On the go Rayville man pastors at 7 churches in Vicksburg area

Published 1:10 am Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dr. Michael R. Reed Sr. is a preacher on the go.

One recent Sunday, he preached at Ebenezer M.B. Church on Grove Street. An hour later, he was at Second Union Baptist, 25 miles away in Utica.

Reed, 50, is a circuit pastor, a trade he says fretfully is on the decline.

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“The circuit ministry is more in rural areas,” said Reed, who has spent 34 years traveling from church to church. “Now, you don’t have a lot of churches in rural areas anymore. The churches are in the city and are full time.”

Circuit preaching was introduced to the United States in the late 1700s, when American settlement was pushing westward past the Appalachian Mountains, according to the United Methodist Church’s website. Circuit riders traveled on horseback to preach wherever people settled. It was the most financially feasible.

Today, Reed said, it still can be financially constraining.

“There will be days when you won’t get paid,” Reed said. “You need to teach the younger ministers the importance of the circuit ministry. You got to love what you do. If you love it, you’re going to survive it.”

Reed, a resident of Rayville, La., who has a home in Vicksburg, pastors seven churches in Warren County and Louisiana. They are small, rural and unable to afford a full-time pastor. The largest has 80 members; the smallest, 30. Sermons are different at each church, and he aims to visit at least a couple each Sunday. Sunday services at the small churches are held once a month, but Sunday schools and Bible classes are held each week.

One year, Reed said, he put about 100,000 miles on his car.

“My wife, Marie, drives a lot for me. She’s a big help to me.”

Willie Smith Sr., chairman of the board of deacons at Ebenezer, said he is pleased with Reed’s appointment to lead the church a year ago.

“He’ll do anything he can to help,” said Smith, who has been a member of the 76-year-old church since 1959. “If we ever need him for something in between the services, he’ll be there. He’s very accommodating.”

Reed, whose grandfather and three uncles were circuit preachers, studied at United Theological Seminary in Monroe, La., and said he prefers small churches.

“It’s a love for the people,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of financial gain. You want to be there for the people who can’t afford a full-time pastor, who cannot afford services every Sunday. You’re there to help them keep the doors open.”

The Rev. Sammie Guice, 24, of Tallulah, has been a traveling pastor since 2007, a calling he found through other circuit preachers.

“In the circuit ministry, people need some help and I am a man who can help those people,” said Guice, who is pastor of two churches in Louisiana. “So many people in the small, rural churches depend on me. At this young age, I’m going to carry it on and support is as much as possible.”