The First United Methodist Church excels in seeking the best pastor for the area and this time there is no exception. Pastor Leah Hidde-Gregory, sixth generation pastor from Oklahoma, is the new kid on the block and is loving every minute of her new appointment.
Pastor Leah Hidde-Gregory is a new face to First United Methodist Church of Italy but she’s been here for a few years already. Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a Director of Children and Family Ministries in the DFW area for 3 years, Pastor Leah became a pastor in 2005. She also attended Texas A&M Commerce and Perkins School of Theology at SMU.
Pastor Leah and husband, Stan, have been living in Italy since she was appointed minister in Frost. “We live in Italy and we have since we moved down here three and half years ago. We love the community and the small town atmosphere and the people,” the pastor explained. Pastor Leah, as her parishioners call her, has been the pastor at Frost UMC and now has been appointed to Italy as well.
“At (the Methodist) Annual Conference Held the first week of June, it was announced that Frost and Italy would become a two point charge meaning I serve both churches.” When asked how she felt about pastoring 2 churches at once, Pastor Leah explained, “I love God and I love being in ministry and welcome the challenge of serving two churches.”
The new pastor will bring both churches together. “I truly think God sees all Christians as one people. Perhaps with different expressions of their faith, but as one big Church. So I see Frost and Italy being one big parish with two campuses. On Sunday Mornings we will worship in Italy at 9:30 and in Frost at 11:00. Sunday Evenings we will have joint Bible Study in Frost and joint youth. Then on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 we will come together in Italy for a meal followed by joint choir practice, Bible study, and youth. We will have joint mission projects, social activities, and community outreach. We offer a small friendly environment where people know and care about you. We don’t expect people to be perfect when they walk into our doors. Our church is far more a hospital for sinners than a museum of saints. It is a place where we come to experience God’s transforming grace each time we meet and seek to change our hearts.”
The Methodist Church in Italy and Frost open their doors and do not exclude anyone. Pastor Leah said, “Our doors are open to absolutely everyone… we truly have open hearts, open minds, and open doors. We may not all think exactly alike, but we do seek to love alike.”
The goal for the Italy community is very simple, Hidde-Gregory explains it like this, “To communicate to the community the amazing love of Jesus Christ to the least, the lonely and the lost. There are far too many people in this world who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are living in hell here on earth and have not experienced the transforming grace of God. They do not realize that a new abundant life is available to them. I hope to preach and teach and help our members to fulfill the great commission to go and make disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Family being very important, Pastor Leah said, “I have the most incredibly supportive husband. I felt called to ministry before I met Stan. I prayed that God would send the perfect partner and he did. I am truly blessed to get to share my life and my ministry with him. We have six children – three biological and three that we foster through the Methodist Children’s Home. Our two oldest daughters, Madeleine (Maddie) and Caroline both attend Italy Schools. Our elementary age children attend Frost Schools.” Pastor Leah has many things on her schedule. However, she explained how the calendar is supported, "After 9 years in ministry, I have learned to balance things pretty well and to say no when I need to. There are still times when I get incredibly busy, but my family always keeps me grounded."
When God calls someone for ministry, it can never be ignored. Pastor Leah said, “It took me 8 years to answer the call to ministry. I kept telling God that I was a woman and so very average and that he surely could call someone else. Turns out that God knew I was a woman all along, and that He equips the called… he doesn’t call the equipped.”
Everyone is invited to meet the new pastor of First United Methodist Church of Italy. Pastor Leah’s door and heart are always open. She is eager to meet the people of Italy. Please swing by and say ‘hi.’
“Our mission as a church is to be the hands and feet of Christ always and in every way reaching out to make disciples for Jesus Christ. As a pastor and as a church, our desire is to reach as many people as we can with the incredible news of Christ. We want all to receive the abundant life Christ has promised and to experience life to the fullest as God intended. We want to help people develop into spiritually mature disciples of Jesus so the depth of our relationships with God impacts everything we say and do. And we want to join with God in genuinely transforming people’s lives both inside and outside our church. We want to make a real difference in our community and around the world. And we’d love to make a real difference in your life as well,” said the new pastor.