Within the United Methodist Mississippi River District, an optimistic outlook for the coming year is buoyed by the presence of Supt. Dr. Cynthia Davis and commitment to a simple strategy: love in action draws people in the community to a place where needs are being met.
“Our churches reach out to the community in times of grief, tragedy or trauma,” said Davis, now nine months into her tenure. “Whenever there is a need – food, clothing, school supplies and backpacks, we try to address that need. Sometimes, people want to get married, and they want a ‘real preacher.’ The church gathers around the community when people need help.”
The Mississippi River District encompasses 113 churches in eight counties, with headquarters in Alamo, Tenn. Davis served as senior associate pastor of congregational care at Christ United Methodist Church until her appointment to the Mississippi River District.
Intentionally, Davis’ unfolding tenure is characterized by mentoring and leadership that focuses on demonstrating “the love of Jesus Christ.” She is not unmindful that an overwhelming majority of the district’s population is Caucasian.
“I can truly say that as my husband, Dr. Sonny Davis, and I have traveled around the Mississippi River District, we have not encountered even one negative experience as it pertains to race,” she said. “When people need help, they don’t care what color the person is who is offering help. That’s the kind of church that reflects the love of Jesus Christ. It’s the only way the church is going to thrive in this day and age.”
This is Dr. Davis’ second appointment as a district superintendent. She was appointed superintendent of the Memphis Conference’s former McKendree District in 2011 and served there until moving on to Christ United Methodist Church in 2016.
Prior to her McKendree appointment, Davis pastored Millington’s Friendship United Methodist Church for six years. She became an ordained elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1997 and was received as a member in full connection of the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church in June 2010. Along the way (2005), she earned a Masters of Divinity Equivalency and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary.
Davis, who had an exceptional nursing career prior to ministry, says today people increasingly are choosing to identify as spiritual rather than religious.
“Young people want to be a part of good people doing good things. They don’t care for the politics of church. They’re not interested in judging people. They just want to help,” she said.
“The denomination has a program called Project Transformation. College students spend their summers teaching inner-city children how to read. The work is important because children who cannot read by third grade form a pipeline to the prison system. It’s important that the church is a safe and affirming place.”
Characteristically, Davis feels that her best days are ahead.
“The opportunities for making a difference in the lives of others are endless,” she said. “The Lord daily puts someone in our path who has a need.”