Memorial Presbyterian’s Reverend Wally Mayton reflects on his caregiving career

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For 47 years, the Reverend Dr. Wallace “Wally” H. Mayton III sought to care for communities across the country.

Now Mayton is retiring from full-time ministry with Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland after serving there for 33 years.

Although Mayton is stepping down as pastor, his call to serve is not over.

Mayton grew up in the Memphis, Tennessee area. He explained how, while his family was involved in their local church, there was no pressure on Mayton to pursue a career in ministry.

“I know that I have been guided and directed. I chose a path — however twisted — that was meant for me, Mayton said.

At Rhodes College, Mayton majored in political science with the intention of becoming a lawyer. It was there that he met his wife, Lindsay.

While working in the campus library, Mayton saw a catalog from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, advertising a dual degree program in partnership with the University of Louisville; after two years at seminary and another two years at the university’s law school, a student could earn both a law degree and a seminary degree. Intrigued, Mayton enrolled in the program after graduating in 1970.

“It was just enough to hit me because there was the human aspect as well as the learning aspect,” Mayton said.

During her two years at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Mayton received affirmation and support from faculty and fellow students about her interpersonal skills. He had found his calling for ministry. Mayton changed course and received his Master of Divinity from seminary. He later earned a Master of Arts from the University of Notre Dame.

“I was making these small decisions along the way, but they were deep,” Mayton said. “What made the difference was receiving this support, encouragement and approval from the seminary community.”

The first congregation Mayton served was Whitehaven Presbyterian Church in Memphis for four years. After Whitehaven, Mayton served as an associate pastor in Anderson, South Carolina, for three years and in Overland Park, Kansas, for seven years.

Mayton explained that while he and his family loved living in Kansas, he sought opportunities for growth in ministry as well as a place where his family could build long-term relationships in the community.

A reference reached out to Mayton and encouraged him to apply for a position as associate pastor at Memorial Presbyterian in Midland. During the interview, Mayton was impressed with the church’s rich history, vision and involvement in the community. The Mayton family moved to the area in 1989.

“It’s been a wonderful career-building lesson for me and my family to be here this long,” Mayton said.

Mayton served fewer than 14 senior pastors, eight of whom were at Memorial Presbyterian. When he joined Memorial Presbyterian, he served under senior pastor Reverend Kirk Hudson.

“To be an associate pastor, you have to keep adjusting and adapting to the lead pastor’s style,” Mayton said. “I could see how I fit in. I think because I was the middle child in my family, I had that flexibility.”

Hudson was very relational, Mayton said. Hudson introduced Mayton to members and helped him engage and integrate into the community while demonstrating how to build and maintain strong relationships. When Hudson retired two years after Mayton joined, he “passed the torch of care” to Mayton.

An extension of Mayton’s community involvement is her handwritten notes, denoting thanks or support to individuals. He credits his first-grade teacher who taught handwriting as well as his mother who instilled the value of grades. Mayton explained that writing notes gives her a chance to sit back, contemplate her message to others, and express herself clearly.

“(Mom) was strict about it in a loving, caring way,” Mayton said. “You care enough about people to say thank you and you do it in writing.”

Reverend Matthew Schramm, senior pastor at Memorial Presbyterian, received notes from Wally while serving in Bay City in 2009; that support continued when Schramm came to Midland in 2018. Schramm compared Mayton to Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” with his sincerity, genuine kindness and understanding nature.

“He’s an amazing colleague,” Schramm said. “He’s a champion of all that is good. He has a wealth of experience and perspective to bring. He is the epitome of support.

Reverend Michael Ludwig, associate pastor, is grateful for Mayton’s thoughtful and encouraging nature as they planned the service together. He explained how members of the congregation look to Mayton and see him as an example of reflection on Christian teachings.

“I heard over and over again that he is a role model for them on how to follow Jesus, showing compassion and love,” Ludwig said.

A Mayton Ministry Celebration is scheduled from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 30 at Mayton Hall at Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1310 Ashman St. in Midland. The celebration will recognize Mayton’s 47 years as an ordained pastor and his 74e anniversary, which falls on October 31. Reservations are required and can be made at the church by calling 989-835-6759. Customers are encouraged to bring a handwritten note or card for Mayton.

Mayton will assume the role of parish associate of Memorial Presbyterian, working under Schramm’s direction. Mayton explained that he will participate in care ministries, focusing on senior members of the congregation and that he will continue to build relationships with families.

“Community is my calling, my hobby,” he said. “It gives me time to be with people, to contribute and to give of myself. I get so much more in return.

Additionally, Mayton plans to take more time to travel and spend time with her family. He has no plans to leave the area, saying Midland is his “home base”.

“I want the best for this church and the best for the community,” Mayton said. “I always want to be part of a community that I can serve and contribute time as well as talent.”

As he steps into his new role, Mayton would like to send a “huge note of thanks” to the community. He is grateful to the church for finding him and encouraging him in his ministry. He also hopes the community will believe in themselves and see challenges as opportunities.

“We have the resources to be who we want to be,” Mayton said. “It’s just a matter of working together, serving together, and believing and trusting a similar vision – we want to be an inclusive, compassionate and caring place where no one is left behind or stepped on.”

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