Senior Pastor 

Rev. John Fleming

Here are some things you might be interested in knowing about me. I grew up in Jackson, Tennessee with an older brother and sister, David and Emily. I graduated from Jackson Central-Merry High School and went on to Lambuth University (now the University of Memphis, Lambuth Campus). It was there that I met my future wife. We got married in 1993 and have two girls, Annie Grace and Julie. I attended seminary at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. I am brand new to First United Methodist Church, Paragould, having served previously in churches in Camden, Little Rock, and Sheridan, Arkansas. 

You might like to know that I am an avid Atlanta Braves baseball fan, but can cheer for the Cardinals if the two teams are not playing each other. 

I started working for the church when I was 16, but felt the call as early as my fifth year of life. I have a passion to help people grow spiritually through Bible studies, small group studies, and worship. I am very excited to be the Senior Pastor of this grand church, whose rich history amazes me. I also am a people person and want to know all of the sheep in this flock.

If you are looking for a church home, our church wants to be that place. Feel free to contact us in any way or to follow us on our website, on Facebook, and our other media outlets.

Thanks for stopping by our website. We hope to see you in person real soon.


Associate Pastor 

Rev. Heath Williams 

I am the son of Jim and Sharon Williams of Little Rock, and the younger of two children (sister Heather). I have been married to my beautiful wife, Rev. Jeanne Williams (Pastor at Walnut Ridge United Methodist Church) for 8 wonderful years and we have a 3 year old daughter, Natalie. We also have a cat that goes by Rabbi (and yes, there is a story as to how she got that name).

I am not a native of Arkansas by birth, as I was born in Mississippi and moved to Little Rock at the very young age of 5 months. So I do claim Arkansas as home. I am a graduate of Little Rock Hall High School (class of 1999), the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelors in Business Administration with an emphasis in management, and I received my Masters of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. 

I am starting my seventh year of local church ministry (and my fourth as an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church)  Previously I  served the congregations of Pleasant Grove UMC in Jonesboro and Bay UMC as their pastor. 

I am a sports fanatic!  I follow every major sport (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) on a professional and collegiate level. I have multiple teams in Fantasy Football and Fantasy Baseball leagues.  My allegiances in sports lie with the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Dallas Stars (hockey), the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Our house is divided during baseball and football season as Jeanne is an avid fan of the Cubs and Auburn Tigers.  I love to play golf.  I love to spend time outdoors.  I love to watch movies and I love to listen to music and go to concerts(classic and alternative rock, country, Christian, classical and well, most everything except rap – and even some of that is alright).  I do like to read as well, but usually fill my free time with other things, so it takes a long time for me to start and finish a book. 

As for my theology and ministry, I believe that God is grace and God is love. If God is grace and love, then we are to share that love and grace with one another and with God. The gathered community of believers is a place where God’s love and grace is made manifest and we are commanded by Jesus to share the love and grace we receive to all we meet.  I feel strongly about equipping the laity with the skills and gifts needed to go out into the community and spread that message of love and grace we learn between the walls of the church.   

Blessings and love,                                                                
Rev. Heath Williams


Minister to Youth

Billy Fly


I grew up in Nashville, TN and have lived across TN most of my life, except for a few years in Arkansas. I have been married to my wife Kelli for 13 years and we have an energetic eight year old son, Eliot, that keeps us both on our toes… laughing, and scratching our heads on a weekly basis!

I had dreams of becoming a wildlife officer or park ranger, etc. when in college… but sensed a need to serve other kinds of wildlife—teenagers.    After getting a degree in Biology from Bethel University, I attended Memphis Theological Seminary where I received a Master of Divinity. In 2000, I was ordained in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Besides hanging out with my wife and son, I enjoy being out in the woods or by a stream somewhere. I am also thrilled when I see young people grow in God and serve others with their lives in Jr. high, high school, and beyond!


Media/Communications/Video/Children's Music 

Karole Risker


I originally come from Dearborn, Missouri (which is where my Northern "accent" comes from), a small town halfway between St. Joe and Kansas City where I grew up with five sisters, one of them a twin. I have a daughter, Hannah, 17, who attends Crowley's Ridge Academy, and who is wonderful. We have a dog, Lucy, that is half lab, half crazy (just kidding) and two cats that we brought in "just for a minute" when we found them out shivering in our flower bed. They are almost a year old.

My interests include running, reading, writing, community theatre and music. Hannah and I like to run 5K's together and do community shows together. We live in a century old house near downtown. 

