First Posted: 7/3/2014
Reverend Jim Pall has lived a life of service both to God and the community. His recent retirement from the State Correctional Institute at Dallas after 27 years will be an opportunity for him to shift the focus of that service as Bishop of Maple Grove United Methodist Church.
At a recent meeting with members of the little church tucked away in Sweet Valley, Pall’s enthusiasm for the position is apparent. Eschewing formality, Pall sits among the dozen members gathered, calling them by name, asking for their input, listening intently.
Pall is especially enthusiastic because he grew up at the church where he was baptized, confirmed and recommended for ministry. He remembers walking from his home to the church, where he participated and served any time the doors were open.
“A little over 40 years ago, Maple Grove gave me to the Wyoming Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church,” said Pall. “Now, the Susquehanna Annual Conference is giving me back for this appointment.”
“I know Pastor Jim since he was 5 years old,” said member Betty Remley, “I remember him coming to Sunday School every week.”
Pall’s call to Christian ministry came very early. At 11, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and his life was saved by a teacher’s use of CPR. Pall believes God used the incident to call him into the ministry, with a better understanding of the fragility of life.
A graduate of Lehman High School, he then went on to get degrees from Lycoming College in 1973 and Boston University School of Theology in 1976. His education gave him further opportunity to fully serve those in his path.
Pall serves with commitment and a bit of whimsy. When required as chaplain to wear a tie to work, he was quick to adopt a collection of bow ties into his wardrobe. His goal is to be accessible to those he serves, to be truly helpful.
Serving as Facility Chaplaincy Program Director, Protestant Chaplain and Director of Volunteer Services at the prison were challenging roles, but Pall never lost sight of those he served.
“I remember when an inmate was released after years because of DNA evidence,” said Pall. “He held no resentment or anger. It was a wonderful thing.”
As he speaks about specific inmates, Pall calls them by their first names and is quick to remember the details of their lives. His compassion and empathy are evident. He offers an opportunity for forgiveness and reconciliation.
After release, many inmates call Pall to offer a sincere thank you for assisting them during challenge, for providing spiritual leadership, for giving them opportunity to change their lives.
As chaplain, Pall served inmates of multiple religions. He said coordinating inmates’ various religious preferences has broadened his perspective on faith and religion.
His duties included conducting Sunday services, counseling inmates, making death notifications and filing religious exceptions regarding faith based traditions.
He is especially proud of his contribution to the Toolkit for Enhancing End-of-Life Care, which is available for use in prisons nationwide. It provides training for inmates to tend to dying fellow prisoners around-the-clock, with the motto “no one dies alone.”
As he speaks about the Toolkit, his value for human life and his respect for others is evident. Pall’s service is never just a job to him, but rather a sacred commitment to those God sets before him.
Pall is equally excited as he speaks about his family. He credits Susan, his wife of 32 years, for her support. He glows when speaking about sons Jonathan, Mark and Garrett.
Pall said, in spite of the many challenges of his duties at the prison, he was able to consciously set them aside at the end of the day, to fully celebrate his role as husband and father.
Pall’s various experiences will serve him well as he moves to the future. He has traveled extensively in Europe, was part of an archaeological dig in Israel, served as a medical missionary to Honduras, trained youth for missionary work with the Appalachian Service Project and is trained in “Christian clowning.” His background also reflects a love for drama, having performed with the Fisherman’s Players, a religious tour group, while in graduate school.
He seems to be “ready for anything,” including leading a little church on a back road in a small town whose members seem to already love him, as he does them.
Ellen Maccarone looks forward to his leadership which she knows will include “a great sense of humor, an engaging personality and wonderful life lessons.”
Pall takes seriously the words and intent of a Methodist campaign slogan, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors,” welcoming all, including those who may have previously felt alienated, embracing them with a spirit of acceptance and healing.