By Allison Trussell
GREENVILLE—Thirty pastors were recognized and celebrated Tuesday, June 4, during the retirement service.
Each retiree was called forward and greeted by Bishop Jonathan Holston. A video of some of the retiring pastors was shown, often eliciting laughter while offering words of wisdom to the incoming ordination class.
The Rev. Bart Sistare recalled ducks enjoying the music at an outdoor wedding. The ducks went on to start the honeymoon early. “It was an absurd thing, but many things in the ministry are.” He advised pastors to not be discouraged, to not take things personally. “You better know who you are.”
Echoing that sentiment, the Rev. Bobby Shaw warned incoming pastors to not be in ministry alone. Find someone to confide in and talk to from time to time.
Several pastors remembered their mentors and the diversity of their congregations. “There’s a variety of individuals and groups within each church that reflect the wideness of God’s kingdom,” said the Rev. Frank Lybrand. “Love the people God has called you to serve and serve the people God has called you to love.”
The Rev. Eddie Usher added that one must make themselves accessible, available and present to people. He was one of the many who thanked the conference for a place to minister and to receive ministry from people. “That’s a fantastic thing for me.”
Despite the controversies brewing in the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Rex Wilson remains optimistic because “I live in grace, faith and mercy.” The Rev. Carleathea Benson added, “In the midst of chaos, God is still God and he sent his son. There is still hope for us.”
The Rev. Joyce Murphy recalled visiting a gentleman whose four grandchildren stood on the front porch. By the time she got home, she had four phone calls from the children asking her if she’d pick them up for church. Three weeks later, they baptized 13 children. “Take heart, be of good cheer, I (God) have overcome the world. … The Church will rise no matter what we face.”
The Rev. Ron Towery agreed and advised that the church needs to keep moving. “Standing still is not an option. … Methodism is a movement, and future generations won’t define us by the size of our institutions or footprints. They’ll define us by whether we did our job or not.
A few pastors had some regrets. The Rev. Mike Alexander wished he had slowed down a bit more and enjoyed his people more. “Slow down enough to enjoy relationships with other clergy,” he advised.
The service concluded with the “Passing of the Mantle” from the retiring class to the incoming ordination class.
The Rev. Genova McFadden, representing the retiring class, transferred the mantle saying, “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 the spirit of today’s Elijahs will rest upon today’s Elishas.”
The Rev. Meegian Gossard, representative of the incoming ordination class, received the mantle saying, “We who come after you take up the mantle which falls upon us. May we inherit a double share of your spirit.”
Those honored during the service were the Revs. Charles Martin Adams, Boyd “Mike” Alexander Jr., Alexander Baker, Carleathea M. Benson, Donald Clifford Boshell, Greta Louise Bridges, George Douglas Chambers, William Thomas Dargan, Brenda Ward Durham, Wade Humphreys Everett, Robert Eugene Hoover, Paul Mac Kinnett, Peter Michael Lack, Frank Etheridge Lybrand, Samuel Earle Marcengill, Stephen McDaniel McCormick, Genova McFadden, Joyce Garner Murphy, Patricia Pepper Orr, Kathy Jean Powers, Keith Dunkle Ray II, Phillip Henry Reynolds, Lucinda Lyon Saylor, Bobby Shaw, James Bart Sistare, Virginia Brown Stafford, Ronald Dewey Towery, Grady Edward Usher, Paul David Wilmer and Reginald Darlington Wilson Jr.