Fellowship Bible Church pastor retiring after nearly 32 years

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Aug. 22, 2013 at 3:22 a.m.

Mike Malone, retiring pastor at Fellowship Bible Church.

Mike Malone, retiring pastor at Fellowship Bible Church.

Pastor Mike Malone didn't know it almost 32 years ago, but the Crossroads would become his home.

Malone, originally from Rochester, N.Y., and once a chemical engineer at DuPont, moved to the Lone Star State to become the pastor of Victoria Fellowship Bible Church in 1981.

The position before his arrival had a two-year turnover.

"We (my wife, Phyllis, and I) picked some pretty fast-growing trees" to put in our yard, Malone said Thursday, chuckling. "We should have planted live oaks."

He adapted to Texan colloquialisms and enjoyed Texan friendships.

"When I first got here, people would tell me I spoke too fast," he said.

So, he taped a letter S on the pulpit.

"Every time I looked down on it, I would remember to slow down," Malone said.

Now, he is retiring.

Malone's last service is Sunday, when he will read a passage from Acts 20 about the Apostle Paul bidding farewell to churches he established. The 66-year-old is moving to Spokane, Wash., to be closer to his son and three grandchildren.

"When you start marrying people you saw as babies, you realize you've been here for a long time," he said. "It's a big change ... but my wife has quite a to-do list for me."

In addition to his regular duties, Malone taught prisoners about the Bible at the Stevenson prison unit in Cuero for the past 20 years. He also oversaw what's called an "Angel Tree" around the holidays, in which the congregation buys presents for the families of 25 local inmates.

Malone is proud his congregation dips so frequently into their own pockets to help others, as $1 out of every $5 collected each Sunday goes to missions, an unusual feat for a church with about 100 members.

Those members say change is always hard, but they will try not to compare their new pastor, Clayton Lopez, of North Carolina, to Malone.

Lopez, 50, attended the same seminary in Dallas as Malone, so this is like coming home, he said. Because he and his wife have two sons, ages 16 and 11, he is particularly fond of youth missions.

"But you know, a lot of (the things I introduce) will depend on how the congregation unfolds and what the needs are in the community," Lopez said.

Selecting Lopez as Malone's successor was a long and collaborative feat, said Brian Reed, the chairman of the board of elders.

"We'll have opportunities for growth in the future," he said. "As long as we're committed to making this work, then it will by the grace of God."

Reed could not have agreed more with a compliment Malone's son gave his father at a going away party last week.

"His son said that Mike is the same man in public and in private. He doesn't put on a different face when he comes to church. That is a wonderful thing to say about someone," said Reed, 53.

Pam Herrmann, a 61-year-old church member, admired Malone's servant heart.

"Besides all of the spiritual things he's done for us, he's the type of person who empties trash cans and changes lightbulbs - just things that a lot of people don't realize he does behind the scenes," she said. "He's not above anything like that."

Ralph Nance, the church pianist, said he was thankful Malone reminded him of God's love during a cancer scare. Malone also stuck by him on another occasion when Nance was despondent toward most.

"He doesn't give up on any of his sheep," Nance said.

Nance often joked and discussed classical music with Malone, whom he called multitalented.

"He's a lot smarter than most," Nance said. "We are going to miss him. Oh my, we are going to miss him."

Malone said he feels blessed to do a job he loves so much. He is looking forward to experiencing the outdoors.

"It is a mixture of bittersweet but mostly sweet," he said.



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