'Time management, God's grace & a loving wife' made it possible

by Lauren Brooks, posted Friday, May 16, 2003 (15 years ago)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. (BP)--Members of David McGowin's church were happy to share their pastor with the military but are glad he has scaled back to just one career.

McGowin has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Hanceville, Ala., the past 15 years and was chief of chaplains for the Alabama Army National Guard until his retirement from the military last fall after more than 30 years of service.

McGowin credited his ability to juggle both jobs to "time management, God's grace and a loving wife," Judy.

Jimmy Bland, who leads an adult Sunday School class and is a deacon, said the church never felt neglected by its pastor. "We always knew his first concern and love was the church. We viewed his service as an extension of First Baptist on the missions field."

Two jobs was par for the course for a man who has never led a "normal" life. McGowin spent the first 23 years of his life in Panama with his parents doing missions work and planting churches.

He came to the United States to attend Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham and then New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. McGowin began his career with the military in 1970 through a program for chaplains while he was in seminary.

"We learned everything that other military learned -- protocol, commands and procedures," McGowin said. "We even had to go to boot camp. The only thing different for chaplains is that we don't fire weapons."

He had been chief chaplain at the Guard's state headquarters in Montgomery since February 1999. One Sunday each month he would attend drills for the Guard, which included his preaching at the 7 a.m. Sunday worship service. After the service he would leave Montgomery and drive the two hours home to Hanceville to make it just in time for the 10:30 a.m. worship service at First Baptist. On those Sundays he would leave on his uniform.

"The general gave me permission to leave the uniform on to preach, and I always got a positive response from folks," he said. "We have a patriotic congregation and the children especially love the uniform."

As chief of chaplains, McGowin said his main duties were to monitor the morale and spiritual welfare of the servicemen, help the 42 junior chaplains under him, and provide religious coverage for the units. He also assisted with some secular and military education and helped servicemen advance in promotions. He led worship services at drills each month, conducted weddings, funerals, memorials and also provided a lot of counseling.

"I did a lot of helping families through crises," he said. In times of deployment, "I would help churches know how to minister to them and give suggestions for communication like sending letters and goodie boxes for encouragement."

As the war with Iraq approached, McGowin led his church to put up a world map with photos locating where several church members were deployed "so we can be mindful to pray for them."

Upon his retirement from the Guard last November, members of the state headquarters staff surprised McGowin, a colonel, with a retirement ceremony after he preached at his final Guard worship service. McGowin was awarded the Legion of Merit, one of the nation's highest peacetime awards, and the Alabama Distinguished Service Medal, the state's highest award.

McGowin was left speechless at the gathering. "It was overwhelming," he said. "I had expected just to chat with these folks but they surprised me with so many things."


Story courtesy of The Alabama Baptist. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: OLD GLORY.

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