By Allison Trussell
GREENVILLE—The Annual Conference recognized and celebrated 37 retiring pastors during a June 5 service.
Each pastor and his or her spouse was greeted by Bishop Jonathan Holston and received a certificate in front of the assembly. A video presentation allowed them the opportunity to share their experiences and offer advice to the incoming class of pastors.
Nearly everyone offered thanks and gratitude to the churches and parishioners they had served, as well as to the conference for giving them the opportunity to serve:
“In God’s perfect timing, God has put me where God wanted me to be,” said the Rev. Ally Deal. Several pastors echoed that sentiment. “You have to go by the spirit that leads you in your decisions,” the Rev. Ken Carter said. “Ministry is a gift that goes beyond actual calling. It is a gift from God.”
The Rev. Robert Cox offered some practical advice to pastors: “Learn about administration. You are the chief executive officer of the church.”
Others reminded the conference that each church was different and to get to know the people.
“I learned in a hurry you can’t please everybody in the church,” the Rev. Douglas Marchant recalled. “I had to treat each of my … churches differently based on their personalities.”
The Rev. Larry McCutcheon added to that, but warned not to get isolated within the church congregation. “I challenge the incoming class to see their communities … to be a parish pastor.”
Rev. William Bowser agreed: “Lead by example. Know your neighbors. Be yourself.”
“The building isn’t where everything happens,” said the Rev. Rufus White. “Take time to represent God out of the church walls. See God first and you’ll be all right.”
It can be a challenge working with the different people within one congregation, but it’s worth the effort to know and love your people, the Rev. Rebecca Huguley added.
The Rev. Jerry Harrison said his greatest joy came from working with people who weren’t sure of themselves and watching them grow and transform spiritually: “I live my faith for them and try to teach them not to rely on me, but to rely on and ask for the Holy Spirit to help them.” He warned that mistakes will be made, but to love the people above everything else.
“My role was as a cultivator, preparing the ground for those who come behind me,” said the Rev. Rebecca Wilkins.
Many of the retiring pastors agreed and suggested that current pastors keep that in mind.
The Rev. David Anderson offered advice given to him by his mentor, “First, love the people. Second, love the people because they’ll be hard to love sometimes. And third, love the people because they’re going to be impossible to love sometimes!”
The Rev. John Hipp recalled John Wesley’s words: “Be intentional in your devotional life. Pray for the church. Love each other and work together. Be one in the spirit and one in the body.”
“Buckle in and hang on because you’re in for the ride of your life,” said the Rev. Wayne Major.
“We have a story to tell, and to tell it, that’s exactly what we need to do: tell it, live it and pray others will listen,” said the Rev. Ronald Brewer.
The Rev. Robert Cox, representing the retiring class, passed the mantle, symbolic of submission to God, to the Rev. James “Mack” McDowell, who represented the new full member class, with these words: “I transfer this mantle from our generation to the young, indicating thereby that the responsibilities and dedication of the older generation will be caught up and carried on by the young, and spirit of today’s Elijahs will rest upon today’s Elishas.”
Those recognized in the service were: David Leslie Anderson, Mary Susan Ashworth, William Henry Dawsey Bowser Jr., Jones Lester Brewer, Ronald Lemuel Brewer, Kenneth Ray Carter, William Rutledge Childs, Jacqueline Connelly, Robert Lincoln Cox, Alice Loving Deal, Donna Stone Eidson, Peggy Jean Garland, Linda McDaniels Guthrie, Paul Wesley Harmon, Jerry Harrison Jr., John Wesley Hipp, Rebecca Jean Huguley, Mary Louise Johnson, Richard DeWitt Lewis, Wayne Robert Major Sr., James Douglas Marchant, David Durell Marcy, Terry Clifton Martin, Larry David McCutcheon, Maurice Earl Nason Jr, David Eugene Nichols, Hughie Peterson Jr., Edgar Brookins Reynolds III, Otis Scott Jr., Debra Alice Sylvia Quilling Smith, Daniel Ray Smyth, Donald Ray Studebaker, Gerald Luther Truluck, Stanley Edgar Weber Jr., Sandra Eslinger Whetsell, Rufus Horace White and Rebecca Allyne McPherson Wilkins.