I love what I do here, which includes writing, photography, music and video, and feel fortunate to work at such a fine church and with such wonderful people.

I have a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. My undergraduate degree is in communications with an emphasis in photojournalism from Arkansas State University. I most recently come from MOR Media where I was the managing editor at Premiere Magazine, a post I held for four years. Before that I was the Executive Director of the Endowment Foundation of Greene County for five years. I own my own children's photography business, Pitter Patter Photography, that began in 2006. I have been a member of FUMC for over 5 years.


Children's Director 

Wendy McDaniel 


I am originally from St. Louis MO. but have been in Arkansas since 1988. I attended Arkansas State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2000. My hobbies include; anything outdoors, running and reading. I have been a member of FUMC since 2004 and on staff since 2012.  I am married and have 5 children.

I love Children’s Ministry. What a great opportunity we have at FUMC to introduce the love of Christ in all we do. A child’s first understanding of Godly love is modeled though his parents and family and reinforced by his church family.  

My vision is to introduce our children to the world in which they live. What a Missionary is, a third world country, poverty, the persecuted church and how we can be a source of hope, joy and compassion to our neighbors in Paragould and throughout the world.

I’d like for our children to connect with a missionary or church in a place that looks nothing like home. It’s been my experience that exposure to diverse global needs paints a picture of what real suffering is. Once that has been identified you can begin to make changes in your own community. A Missionary can help build connections and relationships with people our kids never dreamed they’d ever meet.

We then use what is learned from places around the world to identify local needs. What are the similarities between our vastly different cultures? How will the things we’ve learned shape our definitions of need, hunger and poverty…? What is it to help someone?

I want our children to know that church is to be enjoyed. We want to take seriously the prayers we pray, the commitments we make and more than anything in this world to prioritize our lives to be like Christ.



Music Director 

Danny Davis



Praise Band Music Director

Brian Pearson


I am currently the Junior High Band Director/High School Assistant at Greene County Tech schools. I live in Paragould with my wonderful wife Andrea, who sings with the praise team. We have a 6-year-old son named Riley,  3-year old, Evan, and new daughter Piper. 

Originally from suburban Chicago, I moved to Conway, AR at age 13. I graduated from Conway High School in 1998, and remained in Conway to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Central Arkansas in 2002. Before going into band directing, I took a year to work at Sigler Music Center in Little Rock as a salesman/guitar area supervisor/band and orchestral instrument consultant/piano mover. I accepted my first band director job at Rivercrest High School in Wilson, AR. It was in my third year here I met, fell in love with, and became engaged to Andrea. I went on to accept the Piggott job, and Andrea accepted a job in Brookland…leading to a move to Paragould.

I have been surrounded by the arts from a very young age. I  sang and played in school and church groups since preschool. While my major instrument is tuba, I have never lost interest in an instrument I've picked up…maybe with the exception of piano. On the rare occasion free time presents itself, I enjoy simply spending time with his family, participating in community theater, or reading that occasional good book I can find.

 Church Administrator

Denise Chipman

I was born and raised in southeast Iowa.  I am a middle child having one older brother, one older sister, and two younger brothers.  I have been married to Larry for 40+ years and we have 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

Before settling in Paragould in 1995 we lived in Indianola, IA, Marceline, MO, Harrisburg, PA and Charlotte, NC. 

I began working at FUMC Paragould in 1996 and have been blessed by working as secretary in three Methodist churches.  Indianola, Marceline, and Paragould.  A total of 25+ years.  

I love my job and the people of the church.  I like to travel, love music, enjoy sewing, but current activities are work and grandkids. 

Administrative Assistant

Kathy Runsick

I was born and raised right here in Paragould.  FUMC was my home church and I’m so glad to be back home.  After marrying my husband, Stewart, we moved to various towns throughout Arkansas.  I always looked forward to weekends in Paragould visiting family and my church.  I’m a traditional kind of girl and the sanctuary, choir, Bernard! ..., and of course – the preachers all got me through until my next visit. 

Stewart and I have 2 children, Kyle and Taylor.  We have lived in Walnut Ridge for the past 14 years where we were active members in the First United Methodist Church there.  Stewart served on many committees and helped lead jr./sr. high Sunday school classes.  I also served on committees and served as co-children’s coordinator. 

Shortly after moving back to Paragould, I was blessed with the opportunity to work alongside Denise and the staff here at First Church.


Iona Stone

I have been at FUMC for 26 years. I appreciate the people here, which is probably why I have stayed for so long.



Jesse Trolinger


Bernard Raley