My name is Andy Stoddard. I am married to Holly and we have a daughter, Sarah, who is two, and a son, Thomas, who is two weeks old tomorrow. I am pastor of Coy UMC in the rural community of Preston, MS. This is about 10 miles outside of Philadelphia, MS, which some of you may remember from the news last year. Previous to this I served a three church appointment in the Mississippi Delta. I graduated from Mississippi College with a degree in Chemistry in 1998 and from Memphis Theological Seminary in 2003. I was ordained an elder in full connection in the Mississippi Annual Conference this past June 13, which was also my daughter’s birthday. And for some insane reason, I really like Ole Miss football and am passing this dementia to my children.
Why do you blog?
I blog as a spiritual discipline. I’ve done a form of the morning office or pray either from the Book of Common Prayer of from one of Wesleyan versions (The Order of St. Luke, or This Day). I’ve always journaled my reflections from the Daily Lectionary and I though, well, if I post them, that will give me an extra layer of accountability, plus if there are others that read it and get something out of it, that’s not too bad either.
Plus, it gives me a way to play with thoughts that don’t quite fit into sermons/bible studies, but I still feel the need to think through.
What has been your best blogging experience?
I’d say the best experience I’ve had blogging as been the ability to reflect upon my ordination. Blogging about it really helped me to come to grips with this great joy and responsibility handed to me by God and the Church. The ability to write and think through it was really helpful.
Also, winning the Methoblog NCAA basketball pool was pretty cool
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Blog for yourself. Don’t worry about hits, don’t worry about seeing your name in lights, and don’t worry about being linked to by everyone under the sun. Blog to help your faith, your thoughts, and to better understand who you are and what you believe.
If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
Locust and Honey, not just because of this generous offer of being profiled
Brogreg.com, Greg is a great friend and plus it’s cool to say I’m friends with a Methoblog superstar!
Deadspin, it’s a sportsblog that can be wickedly funny, or just wicked at time.
Who are your spiritual heroes?
I have three main ones. My friend Bro. Greg always accused me of being a Catholic in Methodist clothing, and this will probably back that up, but
1. St Benedict, some folks say there have really only been two God breathed book in history. The Bible and the Rule of St. Benedict. I think that is very true. The Rule (other than the Bible) is the most important book to my faith.
2. St. Francis, I believe if there were ever a true Christian, he was it.
3. John Wesley. He showed us that as important as theology it, its most useful purpose is in making disciples, and that is the purpose of our faith, being and making disciples.
What are you reading at the moment?
Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die: Or the Eschatology of Bluegrass by David Crowder
Confronting the Controversies by Adam Hamilton
Team of Rivals by Doris Kerns Godwin
What is your favorite hymn and why?
I mentioned this in a sermon the other day about how it vacillates. I guess right now I’m back to two of Charles Wesley’s hymns
Live Divine. If for no other reason than I may have Wesley’s best line in any hymn. “Take away our bent to sinning, Alpha and Omega be.” If that doesn’t describe the goal of salvation, nothing does. Take away our bent to sinning.
Come o thou traveler unknown. Virtually unsingable, but maybe Charles’ best hymn, a retelling of the story of Jacob wrestling God.
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
The Death Penalty. Like many folks, I grew up accepting it as just the way it was supposed to be, but the more I learned from a personal standpoint about forgiveness and grace, the more I am personally against it. I do not believe that there is a “Christian” response to it, nor do I feel the need to convince anyone one this issue. But, for me, the more I come to understand the sanctity of life and the power of grace, the more against it I am.
What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
The disconnect between private and public morality. What we believe is how we live. We mistake right intentions for right actions. Everyone wants to do what is right, but yet no one really does it. Kierkegaard wrote that the hardest thing to do is be a Christian in Christendom. One of my professors once said that means if everyone is a Christian, no one has to live like it. We live in an age where everyone wants to do right, but no one does right.
If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
Transparency on every level. Let everything be televised, no secrets (except for what is truly national security). Light is the best disinfectant.
If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
More accountability to our laity. The Methodist movement was a bottom up revival. We have become a top down church. Be it in the local church, the conference or general conference level, we need to be more accountability to the lay people that are the church
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
My mama once said that if you do not forgive, you have given another person control of yourself. The only person in life you can control is yourself, and if you hate, you have given that up.
What, if anything, do you worry about?
Literally everything in life. I’m a worrier. I know it is wrong, but it is in me genes. I worry about church, family, and Ole Miss recruiting.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
I’d have gotten in better physical shape many years ago. I’m pretty healthy now, but I spent many years eating way too much and not taking care of the body God has given me.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Asheville, NC. Love that town, love that earn, other than MS, my favorite place on earth.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my family, working out, beating my head against a wall while fooling with computers.
What is your most treasured possession?
My mother’s bible given to her when she graduated from high school
What talent would you most like to have?
I would love to sing. I can’t carry a tune in a wheel barrel, and I’d love to be able to sing the hymns I quote so much.
If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
1. John Wesley, to know what he’d really think about the current UMC
2. Rich Mullins, perhaps the best modern Christian musician, taken from us much too young
3. David Crowder. Like his music, love his goatee, maybe he can teach me how to grow one like that.