First United Methodist welcomes two new spiritual leaders

Pair have been at the helm since July

BY PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

Sept. 28, 2008 - First United Methodist Church members and residents of the area welcome two new pastors to the Sulphur Springs community.

The Revs. Russell S. Floyd and Deborah A. Riggsby both began their pastoral appointments in early July.

Rev. Floyd serves as the church's senior pastor and said he feels privileged to lead the 158 year old church. Founded in 1850, FUMC was the "first" church in Sulphur Springs.

As senior pastor, Rev. Floyd's primary duties include worship leadership and strategic development.

The Rev. Floyd has served in United Methodist churches for over 28 years, primarily as a parish pastor. He has served in Lewisville, Frisco, East and North Dallas, Denison, Bonham and Blossom since his graduation from Baylor University with a bachelor of arts in religion.

He received his masters' of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984. He received clinical pastoral training from Baylor Medical Center of Dallas.

Currently, he serves on the Board of the Bridgeport Camp and United Methodist Conference Center. He is a long time director of children's camp at Bridgeport. The Rev. Floyd also chairs the UMC Board of Ministry of the Paris /Sulphur Springs area and is a member of Division of Preparation and Qualifications of the Board of Ministry for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has served as a certified mentor pastor and peer group facilitator for many ministerial candidates.

"It is a privilege for me to serve here," said Floyd regarding his recent pastoral assignment. " I knew this church, a lot of people know this church and Methodism is one of the great churches of the North Texas area. A part of what makes it so great is so many wonderful and gifted folks who love their church deeply and take care of it in a way I think is unique."

The Rev. Floyd is married to Tammy Floyd, an educational administrator who is enjoying a year off after serving 12 years at Coppell Independent School District.

The couple recently got a taste of the community as they enjoyed festivities last weekend at the Hopkins County Fall Festival.

"The thing that makes Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs, it's not true just in the church, it's true all over-it's the people of the place," The Rev. Floyd said. "They have just quickly and warmly embraced our arrival here. I can't say enough about that."

The Floyds share four grown children, Lauren Floyd of Dallas, Tara Waddell of Sugarland, Erin Floyd of Oklahoma City and Blake Waddell of Kingwood.

The Rev. Deborah "Debbie" A. Riggsby comes to First United Methodist Church of Sulphur Springs to serve as its associate pastor in partnership with Rev. Floyd.

Rev. Riggsby grew up on a farm in Kansas, the oldest of three girls, driving a tractor, working the fields, herding cattle on horseback, and hauling wheat by truck to the grain elevator.

She received a bachelor of music education degree from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., in 1974. She taught music in public school in western Kansas. In 1984 she received a bachelor of piano performance from Southwestern. The following year while volunteering with church youth canoe camps, she felt the call to ministry.

She served as Christian educator and consultant in three churches in Kansas before coming to Texas in 1990 to study in Perkins School of Theology where she received a master of divinity in 1997. Continuing her ministry in Christian education while in school, she served three churches in Denton and Dallas. Then in 1999 she moved into pastoral leadership as associate pastor at Walnut Hill UMC in Dallas, senior pastor at First UMC Cooper, and then her current leadership position at First UMC Sulphur Springs.

She was ordained as a deacon in 1997 and an elder in 2000 in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Riggsby is active in The Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat and leadership development ministry. She serves on the Paris-Sulphur Springs District Superintendency Committee and the North Texas Annual Conference Worship Planning Committee. She was instrumental in bringing the L3: Leadership Incubator to the North Texas Conference and is currently connecting with the Emerging Church movement.

The Rev. Riggsby is married to Lew Riggsby, a 1969 West Point graduate. He is currently a stock and bond broker with SMH Capital Group of Dallas. They have three children, Carey Speer of Wylie, Rory Moon of Columbia, S.C. and Kelly McCombs of Dallas.

"Debbie and I have worked together on and off for the past 10 years," said Rev. Floyd. "So when she was able to gather with me here as associate I was just absolutely excited. I think we've got a great team between Debbie and I. We the long history together and also her experience and skills are just a great match."

The Rev. Riggsby brings diverse expertise in nurturing Christian disciples, building community, developing hospitality activities and encouraging mission involvement.

"What I bring, probably, with my opportunity to serve here is to consider what's next for the 21st Century," Rev. Floyd said.

According to Floyd, the entire FUMC congregation, "a welcoming and vibrant congregation with a wonderful heritage and a desire to make a difference in peoples lives and in our community," has been involved in a special 5-week series of sermons, based on the book "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" that uses strong adjectives to exemplify the qualities that shape and sustain a church.

-Radical hospitality

-Passionate worship

-Intentional faith development

-Risk-taking mission and service

-Extravagant generosity

"Our slogan is 'Live Big,'" said Floyd explaining the adjectives they have been talking about are really superlatives. "I think its easy for great people to be greater and that's where we are; we've been inspired to examine are current ministry at all levels-and be better. The reputation of this church preceded my arrival. The congregation is full of outstanding folks that love and care about their church deeply and for me to have a chance to serve here is just a privilege."

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