The Rev. Eric Pridmore leaves Goodman Memorial United Methodist Church following morning worship.
Rev. Eric Pridmore leaves Goodman Memorial United Methodist Church in
Cary, Miss., with his daughter Mary Ruth and Gene, his Seeing Eye dog,
following morning worship. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 04-253, 7/8/04
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
United Methodist News Service
FORK, Miss.—The Revs. Eric and Lisa Pridmore, two 30-somethings with a
child and a dog, are pastors to a three-point United Methodist charge in
rural Mississippi. Two of the churches are historically white and one
is historically black.
members at all three churches joke that they weren’t too sure when they
heard the bishop was sending them a woman pastor and a male pastor who
was visually impaired and needed a guide dog, and that they were coming
to Mississippi from New Jersey.
as Rebecca McGee, a member at Clarks Chapel United Methodist Church,
says, the couple “has done won the hearts in the Mississippi Delta.”
Every Sunday, the Pridmores trade off preaching at three churches, Goodman Memorial, Clarks Chapel and Rolling Fork.
Goodman Memorial United Methodist Church
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
The Revs. Eric and Lisa Pridmore lead worship at Goodman Memorial United Methodist Church.
Revs. Eric and Lisa Pridmore lead morning worship at Goodman Memorial
United Methodist Church in Cary, Miss. The clergy couple pastors a
three-point charge in the rural West Jackson district. A UMNS photo by
Mike DuBose. Photo number 04-254, 7/8/04
first stop for the Pridmores on Sundays is the 9 a.m. worship service at
Goodman Memorial United Methodist Church in the small town of Cary,
in 1884, the historically white church smells like old wood and the
pews are covered in soft, red velvet. The arched windows are bright and
inviting. Not too many people sit in the wooden pews, but those who are
there are faithful to their church.
Three-year-old Mary Ruth Pridmore is in charge of handing out the church bulletins.
Lisa and Gene, Eric’s Seeing Eye dog, take their places at the front of
the church. Lisa does all the reading on this Fourth Sunday after
Pentecost. Eric is the preacher. Gene sleeps quietly beside Eric most
Sundays. Today, however, he’s having one of those “doggie dreams” and
his legs twitch and he softly moans. It’s not enough to disturb the
worship service, but it does give Lisa and Eric a moment of panic.
Mary Ruth, under the watchful eyes of church members, quietly entertains herself with a coloring book.
the service is over, everyone goes down to the fellowship hall for
cookies and coffee before Lisa, Eric, Gene and Mary Ruth have to split
up and go to their two other charges.
Clarks Chapel United Methodist Church
this Sunday, Lisa drives Eric and Gene just a few miles down the road
to the historically black United Methodist church, where Eric will
preach the 11 a.m. service. Lisa and Mary Ruth drive on into town to
Rolling Fork United Methodist Church, where Lisa will preach the sermon.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Recent worship services at Clarks Chapel United Methodist Church
Rev. Eric Pridmore gives the sermon at Clarks Chapel United Methodist
Church in Cary, Miss. Pridmore's Seeing Eye dog, Gene, sleeps beneath
the front pew while he is off duty. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo
number 04-255, 7/8/04
Chapel is held together by the sheer willpower of Rebecca McGee. The
plain, white-wooden church has a blank plank out front, the writing long
ago washed away. Part of the ceiling has caved in from all of the
recent rain and the paneled walls are warped and wavy. The pews in this
church don’t have any cushions. Big gas heaters separate the second pews
from the third one and a handmade banner graces the front of the
the first few minutes McGee is the only church member but as the
service goes on more people join in and the spirit moves through the
does the readings at this service and as the Pridmores have learned,
the service may or may not follow along with the printed bulletin. When
it is time for Eric to preach, Gene stays on the floor next to McGee.
Pridmores know it really doesn’t make sense to keep two United
Methodist churches open with the shrinking population in Cary.
Eric sees socioeconomic differences as bigger barriers than racial ones at the three churches.
all three churches worshipped together in celebration of Eric’s
ordination and Gene’s commissioning. The Pridmores want to bring the
churches together more often.
“It doesn’t solve every problem, but it makes an important statement,” Eric says.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.