This is the first in a six-part series that will introduce the new District Superintendents.
ADVOCATE: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
REV. BASS: I was born in Athens, Ala. My father was from St. Cloud/Kissimmee, Fla., and my mother was from Athens, Ala. At childbirth I was given to my grandparents until the age of nine because my father was in the war and contracted tuberculosis and came back and gave it to my mother. So at birth I was given to my grandparents, and I lived with them on their farm in a little place called Tanner, which is between Athens and Decatur, Ala.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your family.
REV. BASS: My wife is Jane Ellen, and we’ve been married 40 years in July (our anniversary is July 30). We have 10 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and four children living. My son is in Acworth, Ga.; my youngest daughter is in Roanoke, Ala., my middle daughter is in Nashville, Tenn.; and my oldest daughter lives in Athens, Ala.
We have lost two children, one when we were in Jesup and one while we were in Cairo. We’ve also lost two sons-in-law and my son was shot and paralyzed in 1995. I have been through a lot in life.
ADVOCATE: Tragedy and heartache have been a part of your life since you were a young boy. How has God pulled you through?
REV. BASS: My faith in God is what has pulled me through. I have a deep faith. My biggest faith is that I believe that God will always be with us, even in the difficult times as well as the good times.
You need to enjoy God at that moment, for that day, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.
So my faith journey is this – the just shall live by faith. We have to live by faith. We are the just; we’re the just people of God – we’re justified through Christ.
ADVOCATE: What’s your faith journey? Did you grow up in the church?
REV. BASS: Even as a young boy in Vacation Bible School I wanted to serve God; I always wanted to serve God. At the age of 12 or 13 I was baptized in a Baptist church, and at that baptism I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
My parents died when I was 19 and 21 years old, and I was 23 when my grandmother who I lived with died. So during that time, from when I was 19 to about when I was 27, I didn’t go to church and I was trying to escape through some drugs, pills mostly, and alcohol, but I knew about God and wanted to serve God, and it hit me one day that I needed to rededicate my life to Christ, and that’s when I started, at the age of 27. I entered the ministry at the age of 30, and my first appointment was in North Alabama.
When I realized that I had messed up my life I told God that I’d do anything He wanted me to do and that’s how I ended up in pastoral ministry. I was willing to serve Him, and I wanted to do anything that He wanted me to do, but I didn’t realize what I was praying! The Lord kept opening doors for me to go into pastoral ministry, so I have been in it for 33 years now.
ADVOCATE: How did you get started in ministry?
REV. BASS: I served in the North Alabama Conference for 11 years. While I was serving in the North Alabama Conference I was in school at Emory University. I went back to school at the age of 30. I worked at Monsanto Chemical Company for 13 years in Decatur, Ala.
But as a young boy, I grew up in the church. I grew up a Methodist and was given a Bible at Vacation Bible School at the age of nine, and it was one of the highlights of my life, to have a Bible.
I started college at a junior college where I played basketball, and then went on to Birmingham Southern. I did my undergraduate work at Birmingham Southern, and from there I went on to Emory. At Emory, some of the South Georgia United Methodist pastors were recruiting people to come to South Georgia, and that’s how I got here. My father was in St. Cloud, my family was in Alabama, and South Georgia was in between. I started out in the Valdosta District in a little place called Doerun, and then went to Alamo, and then moved from Alamo to Alma, and then I served College Place in Brunswick. From College Place I went to Blakely and then went to Jesup, Vidalia and Cairo.
ADVOCATE: How did you find out that you had been appointed to be a District Superintendent? Did you get a call from Bishop King? What was your reaction?
REV. BASS: Bishop King called me on a Sunday night about 10:30, and I was totally surprised; I didn’t know anything about it.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions, goals and hopes for the district?
REV. BASS: The vision and goal I’ve always had for the churches I’ve served, wherever I go, is to build the kingdom within the kingdom. And within that kingdom you can reach out. If the church is healthy the church will bring people in. My goal has always been to rebuild; if I rebuild a church, or a district, then they’re going to renew themselves.
My goal is to love the people, to share my faith with the people, and to help them to be encouraged to do the same thing that I’ve done – to press on and not give up.
ADVOCATE: What’s one challenge you see facing the Conference or District?
REV. BASS: The challenge, for me, is to realize that I’m in a role of trying to encourage the churches as well as the preachers. I’ve got to readjust my mindset and realize that I’m going to be in the role of supervising people; I’m going to have to do the work of the kingdom in a role that’s totally different than being a local pastor. I’m going to have to minister to the local pastors as well as to the local churches, but I feel like if I minister to them and help them, then they’ll be the ones that’ll help the churches.
This will be a larger flock in a larger setting; it’s a great opportunity to build the kingdom in a larger place. The Valdosta District has more than 14,000 members; that’s just a larger family (than I’m used to).
ADVOCATE: What’s one thing that most excites you about the Valdosta District or the South Georgia Conference?
REV. BASS: I am excited and enthused about this. Even though I know there are probably some others who are more qualified than I, I am willing to give it my best and say that we can all do this together. We’re going to make mistakes, and I’m going to make mistakes, but there is a time for change in life and there has been a change; with six new district superintendents there has been a tremendous change.
I think the Valdosta District is a wonderful district; it’s a growing area and I feel like the opportunity for growth is really there.
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
REV. BASS: The South Georgia Conference received me well when I transferred from North Alabama, and they have been good to me and they have loved me. It’s a great place to serve; I like the area, I like the lay of the land and I like the people. It’s just a great place to live.
ADVOCATE: How do you, in the midst of your busy schedule and your traveling, make time for your quiet time, prayer, and Bible study?
REV. BASS: I set aside time every day for Bible study and prayer, but in my traveling is when I pray a lot. I pray a lot as I travel. I pray all the time, really. Traveling, though, is just a good time for me to just be with God … unless someone calls me!
ADVOCATE: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?
REV. BASS: I play a little bit of golf, I love to fish, and we also go to the beach. I give my wife time just for her, and she likes the beach.
ADVOCATE: What’s one fact about you that most people don’t know?
REV. BASS: When I first came in this conference I served two years at Doerun in the Valdosta District and now I’m going to end my ministry in the Valdosta District. I am really excited about serving in the Valdosta District. I think it’s a really great place to be. It’s a great opportunity, it really is.