Chris Gully Baptists a church member during services at Kemper Lake.
Chris Gully Baptists a church member during services at Kemper Lake.
By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper Messenger

Teacher, preacher,  football coach, mentor, father of four …Chris Gully holds all of those titles and more as he balances a very busy life.

Gully is a life-long resident of Kemper County. He was born in the old Kemper hospital. He attended Kemper Academy, graduating in 1991. Gully went on to graduate from Mississippi State University where he majored in education and social studies. He is married to Sherry. They have four children, Branson, Jordan, Beau and Hunter.

Gully is the pastor of two churches, Lynville and Mellen United Methodist Churches.

“I took both churches in 2008. I preach one service at Mellen at 9:30 a.m. and another at Lynille at 11 a.m.,” Gully said. “The churches are about seven miles apart. Both churches come together for the evening service.”

During the week, he teaches Bible and music at Kemper Academy. He is also the head junior high football coach. He helps with the varsity.

“I love football,” Gully said. “I played for Coach Pete McCleskey when I was at Kemper Academy. Believe me, he has mellowed over the last 30 years.”

Gully said coaching football has given him many stories.

“I had a new player who had never played football in his life,” Gully said. “I told him to tackle the player with the ball. The center went down to snap the ball and when he touched the ball, my guy knocked him out of his cleats. Flags flew everywhere. They were going to throw him out of the game. I explained to the referee what was going on and he didn’t eject him, but we had to do some teaching.”

So, what does a preacher say when he gets mad with the referee over a bad call?

“You might as well talk sweet instead of talking ugly because they aren’t going to change their minds,” Gully said. “One night we were playing up in Columbus. The head referee and the side judge on our side of the field were identical twin brothers.

“We recovered a fumble and the referee said the runner was down and the other team still had the ball. I asked his brother if I could throw my challenge flag. He said, ‘Buddy, if you had one, you would win, but I can’t overrule him.’

“I said, okay but that’s the ugliest fellow I have ever seen,” Gully said.

One thing about Gully, he knows the students are Kemper Academy. During graduation last spring he spoke about each one of the graduates. He remembered when the first came to Kemper Academy, what they like to do, and a funny story or two.

“He is a nice guy and a great preacher,” said Coach Pete McCleskey, who has been at KA for decades before retiring as head master. “He played quarterback for me when he was a student. A few years back, we drafted him to come back and help at the school.  He will do whatever you ask him to do”

Gully said his teaching/coaching job sometimes conflicts with his preaching ministry, time wise, but added that everyone seems to understand and it works out

“I was making my schedule with Mary Ellen (Waters, Kemper Academy’s head of schools),” Gully said. “She said ‘I wonder what’s going to come up this week.’”

He likes to get out in the community and visit folks in the hospital and in the nursing homes.

“Church does not only happen inside of four walls,” Gully said. “You have got to go out and see the people and minister to their needs.”

He and his congregations have several occasions they enjoy. There is the fourth Sunday night singing that draws a crowd that sometimes includes professional singers. It lasts a couple of hours and then there is a potluck dinner.

They also have services at Kemper Lake that include baptisms. Now you may think the Methodists only sprinkle but Gully says either submersion or sprinkling, it works both ways.

“Most people around here want to be submerged,” Gully said.

Another happy occasion is Christmas at the barn which is held the Sunday night before Christmas.

“My mission is mostly community based,” Gully said. “But if people need help, we find a way to help them.”

He said he loves his jobs and the problem he faces it not having enough time to get to everything.

“I can’t be too places at once,” Gully said.

He added that he never expects to leave Kemper County.

“I like the people. Everybody knows everybody,” Gully said. “People fuss about all the things we don’t have here. I tell them I am glad for what we don’t have,  because we also don’t have the problems that come with those things.”