By Allison Trussell
FLORENCE—Annual Conference recognized 26 retiring pastors in a service of recognition and celebration June 7.
While being celebrated, the 26 offered advice for the incoming class of ordinands and recalled memories for the conference.
“Preach, teach and visit your people,” said the Rev. Roger Gramling. “I think there is still a great need for pastoral leadership.”
The Rev. James Counts urged pastors to realize what a gift they have been given: the opportunity to serve God and bear witness. And the Rev. Jeannetté Cooper warned against burning out—“Make time for yourself, for the Sabbath, for rejuvenation.”
“Learn to laugh at yourself and let people laugh at you was sage advice I was given in seminary,” recalled the Rev. Ernest Etheredge.
Whether going down waterslides with children, baptizing babies or choir tours, nearly every pastor recalled the blessing of working with and knowing individuals in the churches they served.
Counts recalled a little boy running to him shouting, “It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus!” The Rev. Tina Thomas always told her congregation that the bulletin was a “suggested” order of worship.
All of them thanked the annual conference for allowing them to do a job that while sometimes hard was always a blessing.
“In gratitude we celebrate their shared ministry and in anticipation with them turn toward days of new call and response,” Bishop Jonathan Holston prayed during the service.
The Passing of the Mantle is always a highlight of the service. This year, the Rev. Ernest C. Etheredge passed the stole from his shoulders to those of the Rev. Erik K. Grayson, representative of the 2016 ordination class.
Those recognized were Carole Dianne Allison, John Mayford Altman Jr., Lee Curtis Bines, Joethel Jeannetté Cooper, James Henry Counts Jr., Ernest Calvin Etheredge, Harry Kyle Gindhart Jr., James Kevin Gorry, Roger Michael Gramling, Mary E. Green, Michael Loyd Guffee, Robert Wayne Horne, Elizabeth McKay Hudson Timms, Robert Eugene Lee, Stephen Ray Gordon, Pamela Gail Ledbetter, Bonnie Farias Miller, Jacki Sue Mitchel-Ratledge, Marie Elizabeth Ray, Jonathan Edward Smith, Deborah Ward Taylor, Jerry Eugene Temple, Tina Anderson Thomas and Mark Anthony Williams. Robert Lee Allen and Franklin Elbert Copeland also were honored as ad interim retirees, effective Jan. 1, 2016.