Local pastor retires after more than six decades of service

Pastor Mack H.L. McConnel recently retired after 65 years in the ministry.

Local pastor retires after more than six decades of service
June 30
09:25 2022

Pastor Mack H.L. McConnel recently stepped away as senior pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church here in Winston-Salem. This is not a retirement from the ministry, but instead just retiring as senior pastor in order to have a younger voice lead the church.

“I wasn’t made to retire or anything, but got me wanting to was that most of our young people have so much stuff to participate in and they don’t really put church first like how I was brought up, so I wanted a young person in there that can relate to what they are doing,” said McConnel. “I want a young person to come in and be able to relate to them and get them the instructions they really need.  

“I still think I can do quite a bit of work but the thing I really want to make sure is that everything is going well, and a younger person can do a better job with that. Things are changing a little faster than what I am used to. When I came along, everything was a drag but now it’s so fast paced.”

McConnel spent a total of 65 years in the ministry and 19 of those were at St. James. Prior to coming to St. James, he was the pastor at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church for 26 years. His first dream was to become a veterinarian, but he  eventually went into the armed forces. Once he left military service, he began feeling the urge to join the ministry.

“I realized how badly I was in need of Christianity, which is why I got into the ministry,” he said. “I entered the ministry for the joy of it.  First, I thought because all preachers had a gravy train and I soon found out it wasn’t so.  

“Most people when they get into something and when they get into it, they think it’s easy, but they find out it’s a little bit more work to it than what it really seemed. I thought that all the preacher did was say a few words on Sunday and sat down the rest of the week, but I found out very early that you get called all hours of the night and day. But everything went well, and I have had a wonderful time.”

Originally from Chester County, South Carolina, McConnel and his family made their way to Winston-Salem when he was four years old. He says he never thought he would have spent so many years in the ministry but because he enjoyed it so much, he never left.

“I had no earthly idea and when I first went into the ministry, I said I would be in it for five or six years and that would be it,” McConnel said about being in the ministry for so long. “It was like every time I would look around, it got better and better, and more and more young people began to realize how they needed Christ and that encouraged me.”

McConnel delivered his last sermon as senior pastor of the church on May 29. He says he isn’t an overly emotional person but says that moment was “bittersweet” for him. There was a celebration held in his honor the day before his last sermon, which he also enjoyed. He was surrounded by family and friends and was celebrated by everyone.

When he thinks back on his career, McConnel said he will miss the calls he gets from members of his congregation wanting instruction about the gospel. He enjoyed being a teacher and giving people a better understanding of the scripture.

“Anytime this is brought up, I can always think about those that accepted Christ and I think about the ones that I missed,” he stated.  

The first thing on McConnel’s agenda is to do some traveling with his wife. He says he didn’t expect to live this long and wants to enjoy the time he has left with his family and friends. He has plans to continue preaching every now and then because he loves the ministry so much. 

“I am just looking forward to being with my wife and traveling a little bit,” McConnel said about retirement. “I want to preach a little bit and enjoy the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the great-great-grandchildren, so that’s what I am looking forward to.”

McConnel says the Lord has opened up doors that he never imagined would be opened. He says the Lord has led him down a great path and he has enjoyed the journey thus far. 


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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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