Grace United Methodist Church welcomes new pastor
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Grace United Methodist Church in Copperas Cove has been under new leadership with a new pastor since July after their previous pastor, Rev. Kissa Vaughn, was reassigned to be the pastor at St. Barnabus United Methodist Church in Arlington earlier this summer.
Her replacement is Rev. Brad Slaten, who came from King Memorial United Methodist Church in Whitney.
Slaten spent around 20 years in the high-tech industry before becoming a pastor. He called himself a “second career pastor.”
Slaten grew up in central Arkansas in a town called Searcy, which is about 45 miles north of Little Rock. He graduated from Searcy High School and then attended Arkansas Tech University where he studied Computer Science. He then earned his master’s degree in Computer Science from Oklahoma State. He has worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories, Southwestern Bell and Hewlett Packard Printing.
He met his wife, Amanda, at Arkansas Tech University. The couple moved to New Jersey and then to St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis, they moved to Austin. They have three adult children and six grandchildren and have one German Shepherd.
It was in Austin that he “finally answered a call to ministry that I got when I was 17 but successfully avoided for a long, long time,” he said.
He attended the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and earned his Master of Divinity degree and was ordained in the United Methodist Church.
He first served as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Rogers, served at Bruceville Eddy United Methodist Church and then served at First United Methodist Church in Coleman and Novice, and then at King Memorial United Methodist Church in Whitney and Blum United Methodist Church, for a total of 17 years in ministry so far.
The calling for ministry came when he was at a youth rally in Little Rock as a teenager, but he didn’t follow this calling immediately, he said.
“I believe that a lot of times God speaks to us in a variety of ways, and one of the ways is through the opportunities that open to present themselves to us, and I was good at math, and everyone was encouraging me, saying, ‘Oh, you need to go be in computer science,” Slaten said. “I said, ‘Okay, I’ll try that,’ and it worked wonderfully, but every step along the way, I would try to get God to stop asking me to go become a pastor. It wasn’t like an audible voice or anything like that. It was just kind of this…nudging is a good way to put that.”
Slaten spent time as a Sunday school teacher then a church choir director then a junior high school Sunday school teacher for 15 years (while still working in the tech industry), and then he became a lay speaker in his church, which is a person who is not ordained but is a member of the United Methodist Church and is qualified to serve the church and is knowledgeable in Scripture.
While at a lay speaking conference, he received an email asking if he wanted to serve as a lay speaker pastor for a church that could not support an ordained elder. After showing the email to his wife and his pastor, he was encouraged to go down this path. He started at First United Methodist Church in Rogers and then Bruceville-Eddy United Methodist Church while going through seminary school.
“I wouldn’t have done it any other way,” Slaten said about his journey to become a pastor. “I’m where I need to be, I really feel that. How I got here- it might not have been in the center of God’s will that I was dodging it for so long, but you can only avoid for so long and then you then you answer the call, so that’s what I did.”
Slaten said he grew up Cumberland Presbyterian, which is a small section of the Presbyterian Church originating in the Cumberland Mountains.
He went to the Baptist youth group in his town because his own church did not have youth activities. In college, he attend the Presbyterian Church USA in Russellville, Arkansas, and he and his wife were married in the Presbyterian Church.
When he attended Oklahoma State, he and his wife tried a Presbyterian church there, and it wasn’t a good fit. They went to the Methodist church next, in Stillwater.
“We found what we were missing, and we just stayed,” he said. “I describe it as we walked into the Methodist Church and there was someone standing behind the door with this big bucket of Grace, and they dumped it on us right when we walked it, and we just felt right at home, from the very first time we visited.”
Now as the pastor for Grace United Methodist Church in Copperas Cove, Slaten said he is looking forward to getting involved in the community and getting to know more people.
Prior to going into ministry, Slaten’s home church while living in Austin had been Wellspring United Methodist Church in Georgetown, which had done a lot of youth activities and such with Grace United Methodist Church. As a result, Slaten knew several people at Grace United Methodist before ever moving to Copperas Cove.
“The overall experience has been really, really positive,” Slaten said. “Everyone has been very welcoming. The community has been very welcoming and open as well. Very friendly. Not all towns are friendly, and Cove is.”
He added that he’s experienced this friendliness from the restaurants to the grocery stores and just wherever he has gone. He said this is something he wasn’t necessarily expecting, due to the size.
Slaten said his first primary goal as the new pastor is to learn and get to know the people in the church but also in the community- the neighbors, the leaders, the schools, etc.
“I really like to have a church not being just serving the church, the people that are here, but looking at the church as a resource for the entire community,” he said. “[Theologian and founder of Methodism] John Wesley said, ‘The world is my parish, not just the people that are in the church,’ and I look at that the same way that we want to not make a difference for just the people that are here on Sunday morning. We want to make a difference for the community as a whole, so that people will kind of say, ‘What’s going on out there at Grace. Maybe should go check them out.’ And as they do, then we’ll introduce them to our friend Jesus Christ.”