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Lawyer-politician finds way to pulpit
JOHN WARNER/Gazette Staff As part of his Sunday sermons, Kelly Addy hosts The Children’s Time, where youngsters in Huntley United Methodist Church come up and listen to stories to which they can more easily relate. JOHN WARNER/Gazette Staff Breanna Beddes helps lay minister Kelly Addy light an Advent candle at the Huntley United Methodist Church before the Sunday morning service.

Christmas has a new focus for Kelly Addy as he prepares to give his first Christmas Eve sermon.

For a man steeped for decades in politics and life as a lawyer, there’s a new perspective as part-time lay pastor of Huntley United Methodist Church.

Addy grew up in Shelby, got a degree in government from Montana State University in 1971 and then earned a law degree from Georgetown University three years later.

He spent four years in the Army and then moved to Billings in February 1979.

He opened a solo practice, specializing in civil litigation. He figured he would have good luck in the state’s largest city.

“That’s really the reason I came to Billings,” Addy says. “This is the place it all happens.”

In 1984, he founded a partnership with Carey Matovich, which expanded to include Geoff Keller in 1986. Addy stayed with the firm until 1997.

He ran for the Montana Legislature in 1982 and served as a representative until 1991. From 1985 to 1988, he was assistant whip in the House.

He chose not to run for re-election in 1990. Instead, he served as vice chairman of the Montana Democratic Party for two years, then was elected party chairman in 1993.

He served in that capacity until 1997 until he did something unusual for someone in that post. He chose not to run for re-election.

Perhaps, a turning point came the year before. He still remembers the exact date that his life changed.

“On June 1, 1996, my marriage fell apart,” Addy says. “I had made some bad decisions and it was just over.”

Though keeping details of the painful breakup private, Addy is willing to take responsibility for it.

“Absolutely, it was my fault,” he says.

“And the one thing I learned is that, if you make a mistake, you can’t go back and unmake it.

“You can’t get in a little time capsule and fly back to the day before and erase it. All you can do is try to make it up to anybody that you’ve hurt, to try to forgive yourself and try to live a good life.”

Probably the best thing to come out of the marriage was the couple’s two children, Amanda and Caleb. Perhaps, the best thing to come from the divorce was the push it gave Addy back toward his faith.

A lifelong Methodist, Addy started attending Hope United Methodist Church regularly after the divorce. He had been a charter member of the church when it was founded in 1981.

A little at a time, Addy grew more involved in church-related activities. In 1997, he also came in contact with Juanita Hooper.

He invited her to a party he threw on Father’s Day in 1997. She sponsored him for a Methodist retreat called Walk to Emmaus.

“She was pretty far along in her walk with the Lord,” Addy remembers. “I did the Walk to Emmaus and it was wonderful. It was just wonderful, and I basked in the Lord’s love. I healed in ways I never thought I was wounded.”

He served on the board of directors for the Walk to Emmaus and continued to grow more involved in lay ministry. He and Juanita married on May 29, 1999.

“When I think of everything she has done and accepted throughout all of our changes together, and how she has been with me in the middle of it all, I just stand in awe,” he says.

In 1999, Addy became the Cooperative Ministries team leader for the Yellowstone Conference of the United Methodist Church. As time went by, he felt more and more the call of God in his life.

Then he got a call from the Rev. Tim Hathaway, pastor of First United Methodist Church. The Huntley Project church was looking for a part-time minister, and Hathaway wanted to know if Addy was interested.

“He had no idea he was calling me to the church where my mother went to Sunday school 75 years before,” Addy says. “You really could see the great circle at work.”

On Ash Wednesday in late February of this year, Addy signed a contract to serve as what’s called a supply pastor. He preached his first sermon the first Sunday in March.

As a lay preacher, Addy does everything from leading worship to preparing the bulletins to selecting the hymns to doing hospital visits. He can also perform weddings and funerals.

“The only thing I can’t do is Communion and baptism” Addy says.

That will come after he completes more training and becomes a licensed pastor.

Addy jokes about the fact that his congregation accepted him at all.

“They are people of faith,” he says. “When they needed a pastor, they called a lawyer.”

Addy’s work life has also changed. On Nov. 1, he left private practice to become an attorney with the city of Billings.

As he approaches Christmas this year, Addy is working on a sermon that has to do with another Christmas many years ago.

“The incarnation of God is the central thought of Christmas,” Addy says.

“God could have remained detached. But he chose to come to the Earth as a little baby of an unmarried woman in a poor land occupied by a foreign power, to live in poverty forever. He was wrongly accused, condemned and executed as a criminal and a blasphemer.”

God did that to reconcile all people to himself, Addy says.

“He could have been a ruler in judgment of people,” Addy says. “He chose to be a savior.”Susan Olp may be reached at 657-1281 or at solp@billingsgazette.com.

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