The Rev. Ellen McCubbin brings a unique set of skills to her new job as the pastor of Hope Mills United Methodist Church.
A native of the Baltimore, Maryland area, she’s a self-described second-career pastor with 30 years of experience working for IBM as a computer scientist and systems analyst.
“Over my career I designed command and control systems for submarines, high-availability systems for banking and the stock market worldwide,’’ said McCubbin, 62.
Her computer job first brought her to North Carolina, where she fell in love with the state.
Her computer and pastoral roles have taken her to the Research Triangle, Wendell, Burlington and, most recently, Burgaw before she relocated to her new pastorate in Hope Mills in June with her shih tzu Barnabas, Barney for short. He is named for the biblical apostle who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys.
After 30 years in the computer business, McCubbin said she couldn’t dodge the fact God was calling her and affirming her in the ministry she had been doing as a layperson.
She spoke to some minister friends about it, and then said God began opening doors to allow her to get her ministerial education while completing her job at IBM.
“I had tremendously supportive management at IBM who were not surprised at all that I was called to the full-time ministry,’’ she said.
She has served in both large and small towns but she likes being in a town like Hope Mills that’s adjacent to a larger community like Fayetteville.
“I really like Hope Mills,’’ she said. “I find that the people are welcoming, hospitable and are from all over. “We’ve got that small-town feel and yet we are not a really small town. We are about three times the size of the last town I served.’’
McCubbin said she’s been told her gifts for her current work are preaching, teaching and pastoring. She also thinks she’s a pretty good administrator. She feels the local congregation helps define for her where she’s needed the most.
She has a big love for pastoral care, which to her means hospital visits for those who are sick, especially visits with the ailing elderly members of the congregation and advocating for proper care for them.
She loves the teaching aspect of ministry and leads a weekly Bible study. She likes small group studies to help people learn how to share and discover their own spiritual gifts, feeling that all are called to ministry in some way.
While some feel there is a natural conflict between science and faith, McCubbin looks at the situation differently, calling the Bible a textbook on God’s interactions with humanity over recorded history.
She said Methodists try to examine complex issues through the experiences of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. “When you apply them to new things science can come up with, you can usually find an answer that I think would be acceptable to God,’’ she said. “I use science examples all the time because I’m still a geek and proud of it.’’
In the short time she’s been at Hope Mills United Methodist Church, she’s learned her congregation has a real heart for transforming the world to Jesus Christ as well as for missions.
Recently, she said some 25% of her members committed to helping with North Carolina hurricane relief through United Methodist Church hurricane relief centers.
“I see them as making disciples for Jesus by what they’re doing and how they’re reaching out to the community, and by how they study,’’ she said. “They are passionate about it and I’m passionate about it. I think the bishop and the cabinet sent me to the right place.’’