ADVOCATE: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
REV. MARTIN: Macon is my home. I spent the first 17 years of my life here in a great neighborhood in Shirley Hills with lots of kids and historic Alexander III School. Church was also a big part of our lives then. My parents were married at Mulberry; I was baptized and confirmed there. I participated in the great city-wide youth programs offered at Mulberry. Those times were foundational for me. Church, community, family.
The summer before my senior year in high school, my family moved to Columbus, Ga. Although that was very difficult, it also introduced me to some new, wonderful, treasured friends, many of whom I am still close to. My family associated with St. Luke; it was later that I came out of St. Luke into the ministry.
ADVOCATE: How did you get started in ministry?
REV. MARTIN: Having grown up in the church and observing many people who modeled a deep faith, I had a taste of the value of our connection and ministry. My journey through college (I took the five-year plan) brought me back to Columbus and gave me an opportunity to be directly involved in church-supported ministry. St. Luke was sponsoring an urban ministries program in a depressed area of Columbus. I was hired as the director and spent almost six years facilitating programs for poor and disadvantaged persons in some very hardened communities. Staffed primarily by volunteers, it also gave me some experience of the larger church community working in the areas of peace and justice.
ADVOCATE: What is your faith journey?
REV. MARTIN: I suppose in some ways it is the journey of the prodigal. Although raised in the church, my involvement for the most part was nominal and superficial. It wasn’t that I crashed and burned, like the original prodigal, but I always sensed that something was missing in my life. During those years in urban ministry, the Christian witness of those who were materially impoverished taught me a faith and trust in God that gave deeper meaning to life than what the world offered. They taught me Christ! It was during those years in urban ministry that I truly accepted Him as Lord.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your family.
REV. MARTIN: Flo and I have been married for almost 34 years. She moved to Columbus from Florida in 1977 to be the director of youth ministries at St. Luke United Methodist Church. We were married there before going to Asbury for my seminary education. Flo is a Christian Education Consultant for Cokesbury and the United Methodist Publishing House, traveling throughout the Southeast to support churches, districts, and conferences. Our oldest son, Thomas, is a graduate of Duke Divinity School, and is associate minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta. He is married to Leslie, and they have one son, Davis. Our youngest son, Matt, just graduated from Reinhardt University and is currently the head male counselor on the Connectional Ministries’ Leadership Team at Epworth By The Sea. Beginning in September, he will spend a year on the staff of an Anglican Church in London, England through an interdenominational organization, A Time For God. My mother, Grace, lives with us and is still very active at Mulberry Street UMC. In the Martin family, we are all involved in ministry!
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. MARTIN: Bishop King called around 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night. I had actually just gone to bed. I heard the phone ring and Flo came in to tell me Bishop King was on the phone. It’s funny how the mind works. Not once did it occur to me that he was calling about the District Superintendent position. Rather, my first reaction was to think, “What have I done that the Bishop would call this time of night?” I was humbled and honored by his request. I gave him my answer the next morning after a night of prayer and searching. As a DS friend said to me, it has its challenges and difficulties, but “it is worth it because of the good you can do.” I have already found both to be true.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions, goals and hopes for the Macon District?
REV. MARTIN: At the set-up meeting in June, I spoke a lot about community. Wherever we serve, that sense of connection and community is important. I believe building that clergy-family community from within is important in strengthening all of us for ministry. Our conference theme is “Never Alone.” Making that a reality for clergy, their families, and the churches they serve is something I feel strongly about.
During the past four weeks, I have met personally with more than 55 ministers. I have come away from those visits deeply impressed with their commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm. Wherever they are serving, there is real ministry taking place, and with the faith and hope they have, wonderful growth and discipleship are possible. I am honored and excited to serve as their DS.
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
REV. MARTIN: South Georgia is home for me. I grew up at Mulberry Street UMC, and later came out of St. Luke UMC as I entered the ordained ministry. Serving for 28 years across the conference has blessed me with wonderful friends both with clergy and laity. What a wonderful feeling to have that connection throughout the state, that sense of being a part of God’s family.
ADVOCATE: How do you, in the midst of your busy schedule and traveling, make time for quiet time, prayer, and Bible study?
REV. MARTIN: As District Superintendent orientation material began to flow into my office, one overriding theme was stressed over and over: taking care of your spiritual life, and intentionality is the key to that self-care. For me, being a very early riser, quiet time and prayer begins my day. And reading a variety of devotional sources opens me to God’s larger vision and presence. Practicing Sabbath in its many forms also undergirds that work we are called to do. How do I make the time? That’s always a challenge, but it is essential.
ADVOCATE: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?
REV. MARTIN: I am a “golfer.” It’s a crazy game, but a wonderful fellowship. Over the past six to seven years, I have been a part of an S3 cohort group. Our Sabbath emphasis has been on golf and deepening fellowship; that group continues and is a very important part of sustaining my spiritual and emotional health. I also enjoy reading, gardening and making time for much needed physical exercise.
ADVOCATE: What’s one fact about you that most people don’t know?
REV. MARTIN: One of my interests/hobbies has been wheel-thrown pottery, and I have worked professionally “throwing” on the potter’s wheel over the years.