The Rev. Dr. Chauncey Nealy believes if you open doors, great and godly things will happen.
Nealy is the recently-appointed pastor at Tinney Chapel United Methodist Church. After more than four decades in the pulpit, Nealy and his wife, Sandra, retired to Lake Fork in 2014.
“We lived the retired life for almost two years,” he said during an interview in his office at the rural church.
Then, a door opened.
“We were attending First United Methodist Church in Quitman,” he explained. “We decided maybe we need to be open to serving.”
After visiting with Victor Casad, UMC district superintendent, Nealy learned that Tinney Chapel was looking for a leader.
“The first thing people said to me about Tinney Chapel was that it is a loving church,” he noted. “And that’s what we’ve experienced. There is a great deal of love here. People are of one accord.”
Nealy was born in Fort Worth and grew up in the Hamilton Park suburb of Dallas.
“Hamilton Park was an African American community,” he stated. “I attended Hamilton Park from 1st through 9th grade.”
Then integration was implemented, and children from his part of the neighborhood were bused to Highland Park High School.
He graduated in 1972 and had every intention of joining the Marines, but that was one door that did not open according to plan.
“They found an issue with my vision, so I decided to attend Richland Community College,” he said.
After finishing courses at RCC, he went on to graduate from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M – Commerce) with a degree in English and history. Then he earned a masters degree in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
He worked for the city of Dallas awhile, but the spirit was using him and there were larger voices calling.
“I had a call to Christian ministry, but I was resisting it,” he said.
He finally realized he was not going to be happy until he opened that door.
He received a master of divinity from Perkins School of Theology from Southern Methodist University in 1984 and then a doctor of ministry in 1993.
Nealy, who has two grown children from his first marriage, served churches in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, retiring as senior minister of Christ UMC and Forest Hill UMC in Fort Worth.
During his doctoral work, he wrote a paper called “Telling the Story,” which chronicled some of his family’s oral history and he’s working on a faith narrative, “Bred for Bondage – Set Free by Faith,” detailing the life of his great-great grandfather, Henry Darden, a slave.
Seven of Darden’s sons became ministers.
“They were bred for bondage to increase the slave population,” Nealy explained. “What happened that caused so many of my ancestors to embrace the Christian faith?”
Nealy hopes telling their story might “help us get beyond some of the racial animosity and division we have.”
Nealy’s goals for Tinney Chapel include opening the doors of the church’s 8,000 square foot family life facility to “as many non-profit groups as we can.”
The church is already host to several gatherings.
“We have a Native American group meeting here,” he stated. “We have a praise and gospel group every third Saturday of the month and we have our prison ministry, Residents Encounter Christ.”
Nealy hopes the church will continue to be “a beacon of light for everyone to understand that we are all sisters and brothers. I hope we can continue letting people know the love of God through our openness and kindness. I pray that God will use us, and I hope I can live up to his will.”
Tinney Chapel is located two miles south of Winnsboro on FM 312, then one-fourth mile east on County Road 4620. Sunday School begins at 9:30 a.m.,with a fellowship at 10:30 in the family life center. Worship service begins at 11 a.m.