dale jamerson

Dale Jamerson poses with his minister’s license, which he received on May 25, 2006.

As a 17-year-old kid, Dale Jamerson ran away from home. He didn’t make it too far — just about seven miles outside of Henderson — when Coach Gene Bates stopped him, took him back to Jacksonville, and changed the direction of his life.

Jamerson stayed with Coach Dick Sheffield for a week until the coaches smoothed things over with Jamerson’s mother, and she let him move back home.

“Because of Coach Sheffield and Coach Bates, their tutoring and their direction... they kept me in school, and I was able to graduate with my class, and I think I turned out to be a fair character,” Jamerson said.

Today, “service” and “character” a part of almost every aspect of Dale Jamerson’s life.

Jamerson serves as community development director for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. He is a former city councilman, a current Jacksonville Independent School District board member, and a volunteer at HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Enrichment.) Even his business — Dejamco Recycling — gives to the community through environmental initiatives. Now, the newly ordained reverend is ready to give a new level of service to Antioch and Earle’s Chapel United Methodist churches, as their recently-appointed pastor.

“I have a lot that I owe this community and the people in it,” Jamerson said. “Somebody saved me, and I want to save somebody else.”

Jamerson’s call to ministry began, in a way, when Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast. The Rev. Joe Beran, who was serving at Jamerson’s home church of Antioch UMC, was called to South East Texas to help rebuild 27 Methodist churches which had sustained damage from the hurricane and were not operational.

“His forte was missions, helping reconstruct and rebuild churches, and so when Hurricane Rita hit the South East coast of Texas, the bishop of our annual conference asked Joe to come down,” Jamerson said.

For months, Joe and his wife, Katie, lived in their motor home, working on the coast during the week and driving back to Cherokee County on the weekend to conduct services at Antioch and New Community churches. But, the church ultimately decided the Berans were most needed in the hurricane-affected area and permanently called them to Beaumont. A new pastor was appointed to New Community, but another retired from Earle’s Chapel, leaving two vacancies in the local Methodist churches.

Pastor Beran gave his last sermon at Antioch on Christmas Day 2005, and the following day, Jamerson was asked by the Methodist district supervisor to take over as lay speaker for the two churches.

“I was honored,” Jamerson said. “I felt humbled when I was asked to be the lay speaker.”

As a lay speaker, Jamerson was allowed to deliver the sermon but was not licensed to preside over weddings or administer holy communion. Jamerson relied on several Methodist ministers in the area — including Hank Chandler, Kevin King and Barbara Hugghins — to bless the elements so the church could continue to hold communion every first Sunday of the month. But Jamerson felt he could do more for his church.

“I’m serious when I say God had been knocking on my door for years to preach, and I just never would answer the door,” Jamerson said.

But Jamerson experienced a change of heart during the holidays. His mother passed away in 2003, his father in 2004, and he said he had a difficult time during the holidays without them. A friend and pastor, Lester Foreman, gave Jamerson some advice.

“Lester told me, ‘if you don’t think the time is right, God will let you know when the time is right.’ This Christmas, I had a tough time dealing without my mom and dad,” Jamerson said. After the holidays, Jamerson said, “I went to the district supervisor and said, ‘I think I need to take the next step.’”

Jamerson became a licensed minister on May 25, 2006 after completing a two-week course of all-day classes at Lon Morris College. He was officially appointed to serve as pastor for the two churches on June 1.

Jamerson grew up in Antioch Church, it was his mother’s church from 1940 until her death in 2003. Jamerson and his wife were baptized at Antioch in 1981.

Jamerson said he plans to be with the churches for a while to come.

“They want a minister who knows their family,” Jamerson said, “and a total stranger is wonderful, but they don’t know the history — they don’t know the family that well. My wife and I own this business — our grandchildren are here. I have no plans to aspire to higher places in the church.”

Antioch has an average church attendance of 25 members, while Earle’s Chapel sees about five. However, the churches have a combined 128 people listed as congregational members.

Jamerson already has new church events planned. Every first Sunday, Antioch will host a Bible study at 6 p.m. Each fourth Sunday, the church will offer a contemporary service at 6 p.m. with modern worship music.

“We’re trying to think outside of the box,” Jamerson said, “and see if we can’t attract some new members. Service to our community has been my biggest reward, and I want to do the same for our church.”

Jamerson credits his family, who works with him at Dejamco, for keeping his busy schedule on track.

“God’s going to come first with me, no matter what,” Jamerson said. “If I keep him first, he gives me the strength and power to handle my volunteer work with HOPE, the chamber and school board.”