For years, Russell Payne lived here and vacationed near Johnson City, Tenn., at the site of his parents’ home.
Beginning in June, Payne will call Tennessee his home and vaction here.
After 30 years in the ministry and 22 at Coulson Church of the Brethren, Payne is retiring from full-time ministry and, along with his wife, Debbie, taking on the role of Executive Minister for the Southeastern District. He will also move to his childhood homeplace just outside Jonesborough, Tenn., on June 1.
Payne, 61, said as he’s transitioning to this new stage of his life and career, the emotions are bittersweet.
“It’s exciting about thinking about starting something new at my age. God has opened a door,” Payne said. “As the Apostle Paul said a door of effective service has been opened. Another thing he said, ‘I thank my God on every remembrance of you.’ As we transition, I would have to say, I thank God upon my remembrances of Carroll County and Coulson Church and this community.”
On April 11, the Carroll County Ministerial Association recognized Payne with a plaque for his years of dedicated service during a breakfast meeting at Shoney’s.
Payne first came to Coulson Church in 1982 and remained there for four years before leaving. He returned in 1994 and has been pastor there ever since.
“This is where I started. It was my first church back in the summer of 1982. I think I was 31 when I came here,” Payne said.
Over the years, the Paynes have set down roots in the area and raised their family here. Russell said it’s going to be tough stepping away.
“The bitter part is leaving here with all the connections we’ve had and the roots we have,” he said. “Our youngest daughter was born in Galax and her two daughters were born in Galax. Our kids all graduated from Carroll County High School. Raised a son who graduated at New Life, now in Kuwait as Army Chaplain’s Assistant.”
As Executive Ministers, the Paynes will operate out of their new home and serve a wide swath of territory all across the Southeast, including several locations near here.
“Rather than being at one church, I’m going to be preaching and ministering to 40 churches,” Payne said. “There’s one in Mount Airy and there’s one in Mobile, Ala. It’s going to be a challenge but it’s going to be interesting. My wife and I are going to be doing it as a team. We’ll be working together.”
And while the Paynes will be here until the end of May, Russell said Debbie is working on finding a replacement for her position as Executive Director of the Hope House in Galax.
“Debbie runs Hope House and she’s trying to find somebody to help in that so she can train them and keep that going,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe the number of people who come through that place during the year.”
And, while they will have a new address, Payne said they will be back in the area from time to time, to visit grandchildren and to see old friends.
“Two of our daughters will still be living in Galax, so we will be back,” Payne said. “I’m like Ernest T. Bass, you ain’t seen the last. We will be back.”