STARK CITY — For the past 50 years, JR Burr has been the minister at Stark City Church of Christ.
From 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, the church will host a reception for JR and his wife, Joy. The public is invited to attend, along with former members, family and friends.
"I started making talks when I came back out of the Navy in 1955, met Joy and I thought I wanted to preach, so I started making talks," said JR. "I went to Stella, Ridgley, Powell and Jane one Sunday a month. I trained myself. I preached one Sunday, work on my sermons (during the week) until I got to the next place. Then they (elders of Church of Christ) came down from Stark City and asked us to come up. We came up and preached a time or two, and they wanted us to move here. I was working for the general store in Longview, and I said, 'well I don't know if I can make it a year or not. I never did train for this.' They said, 'well, we would like for you to come up.'"
They did and 50 years later, the couple has called the Stark City Church of Christ their home church. JR has been ministering for a total of 57 years.
Asked if it was hard for him to train himself, JR replied no.
"Well, I spent a lot of midnight hours getting lessons and things," he said. "After it got started, I kind of made a habit of things. I would start a sermon, build me a sermon first the Sunday of the month. When I go the next time, to another place, I would preach that same sermon, but work on it. By the time I got all four of those places, I had every scripture memorized that I had in that sermon. Well, I made a point never to preach a sermon for less than 30 passages of scriptures. So pretty soon it got easy when you have all of your memory work."
Both JR and Joy grew up in the Church of Christ faith.
The church's congregation meets on Sunday mornings and Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Today, his sermons last between 20-30 minutes, and the service also consists of singing of hymns. There are no musical instruments in the church.
Joy has also been helping in the church for a number of years.
"I just support him," she said. "I have taught Sunday school classes over the years."
JR's job as a minister reaches outside of the church each week. Aside from studying lessons to preach, he and Joy travel to area rest homes, hospitals, and care centers to see congregation members who are there.
"So it keeps you pretty busy," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Asked what one of his favorite Bible verses is, JR said Romans 12:21: "Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."
"If you are good, the evil will eventually leave you alone or depart. And I found that to be very true," he said. "You hate to pick between verses, because there is so many that you think of. But there are some that just stand out to you. John 3:16, 'for God so loved the world, that…'
Over the years, JR has gone on mission work to Honduras.
"We did a lot of work in Honduras," he said. "We are supporting a preacher, we have supported three or four down there. We built and started four churches. I have been down there twice."
Asked if they were surprised about the upcoming reception, Joy said, "We are just surprised."
The couple has three children; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
"It has always been a joy to preach," JR said. "And when you preach all of your life and that is all that you have done all you wanted to do. I wouldn't trade nothing for preaching. Nothing at all."
JR has been asked from others when he plans to retire.
"People often ask me, say 'well, my, after many years you ought to retire?' he said. "I had a school friend ask me that a while back. I said, 'well I guess when the Lord retires me.'"