Carrying the Cross: A McKinleyville Pastor’s Journey from Loss to Triumph

older man standing in front of wooden cross laid on its side

Pastor James Ray with wooden cross

Residents of McKinleyville may have witnessed church members carrying a 13-foot tall wooden cross from the Northfork Full Gospel Church on Picket Road to the church’s new home on McKinleyville Avenue this December 16. The wooden cross was taken just over a mile, ending at a 30-year dream-come-true for one of the church’s leaders, 83-year-old Pastor James Ray.

Pastor Ray has had a life dedicated to faith and community service even in the face of heartache and loss. James Ray met and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Magdalen Nolan just months before her graduation from Arcata High School; Mary a mere 17 years old, and James two years older.

The two served their communities through their jobs, raising a family on the North Coast. Ray says he accepted Christ in his life thirty-eight years ago, setting him on a path of ministry that he had not anticipated. From ministering in the Humboldt County Jail, to Pelican Bay Prison, Pastor Ray has likely touched many lives.

But others have also touched his. During an unsettled moment in his life, the man of God turned to a fellow pastor for prayer. After prayer, the friend prophesized, according to Pastor Ray, “And he said, your ministry will not be minor, but major…I’m going to bless your latter days more than your first.”

After a life of service including helping congregations around the world find, build, and purchase their own churches, Pastor Ray faced incredible challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Not only did social distancing mandates limit the Northfork congregation’s ability to gather, but Pastor Ray and his wife both contracted COVID. In his eighties, the pastor said his doctor did not expect him to survive the illness. A vivid moment arose during his hospitalization when, facing darkness, Pastor Ray prayed for release, but he said he received a divine message emphasizing the importance of his existence in answering the collective prayers of his congregation.

man and woman in church in black dress clothes with red accents

James and Mary Ray

Though also battling COVID herself, Mary took care of her husband of more than six decades after he left the hospital. Pastor Ray was at times too ill to stand, his elderly wife struggled to lift him though she nursed him back to health, taking care of him “like a baby” he said, his voice thick with emotion.

Later as he healed, Pastor Ray was dealt another blow when the property the church had hoped to buy after 30 years of renting, was sold to someone else. Just days later, he and Mary received devastating news- Mary’s kidneys were failing and her time here on earth was up.

Mary passed away on January 31 of this year, just eight days after her diagnosis. In her final days, Pastor Ray cared for his wife, as she had cared for him. Their 62 years of marriage a testament to the love they shared.

Mary’s death and the loss of the church site were just two of the many tragedies that Pastor Ray faced during that time. He also experienced the loss of several family members and medical emergencies involving those closest to him. Thinking about the prophecy given to him, Pastor Ray said he thought, “Lord, if you’re going to bless my latter days, you’re going to have to get busy.” And, according to the Pastor, He did.

Before the difficulties that affected Pastor Ray’s family, another pastor, Roy Horton, felt a calling from God to assist him, as Pastor Ray had helped Horton’s family in the past. Part of this calling involved a vision of a cross being carried through the streets.

people carrying a wooden cross through the streets to the new church locationHorton approached Pastor Ray and talked about his calling to help. When tragedy struck, Pastor Horton was prepared to fulfill his calling, stepping in when illness and death knocked Pastor Ray’s door.

Dealing with the profound sadness of the loss of his wife Mary, whom had been instrumental in the establishment of the Northfork church and the search for a permanent home for the congregation, Pastor Ray bore witness to what he said was the incredible blessing of missed opportunity. Once devastated by the loss of the previous church site, Pastor Ray now considers that loss as a blessing. He said that the new church on McKinleyville Avenue, acquired debt-free, stands as a symbol of triumph over adversity. It not only meets the congregation’s needs but also includes a double-wide mobile home for the next pastor, ensuring the continuity of the church’s mission.

white church with peaked steeple and double wooden doors

Northfork Full Gospel Church

When moving to the new location, the pastors and congregation decided to walk the 13-foot-tall wooden cross from the previous church site to the McKinleyville Avenue location, fulfilling Pastor Horton’s vision. Pastor Ray, walking with the cane, aided in the mission, recognizing the powerful moment, triumph, and guidance bestowed upon him in even his darkest days.

older man with cane helping carry a wooden cross into a building

Pastor James Ray helping carry the wooden cross into the Northfork church’s new home.

Yesterday, December 28, marked what would have been Mary Magdalen Ray’s 81st birthday. On his beloved wife’s birthday, Pastor Ray presided over the Thursday night service at the Northfork Full Gospel Church on McKinleyville Avenue. “I miss her,” he stated, simple words filled with decades of love, commitment, and a shared faith that seems to transcend  time and distance.

