Man of faithBy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
Rambo lands at Christ Methodist via Baptist church, schools and grocery store
Reverend Bob Rambo, the senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church, has been with his current congregation for four years.
However, his past is more colorful than simply having a calling to God — it was through God that he found stability in his late teen years and early adulthood. Rev. Rambo has stuck to that stability ever since.
He was born and, for the most part, raised in West Point. Much of his childhood consisted of moving residences for his father’s work.
“I was born in West Point, but I actually moved a lot growing up. My dad was an equipment operator. So, in the 1960s, when there was a lot of highway construction going on, we moved wherever the work was.”
One day, he even sat down and did the math: “I think I counted up 13 moves in 12 years. Sometimes there were multiple moves in a year, but there were some years of stability — two, three, four years in a place.”
For the most part, Rev. Rambo, his three brothers, and his parents stayed in Mississippi. However, a couple of times, he and his family relocated to Lockport, Ill.
“I think we were in Illinois for four years, for two of the moves,” he recalled. “The rest of the time was in Mississippi.”
When he reached ninth grade, Rev. Rambo and his family had settled down in Mississippi, for the most part, and resided near the Northside.
“By the time I got to high school, we were living in Flowood, so I was going to school back in those days at Pearl (High School).”
However, his parents divorced, and he moved back to West Point with his mother for his junior and senior year of high school.
It was during his last two years of high school when he began to become more familiar with God.
“I had become a Christian when I was a junior in high school, and I felt, almost immediately, some sense of, ‘God wants to do something with your life…’”
He resisted this initial calling for seven years before answering.
After graduating high school in 1973, Rev. Rambo attended a Methodist junior college in Mathiston.
“Mathiston’s just a four-way stop (west of Starkville), but it had a little junior college there.”
He graduated from the junior college with honors, having studied education. He then enrolled at Mississippi State University before deciding to drop out and work for a family grocery store in West Point for four years. He also married his wife, Susie, during that time.
“During that four years that I dropped out of school, got married, that’s when God began to really stir within me and I felt the call that maybe God was asking me to enter the ministry.”
Growing up, Rev. Rambo and his family weren’t very religious. Although raised Baptist, he found a Methodist church to attend when he was junior in high school.
“I started gravitating toward a Methodist church, where I had some cousins and an aunt and uncle who went there, and I found they were very welcoming. So, I just kind of found a home there, and I joined, and then my mother joined. This was Christ United Methodist Church in West Point, so I’ve come full circle.”
While working at the grocery store, Rev. Rambo revisited the initial callings he’d heard as a high school student.
“I began to explore that with my own pastor. Then I got referred to someone else that was a mentor for me. Through that process, I began to realize God was calling me to be a pastor.”
After his realization of what God was calling him to do, Rev. Rambo went back to school at Mississippi State, where he was a fulltime student for two years, including summer sessions. He simultaneously held a fulltime job.
“I went nonstop for two years — spring, summer and fall — and completed my coursework for State. I graduated in December 1980…”
He earned his degree in education with a minor in history.
“I was certified to teach high school social studies, history, that kind of stuff. (History) was a real love of mine, and has continued to be.”
In the fall of 1981, Rev. Rambo enrolled in Memphis Theological Seminary and was graduated with his master’s degree in 1984.
All the while, Rev. Rambo was a devoted father and husband.
“It was difficult, juggling fulltime work, juggling the responsibilities of being a husband and new father. I don’t know how we got through it. As we look back on that, those were some of the best years of our lives, we think, which kind of is interesting. But it was exciting. We felt like for the first time as a family, we were doing what God wanted us to do, it was kind of a big adventure.”
Since Rev. Rambo earned his degree in 1984, he’s worked all over the state, including Corinth, Clarksdale, Clinton, and Meridian, his last stop before becoming Christ United Methodist’s pastor in Jackson in 2013.
“Somehow, I’ve never ended up south of I-20,” he laughed. “I was asked by our bishop to serve this church, and I was deeply humbled, because Christ United has been sort of one of the great churches in Methodism in our state, and I knew its reputation as a great church.”
Christ United Methodist Church holds a larger congregation; the largest Rev. Rambo has ever had the privilege to lead.
“So, to be asked to come here was humbling, but it was also very terrifying, because I’d served some large churches — 2,000 members — but Christ United has more than 4,000 members.”
In 2002, he earned his doctorate from Memphis Theological Seminary, more than 15 years after earning his master’s.
In 40 years of being a pastor, Rev. Rambo said the hardest part about being a pastor is living up to everyone’s expectations.
“Because everyone’s expectations of the pastor are different. Some people think the pastor ought to be the world’s best preacher, or best counselor, or best problem solver, (or) the best administrator, and nobody can be all those things. You have to live out of your own gifts, which means you being true to yourself is going to disappoint somebody.”
But the easiest, he said, is just being with people.
“That is why I felt called to this in the first place — I love people, I love helping people connect to Jesus, and so just being with people, that’s the fun part of it.”
Rev. Rambo is still married to his wife, Susie, of 41 years this past June 27.
“Susie’s my wife and best friend… Between (our two sons) and their wives, we have five precious grandchildren, and we get to spend a lot of time with them.”
Their son Walt manages 1,600 acres of farmland near Indianola. Will is a pastor in Tupelo.