preacher.” I learned it takes more than “want” to be a pastor. I believe that being a pastor is a calling of God.

In the spring of 1982, when I was a student at Troy State University, Dr. Karl Stegall took me for a ride. When we passed Banks United Methodist, he said, “You’ll be appointed pastor of the Banks Charge in June.” He also said, “Love your people, pay your bills, and put money in your pension.”

God led me on an incredible journey, starting with Banks, Murphy’s Chapel, and Pleasant Hill [Banks Charge]. The people I have encountered in the Church, community, and conference have all contributed to my life. There are stories to tell, some of which will never see the light of day. All have made this journey unforgettable.

When I met you, the people of Milton First United Methodist Church, in 2018, you were and have remained gracious, kind, and generous. Your love has moved me to the core; we are family. Together, we have shared in this incredible journey. The Lord has shepherded us throughout these days. I am thankful.

My call to enter the ministry and retire came unexpectedly. God led me into the Church, and now God has called me to a new adventure. Some will say I have spent forty-three years in the Church; I say I have spent 64 years and nine months. I was born a United Methodist; Bishops of the Alabama West Florida Conference appointed my Dad, my brothers, and me all these years. I’m at peace and excited to see where this new avenue leads.

Stay Faithful, and Remember, YOU Matter,

Steve Warren, Pastor First UMC Milton