But even as Pastor James Ray navigates the challenges of grief, his spirit persists. His overarching message emphasizes the transformative power of faith, community, and the enduring promise that, when guided by a higher purpose, the latter days can indeed be blessed more abundantly than the first.

The Northfork Full Gospel Church is located at 2333 McKinleyville Avenue where Pastor James Ray, Pastor Roy Horton, and Pastor Kevin Lockhart preside over 7 p.m. service on Thursdays, and on Sunday, worship services are at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. along with Sunday School at 10 a.m. A building dedication ceremony will be announced at a future date.

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39 Comments
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This Is My Name
Guest
This Is My Name
6 months ago

Why is this news???

Akasha
Guest
Akasha
6 months ago

At least it’s positive news

Humboldt
Member
Humboldt
6 months ago
Reply to  Akasha

Let’s just hope this is a dying breed.

The time of guilt and Patriarchal religion really needs to come to an end.

He feels a sense of mission, which is romantic, but the damage done by the christians on this planet would take volumes to record.

Spanish inquisition, etc.

Enough of the misogynistic, xenophobic religions.

Rest in peace.

Guest
Guest
Guest
6 months ago
Reply to  Humboldt

Enough of theopobia and anarchy, which is not better than religion and patriarchy. Just different. Enough of misanthropy, oikophobia and self loathing thinking itself better than others for have offended it. Enough with those who think they offer a remedy just because it is so nasty and everyone knows medicine has to taste nasty to work. Compounded by the delusion that nasty is honest. The cyber bully, the cherry picker of history, the superficial and repeater of unexamined ignorance.

The Unpopular Opinion
Guest
The Unpopular Opinion
6 months ago
Reply to  Humboldt

So very stunning. So very brave.

holiday.jpg
Country Joe
Member
6 months ago
Reply to  Humboldt

I pity you for your perception of religion…

Wizard of OddsD
Member
6 months ago
Reply to  Humboldt

The utility of religion has been organization and cooperation. Like it or not, this mechanism has played a major role in societal development. The positive progress from this collective cooperation represents so much more than the negative conflicts. History easily creates misconceptions and negative biases for the laymen since its ignores the positive progress that happens in-between the conflict data points.

c u 2morrowD
Member
6 months ago

what do you plan on doin’ when your 83 ?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
6 months ago

It’s not news.

It’s a story.

Gazoo
Guest
Gazoo
6 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

👍🏽

Last edited 6 months ago
tru matters
Guest
tru matters
6 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Written by Lisa Music.

Shel
Guest
Shel
6 months ago

Have you ever noticed that Kym’s blog has a eclectic mix of stories about people in the surrounding communities? Some of the things people might consider ‘news’ is a perspective of each person. While I could care less about the dope ‘news’, I am appreciative to the fact that is not the only thing Kym has on her blog (or I wouldn’t be reading her stuff). So if you don’t like something, don’t read it — its that simple … unless you were just mouthing off to gather attention for yourself or perhaps / more likely, hate on the elderly or hate on people of faith…

The Unpopular Opinion
Guest
The Unpopular Opinion
6 months ago
Reply to  Shel

Agreed. And why the audience is so diverse. We all just need to celebrate that.

Johnny Rud
Guest
Johnny Rud
6 months ago

You are joking, aren’t you?

North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
Guest
North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
6 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Rud

The simple fact that covid almost killed him turns every Science denier against him.

The Unpopular Opinion
Guest
The Unpopular Opinion
6 months ago

Why you so full of hate?

Al L Ivesmatr
Guest
Al L Ivesmatr
6 months ago

They are getting nervous with man caused climate change being debunked, the Wuhan mRNA shot shown to be a failure/bad for your long term health/doesn’t prevent getting infected,, and Biden melting like a popsicle in Palm Springs. All that is left is to blame some local Reverend who seems to do good deeds in the name of God, another no no since they believe they are God.

Last edited 6 months ago
North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
Guest
North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
6 months ago

No hate just sick and tired of ignorance

Non-Native
Guest
Non-Native
6 months ago

It’s a human interest story, not necessarily the news. And if it bothers you then you can elect not to read it.

Guest__
Guest
Guest__
6 months ago

Then head to LoCo where they wold thrash this story.

Silly Rabbit
Guest
Silly Rabbit
6 months ago

Maybe it was written so people can see even though things get hard God is still there waiting to help!
This story brought me and I bet a lot of others joy.
I think it’s awesome. Much better than all the hum drum negative news!

