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Asbury welcomes newest pastor

By Staff | Jul 8, 2011

Over the years, the Rev. James Ellis has racked up about 100,000 miles on his Nissan Xterra. The new associate pastor at Shepherdstown’s Asbury United Methodist Church has traveled up and down the east coast and to Texas and back for school and work.

But for now, he will call the Eastern Panhandle home as he embarks on his new role at the church and works to bring in new members.

Ellis, who grew up across the border in Prince George’s County, Md., completed his undergraduate work at the University of Maryland in African-American studies. The walk-on football player admitted to having some academic troubles, spending his sophomore year at a community college in Waldorf, Md., trying to get his grades back up.

After working internships and jobs in multimedia at places like Teen People, NPR, washingtonpost.com and USA Today, Ellis decided to pursue his master’s degree in multimedia. But something just did not feel right.

“I really felt that God was telling me that ‘James, this is what you can do but I’m calling you to do something different’,” he said.

Ellis, who said he never really attended church until he was in his 20s, decided to go into ministry. While attending Wesley Theological Ministry in Washington, D.C., he met his soon-to-be-wife, Renata, a Texas native and special education teacher.

While working towards his master’s degree at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Ellis landed a position as a youth minister at a church in Temple, Texas, about 45 minutes away from Waco where he was studying.

When Ellis finished his degree in the summer of 2009, the commuting was also through. He was accepted into a one-year master’s program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in which he took a full course load and focused his research on preaching and pastoral care.

Then in June 2010, Ellis and his wife packed their bags again and moved to Atlanta, Ga., where he served as associate campus minister at Morehouse College.

Ellis expressed excitement to be settled in the Panhandle for a while and take on all that comes with working in a small college town.

“I think because (my wife and I) went to large, behemoth state universities we really enjoy the smaller feel,” Ellis, whose first town activity was the local Fourth of July parade, said.

He said he is interested in reaching out to young adults and college students to come to Asbury, where The Rev. Rudolph Bropleh preaches.

“The church is really dynamic,” he said.

He even thinks he and his wife, who are 32 and 31 years old respectively, will be able to relate to various experiences many young adults and students are facing right now.

“I’m not the sort of prototype church kid I didn’t grow up going to church at all,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t in my world at all.”

Ellis said by being able to experience church for himself, any “rhetoric” he had previously heard immediately went away.

“God was real for me in that moment,” he said.