By Allison Trussell
FLORENCE—The Annual Conference honored 39 retiring pastors Tuesday afternoon.
Following recognition of each pastor on stage, the conference listened to words of wisdom from the retiring class.
While some knew from an early point in life that they were being called to the ministry, the Rev. Lillian Washington noted that she was in college preparing to go in a different direction, when God pushed her and her local church and pastor confirmed that push.
“God put his arm around me and said how’s this working out for you so far?” said the Rev. Nelson Stokes. “Why don’t we become friends?” The hymn “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” is thus intimately special for him.
Many of the women noted that among their funniest memories are those times they were the first female clergy for a church.
The Rev. Joanne Lockard-Hawkins said she enjoyed watching the transformation of congregations as they accepted her. One man, she said, told her, “After having a woman preacher, we’re not sure we want to go back to having a man!”
Nearly every person said the highlights of their career were the people, particularly children, and the relationships they built across the state.
This year’s class together served more than 870 years in our state as local church clergy and conference staff.
Those recognized were the Revs. Joseph Abram Jr., David Arthur Brown, Joanne Elizabeth Brown, Barry Webb Cannon, Yu Fong Chong, Brenda Isaacs Curtis, Joseph Lynn Curtis, Edmond Daniel, Melvin Wilbur Flair Jr., Patricia Ann Gannaway, Franklin Rayfield Garrett, Clara Martin Gary, Daniel McKay Hall, Lois Jean Helms, James Campbell Hunter, Kathryn O’Shields Hunter, Richard Hayes Knight, Young In Lee, Joanne Lockard-Hawkins, Randall Aabye Madsen, Linda Joyce McNatt, Paul Cantwell Mitchell, Colin Alfred Moore, Freddie Wells Parker, Larry Randall Parker Sr., Lewis Carroll Pope Jr., David Eugene Reed, Marsha Rhodes Roberts, Frances Lee Roper, Marguerite Kempson Shepard, Calvin Lee Smith, David Stamon Smith, Ray King Smth, Nelson Lawton Stokes Jr., Randy Mark Taylor, Betty Susan Ulmer, Lillian Hymes Washington, Joseph Alva Wilson II and Carol Peppers Wray.
The Rev. Melvin Wilber Flail Jr., representing the retiring class, passed the mantle to the Rev. Laura Allen Kerlin, representative of the ordination class, saying, “the responsibilities and dedication of the one generation will be caught up and carried on by the next, and the spirit of today’s Elijahs will rest upon today’s Elishas.” Kerlin added, “May we inherit a double share of your spirit.”
The retiring class offered words of wisdom to the incoming class of ordinands:
“People will respond to a pastor who genuinely loves them.”
“See humor in God and his doings.”
“Try to meet people where they are and ask God to give you a sermon for those people.”
“Live a life worthy of God and be present in the appointment you are in.”