Guest
Guest
Guest
6 months ago

It’s perhaps your sign to visit Pastor Ray at his new church for a few positive vibes??

Farce
Guest
Farce
6 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Right on! Ha Ha! Arguments belong over in the Booking Log section…

Silly Rabbit
Guest
Silly Rabbit
6 months ago
Reply to  Guest

It makes me want to go visit him and I live in Mendocino county.

Farce
Guest
Farce
6 months ago

It’s a story. I like it. I’m not religious so for me it’s an insight into the lives of my neighbors and what they’re doing. We are stuck together here and I enjoy seeing what good stuff others are up to!

farfromputin
Member
farfromputin
6 months ago

It’s news because you clicked on it and read the story.

Stillwantstoknow
Guest
Stillwantstoknow
6 months ago

I like this story. I like God, Jesus, faith and stories about overcoming and perseverance.

Pastor James, God is good and faithful. Thank you for sharing your personal story and giving us an opportunity to love you and lift you all up in prayer as well.

Always remember the darker the world gets the brighter your light shines!

treeman53
Member
treeman53
6 months ago

Thank you Pastor Ray for your life of commitment to serving others. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer for i have overcome the world-John 16:33

Stillwantstoknow
Guest
Stillwantstoknow
6 months ago
Reply to  treeman53

Amen! 👍🥰✝️

bearjoo
Guest
bearjoo
6 months ago

God Bless You Brother Ray! Bear Your Cross! WE are WITH YOU. Amen!

David Charles
Guest
6 months ago

Thank you Lisa, a fine story to start the year with. Also reached deep in to the community and my life, I haven’t heard about Kevin Lockhart since we played football together at McKinleyville High School, a good man. I think I’ll go buy the church and say hello, sit awhile, thanks

Gina
Guest
Gina
6 months ago

I appreciate all the opinions of every person that has left a message here because God has given us free will to choose what we shall believe. I would also like to remind each and every one of you that religious people are the people that killed Jesus Christ and hung him to the cross, religion indeed, can be an awful awful thing, but I have a true relationship with Jesus Christ and I truly met him in the spirit. Any negative remarks you want to say or any hurtful words you would have to say to me as a abused woman I have heard it all.I can tell you one evening setting in my home I was changed my chains of addiction and alcoholism were broken the minute the Lord walked into my living room. You want to hear about people talking about ghost or spirits, or talking to the dead or things that are all darkness and witchcraft , but when a person that truly has met Jesus Christ in the spirit they are ridiculed and mocked and called every name there is that’s OK because what I know and what changed me no one can take for me. It was a gift freely given by Jesus , nothing this world offers. Nothing this world can take away, but I do know for me and the life that I live in Christ I bring no harm to no one. I bring no judgment to no one. I just want to live a peaceful life and love every person as Jesus does I love each and everyone of you with the love Jesus is giving me.

Gina
Guest
Gina
6 months ago
Reply to  Gina

Thank you Pastor ❤️🙏

xXDaddy_DubbYXxD
Member
xXDaddy_DubbYXx
6 months ago

It’s pretty sad to see all this ignorant negativity. Just goes to show how your flesh, the world, and the adversary himself have so deceived you. I’m a Christian with every fiber of my being. Yet I’m not religious by any means. I know Pastor Jim Ray, my daughter and I were saved in his church. I would say that he doesn’t consider himself religious either. Do you people realize how much more faith it takes to believe two specs of dust collided in outer space than to believe that God spoke the world into existence? The book of Genesis has a theme. “God said let there be, then there was, and it was good”. I pray that some of you people find the truth before it’s too late. Every knee will bow to the one true King, even if he has to break your legs to get you there.

Kym Kemp
Admin
6 months ago

The god of love may advocate breaking legs to get you to believe in him but the rules on my website forbid the advocating of violence. Don’t do it again even in Jesus’ name.

xXDaddy_DubbYXxD
Member
xXDaddy_DubbYXx
6 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

My apologies Kym, and anyone else I may have offended with the graphic illustration. I understand how that was taken, and I receive that. Forgive me, I respect your rules and will be mindful of them in the future.

Kym Kemp
Admin
6 months ago

Thank you.

Stillwantstoknow
Guest
Stillwantstoknow
6 months ago

God has raised up Prophets from out of Humboldt. Some of you know (Pastor) Richard Lorenzo Jr. Google his name

Jeremy Westcott
Guest
Jeremy Westcott
5 months ago

Wow this story really touched my heart.