With the departure of the Rev. Jeanne Webdell in June, the United Methodist Church congregations in Louisiana and Clarksville had big shoes to fill.
With more than 30 years of experience in the ministry, new Rev. Paul Catterton seems up to the task.
“I’m grateful to come here,” Catterton said in a recent interview with the Press-Journal. “I love the old homes in Louisiana and the old businesses in Clarksville. Both areas are quaint and I really enjoy them.”
Catterton grew up in Piggot, Ark., and graduated from high school there. It was during high school that he got his calling.
“When I was 16, I had a profession of faith and I was baptized,” Catterton said. “I jumped into the Bible and read it cover to cover.
“The more I read, God laid on my heart and the ministry is where he sent me. All the reading funneled home that the ministry was where I needed to be. God wouldn’t leave me alone.”
Even during high school, Catterton preached at revivals and filled in for ministers in country churches. He also worked in Christian youth camps.
He went on to college, earning a degree from Oakland University in Indiana. He got his masters in divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“About midway through the masters program, I started working with the United Methodist Church,” Catterton said. “I felt like I needed a practical dimension to my studies of life and spirituality.”
Upon graduation, Catterton started his spiritual odyssey. He spent six years in Kansas and then almost 24 years in Missouri in various churches from Cape Girardeau to Lee’s Summit.
Prior to taking over Louisiana’s Centenary United Methodist Church and the Clarksville United Methodist Church, Catterton was the Methodist minister in Vandalia.
Catterton has been married to Katrina Catterton for 35 years, has two grown children and a granddaughter, all of whom live in Missouri.
During his ministerial career, Catterton has developed a three-pronged spiritual philosophy of “health, hope and home.”
“All three things work together,” he said.
The new pastor said his health comes from being an avid bicycle rider. Hope can be attained by taking on life’s struggles with the church, he said. Having a home to rest in completes the triangle.
Now that he is in eastern Pike County with two connected churches, Catterton is relieved the congregations get along so well.
“They have a very good working relationship together,” Catterton said. “It’s not always a good marriage with two linked churches.”
The church congregations came together strongly during the recent Mississippi River flood that threatened Clarksville for almost three months, Catterton said. The Clarksville congregation fed 300 people a day at the height of the crisis and Louisiana members helped build the flood wall.
To celebrate their efforts and to thank the Louisiana and Clarksville communities for coming together in the flood battle, Catterton has planned a special service of worship and celebration with food and music.
The free service, open to the public, will be at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22 at Riverfront Park in Clarksville. If it rains, the celebration service will be at the Apple Shed.
The Redhead Express from Nashville, Tenn. will perform its blend of gospel, folk and Americana music with a bluegrass flavor, Catterton said. A potluck meal will follow the service.
Catterton said he needs to think outside of the box for the churches to reinforce aging congregations that many sanctuaries are dealing with.
The new minister said he will actively recruit as he goes around the community meeting new people.
“That’s how the early church got its start,” Catterton said. “It’s still the best outreach tool the church has.”
Catterton said he wouldn’t use a hard sell to bring new people into the church. It would probably me more like: “What are you doing Sunday morning?”