Annual Conference 2023 will shine a light on the licensed local pastors in the Texas Annual Conference. Two of these pastors  – Irv White from Ashford UMC, Houston and Cindy Doran from Keltys UMC – will lead devotionals during the event. In this issue of Cross Connection, we spent some time getting to know the pastors better. Here are excerpts of our recent interviews:

Rev. Cindy Doran, Keltys UMC in Lufkin

Q. When did you first start to discern a calling?

  1. As early as high school, I started to feel a call, but it wasn’t encouraged. I lived my life, got married and had a child. Then I lost my first husband to cancer. I began volunteering at a church in Palestine and that led to a part-time position at FUMC Grapeland. When my daughter was 18-years old, someone came to me and asked if I would consider becoming a full-time youth minister at my home church, FUMC Crockett. And I took the offer.

Q. What were you doing for work at the time?

  1. I was actually selling cars and worked part-time at the Grapeland church in youth ministry. After I lost my husband, I took a series of jobs, including selling radio ads, and that led to selling cars. I was successful, but I wasn’t happy. So I took a leap of faith- and a $70,000 annual cut in pay – and started as a youth minister at Crockett and attended the courses offered at Perkins School of Youth Ministry. I ended up back in school at the same time my daughter was attending college. Then, I attended the Course of Study at SMU to become a licensed local pastor.

Q. What has your ministry journey been like?

  1. I was at FUMC Crockett, then Henderson as a youth minister. I was licensed while at Henderson. Dr. Jerry Pennington (former DS of the East District of the Texas Annual Conference) called and asked me to become pastor at Keltys UMC. I said, “I’m not a preacher.”

Q. Because your focus was on youth ministry?

  1. Exactly. My primary duty as a youth minister was to be with the kids. When our preacher was gone, I would step in and do hospital visits or lead worship. I wanted to be able to offer communion, so I became a licensed local pastor, but I never intended to preach.

Q. Still, you accepted the new position?

  1. Yes. I had some difficulties at first. When I was working with youth, I found that I had to make what was important to them, important to me. It’s pretty much the same with adults. I don’t think adults are always as open to the teachings of Jesus as the youth. They’ve lived enough to have some preconceived notions. I still get to work with kids and be a part of their lives. And I do enjoy being the pastor of the church.

Q. What is Keltys UMC like?

  1. I’ve been here for 13 years now. It’s in East Texas, and our campus is very diverse. On Saturdays, we use the campus for a primarily African-American congregation. Then we meet on Sundays, and at 12:30 p.m. our fellowship hall is used for a Hispanic service. It’s really a great church.

Q. You’re also working at the District and Conference level right?

  1. I am serving as the District Leadership Chair and that makes me part of the Conference Leadership Team. I’ve been honored and humbled to be part of that team. I also worked with DS Dr. Dick White chairing the Small Membership Church Committee. He is an amazing leader.

Q. Do you feel like your experience discerning a call has an effect on you now as clergy?

  1. Nobody nurtured mine – and that is what makes me mindful to ask kids if they’ve ever felt a calling. We discuss it on a regular basis. It’s really on us as pastors to reach out and find people to share the faith. It’s on us to help others to explore ministry. And there’s nothing like a good testimony.

Rev. Irv White, Ashford UMC in Houston

Q. Can you tell me about your path into ministry?

  1. I grew up in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and served as Youth President for the Kentucky Annual Conference in the mid-1970s. Asking when I first started to discern a calling is a tricky question because, as I have thought about it over the years, I have come to realize that the Lord started tapping me on my shoulder as a teenager. Beyond serving as youth president, I ignored the tap and went on to do other things, including a 20-year career in TV. When I retired from television in 1999 to head the marketing team at Windsor Village, it was because I thought I had properly responded to my call. By 2004, it was obvious to me that further discernment was necessary, and, in 2005, I began the process of becoming a declared candidate for pastoral leadership in the United Methodist Church. Later that year, I was appointed to the Lovelady Circuit as a part time Local Pastor. In 2008, I transitioned to a full time appointment at Windsor Village and in 2013 completed the Perkins School of Theology Basic Course of Study program.

Q. What was your career in television like?

  1. My TV career began in 1978 as a studio cameraperson for WBKO TV in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After getting talked into auditioning for an on-air position as weekend sports anchor (I auditioned twice), I was hired and went on the air for the first time in October of 1979.  In 1983, I was promoted to  sports director. In 1985, I joined the sports team at WJKS TV in Jacksonville, Florida as weekend sports anchor and was named sports director in 1987. I moved to Houston in 1992 to join what is now CW39 as their sports director.  In 1993, I was hired by KPRC TV in Houston. I left Houston in 1997 to work for WPMI TV in Mobile, Alabama and in 1998, joined the weekend anchor team at WKRC TV in Nashville. 

Q. Tell me about your current appointment at Ashford UMC.

  1. I like to refer to the Ashford Church Family as a 21st century representation of Christian community. We have over 15 nationalities worshiping and serving the church. Our members have a genuine love for Jesus. Every first time guest I speak with remarks about how welcoming our members are. While our congregation is  small in number, we are abundant in our determination to live out our mission to “LOVE as God loves us, BLESS others as we have been blessed, and TEACH as Jesus taught, so that lives are transformed, the power of forgiveness is realized, and the abundant life of Jesus Christ is experienced.

Q. How did you decide to become a licensed local pastor?

  1. The local pastor route was the right route for me. I’ve always said that unless the Lord wakes me up tomorrow and encourages me to enroll in the Advanced Course of Study Program, I’ll be a life-long Local Pastor.

Q. Do you feel like your career experience affects you now as clergy?

  1. I think my life experiences outside of pastoral leadership serve me well as a pastor. My journalistic training, storytelling ability and desire to communicate in ways that connect are very helpful as a pastor. I’m very careful not to get caught up in ministry titles but to focus on being effective in ministry. I’ve never been “Local Pastor Irv” to any of the congregations I have served. I’ve always been simply “Pastor Irv.”

The Annual Conference session and the devotions are held at the Hilton Americas Downtown in the Grand Ballroom. Doran will be preaching on Tuesday, May 30 at 9:30 a.m. and White will be preaching on Wednesday, May 31 at 9:30.