JACKSON TWP.  James Walters has worked every day of the past eight years as a Jackson Township trustee to make a difference in the lives of local residents. He’s worked 16 years to make a difference in the lives of his wife, Katy, and their two children, Zoe and Nash.

Now, he has recently taken on a new role as pastor at the McDonaldsville St. Paul United Methodist Church in Jackson Township, where he’s starting to make a difference in the lives of the parishioners. Walters said there is little difference in his mind between all three of those roles. He balances it all by keeping one goal in mind - to help others.

"I ran for the trustee office because I wanted to help people and I became a pastor because I wanted to help people," Walters said. "I also wanted to become a pastor because for a long time. I’ve had a sense from the Holy Spirit that I should be doing more in my faith. I ignored this sense of a calling from God until it got to a point in 2011 where I started listening more than trying to ignore it."

Some may say there should be a separation of church and state. Walters said that there are more similarities than differences when it comes to serving as political leader or a religion leader. 

"Many people think that it is in the Constitution of the United States that there is to be a separation of both, but it isn’t in the Constitution," Walters said. "It really comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association stating that there should be no official government religion and that all in the U.S. have religious freedoms without limits, especially from the government."

Walters is a native of Berea and moved to Jackson Township in 2003 after living in North Canton for a few years. He married Katy in 2000. He was elected to trustee in the township in 2007 and started serving in 2008. His family has been a member of the Church of the Lakes for a number of years.

When Walters believed it was time to listen to the call to look into the ministry, he talked with the pastor at his church. He said the pastor looked at him and asked, "What took you so long?".

In the Methodist church, persons can go into the ministry by going to seminary. For those over the age of 35 who want to go into the ministry, they can do an internal course of study for a minimum of five years. Walters is in his fourth year of study to become a licensed pastor.

He served as pastor at Centenary United Methodist Church in Waynesburg from 2012 through 2015. He’s also participated in community ministries such as Rock the Park, Vettes and Jets and The Emmaus Walk.

Walters completed his undergraduate work at Bowling Green State University in political science. He also has a Master’s in political science from the University of Akron and a Master’s of public administration from Kent State University.

His father was involved in local government in Berea as Walters was growing up. His dad was a law director, prosecutor and on the city council. Watching the difference his father was able to make in the everyday lives of people is what encouraged him to run for trustee.

Walters said he has been spending his time at the church getting to know the 50 to 60 members.

"I know the people here want to share the good news, grace, hope and love of Jesus," he said. "I’ve already let everyone know that we are going to try some things that might be out of the box to let people know that God loves them and they are all intrinsically valuable."

Walters hopes to be at the McDonaldsville church for many years. He said he was thrilled to get the assignment because it is located in his community. His family splits their time between Church of the Lakes and McDonaldsville.

"My wife always told me she could see me becoming a pastor," Walters said. "Before we were engaged, we would take long walks and talk about God and faith. I sometimes call her my prophet.

"I’m just the luckiest guy. I get to serve my community in two different roles. You can’t really separate one’s values from the decisions made as a trustee. It all boils down to caring for and helping people."