By Susan Pierce/ Times Free Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Aug. 27, 2016) -- When David Graves stepped into the pulpit last Sunday at Hixson United Methodist Church, he felt a sense of coming full circle in his ministry.
Graves' first appointment in a United Methodist church was youth pastor at Hixson UMC in 1989; he returned Sunday as the newly elected bishop of the denomination's Alabama-West Florida Conference.
"A lot of the youth I'd had were sitting there with their teenagers," says Graves. "It was very affirming to hear how many people said, 'David, we saw these leadership aspects in you when you were here.' They'd had a part in my life and I'd had a part in theirs. It was a feeling that my time there helped prepare me for the journey I'm getting ready to go on."
Graves, 58, was elected bishop on July 13 by delegates at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C. He most recently served as senior pastor at Knoxville's Church Street United Methodist Church in the Holston Conference, which stretches from Northwestern Georgia through Tennessee and into Southeastern Virginia, containing more than 880 churches.