BY QUINN LAVESPERE, Message Summer Staff Writer
ATLANTA – Horace “Ray” Teal has accomplished a lot in his long life. There are two jobs, however, which Teal can claim to be the benchmarks of his life.
Teal is going strong as he both serves as mayor of the town of Atlanta and pastors at First Baptist Church of Montgomery.
“I’ve been blessed that God has allowed me to do so much in my life and do His work,” Teal said. “I’m enjoying living my life and both of these jobs.”[img_assist|nid=6936|title=Ray Teal|desc=Ray Teal serves as mayor of Atlanta, La., and he also is pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery. He was elected mayor in 1978, a position he has held since, and became pastor of First Montgomery on March 15, 2001.|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=75]
Teal became mayor of Atlanta in 1978 while he juggled jobs as a pastor and schoolteacher. He said he continued to serve in the two other jobs after becoming mayor.
“I started pastoring in 1954 and was preaching two years before that,” Teal said. “I was a teacher at Atlanta and Calvin [schools located in Winn Parish]. I became pastor of First Baptist Montgomery on March 15, 2001.”
Teal described what he does as mayor of Atlanta and spoke about challenges he faces in his job.
“We hold meetings, try to know the will of the people, supply room for voting, and we have firefighting equipment in cooperation with District 3 Fire District, which is parish-wide,” Teal said. “In addition to that, we seek grants that will help us with equipment, street upkeep, and water.
“One challenge that we face is getting citizens’ support,” Teal continued. “It’s not that they don’t support you, but they just leave it for you to do. We have three council members – two women and a man – and one lady serves as town clerk while the other serves as town treasurer. The man is simply a council member. What is problematic is that people don’t come to the council meetings and become informed about the challenges of community life in an incorporated area.”
Teal said he hopes to get out as mayor when the next mayoral election for Atlanta takes place in October 2012.
“If I do not have someone who will take the job, then by state law I have to keep it until we get another person,” Teal said. “Most people don’t know that. Additionally, the mayors’ position in Atlanta has never paid salary. We have money, but I have saved that money for town projects and the needs of the community rather than them pay me – I’ve served for free.”
Teal said it’s good he has two eyes: One is always on Atlanta; the other always on First Montgomery, 15 miles southwest.
“My first obligation is to the Lord and the Word,” Teal said. “You have to be faithful to the Lord no matter what anyone else says.
The greatest challenge in our church is to get people out of the ‘status quo syndrome.’ We are predominantly made up of elderly people and only have three younger families, so that limits us on talent and the ability to get up and go do things, and it limits us on the children and young people who are prospects within the church. If we have any prospects to any degree, they are outside the church.”
Although some might consider being a mayor and pastor at the same time challenging, Teal said he is used to juggling jobs.
“I chose to be a bivocational pastor when I surrendered to the Lord in 1952,” Teal said. “I’ve literally carried three jobs at times. All the time I’ve pastored, I’ve done so with the conviction that country people in small churches need pastors just as much as mega churches do.”
Teal said there is no conflict between his jobs as mayor and pastor and added he is going very well in both.
“I’m comfortable in my position as pastor, and they love me and we love them,” Teal said. “I feel if you treat people right and are honest, square, and transparent with them, they’ll be supportive.
“At this time, we have two grants going on in the middle of Atlanta, one being a street grant and the other being a water grant,” Teal continued. “Being mayor is challenging as far as time and paperwork goes, but it’s worth it because it helps the people.”
First Montgomery reaches out in a variety of ways locally and globally. The church led in a community revival in May at Montgomery High School that involved eight churches in Big Creek Baptist Association, and participated in a youth revival in August for high school students, which took place at Northside Baptist Church in Montgomery. Fruit baskets at Christmas for widows and others in need, and caroling throughout the community, are two of the ways the church ministers at Christmas.
First Mongomery also was a church host this year as in the last six years for Camp USA, which for three weeks each summer immerses students ages 8-16 from South Korea in American-style life.
Teal and his wife Dorothy have a longtime involvement with Korea. They go on the annual Reach Missions partnership trip to Korea most years, a result, he said, of a long-standing friendship with Charles Lowery, who organized a partnership between Louisiana and South Korea in the 1970s that continues today as an informal partnership with Cenla associations and Korea under the leadership of David Cranford, pastor of First Baptist Church of Ponchatoula.
Teal spoke of his hopes for the future of First Montgomery and his future as mayor.
“As pastor, I hope that someway or another, the Holy Spirit wrecks our status quo and ‘at ease-in-Zion’ mentality and gets us outside so that we can win people to Christ and be friends with them,” Teal said. “As mayor, I’d like to bring these grants to a conclusion before I have to bite off something else. Without boasting, I’d like to add that I run the motor grader and keep the streets up personally.”
Teal named some blessings God had given him as mayor and pastor.
“I’ve had plenty to eat and clothes to wear,” Teal said. “Last summer, we paid our house off. The Lord has blessed me in the mayor’s job as well. I’m serving now with Kisatchi-Delta, which is a regional planting commission in Alexandria. In the pastorate, besides winning people to Christ and doing all the typical church business such as marrying people, I served a bit over six years on the Louisiana College Board of Trustees and was chairman of the Historical Committee one year.
“I’m a people person and a community-minded person – personally I feel we need more Christians in public life – and there have been a lot of little things we’ve been blessed with,” Teal added. “We won’t die rich, but the Lord has always supplied our needs.
“I try to find all the good reasons why I do what I do, and I do,” Teal added. “The Lord has given us a good life, and for me to say differently would be to sin.”