By Jessica Connor
NORTH CHARLESTON—Jackie Bowdoin has had his share of golden anniversaries—51 years in the grocery business before he retired. Fifty consecutive years at Lake Junaluska's United Methodist Laity Convocation. And most recently, 52 years as head usher at North Charleston United Methodist Church.
His beloved church family came together Dec. 15 to celebrate his lifetime of service as Bowdoin, 78, formally stepped down as head usher.
Jackie is a man who has given his life in service to this church, said fellow NCUMC member Carlyle Singletary. Weddings? Jackie was here. Funerals? Jackie was here. Always here, always present for duty.
Bowdoin, who has been struggling with cancer, decided it was time to retire as head usher. He said serving his church has meant so much to him. A late friend brought him to NCUMC back in 1950.
If it wasn't for him getting me in the Methodist church, I don t know where I d be, Bowdoin said.
Since the beginning, Bowdoin dove right into service.
When I started here as usher, it kept me going, Bowdoin told the Advocate. I missed only one Sunday a year, and that was because of the lay conference.
I estimate I ve walked from here (in the pew) to the altar 10,000 miles over 50 years.
And the man is dearly loved, by his peers as well as by the countless children who like to hug on his neck and share some time.
He s got a zillion stories, Singletary said.
Others, like worship design team chair Linda Vaughan, point out special Jackie places in the sanctuary ”like Jackie s chair stationed at the back of the church, where friends and kids would seek him out to sit and talk about God and life.
Jackie has contributed to transforming the lives of countless people, said NCUMC pastor the Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, lifting up Bowdoin in prayer and Christian love before a packed sanctuary.
Rain or shine, Jackie has been here every Sunday to serve, said Ted Singletary, noting Bowdoin personally encouraged him and his wife, Ruth, to attend the Laity Convocation at Lake Junaluska, which Bowdoin dubbed the Lake J. Thanks to Bowdoin s gentle nudges, they faithfully attended the convocation from then on for the next 25 years, even purchasing a house at the United Methodist retreat.
Others remarked on Bowdoin s constant storytelling, Christian wisdom and heartfelt care.
He s genuinely touched our family and so many people, said Janice King, speaking at the recognition service.
The celebration culminated with a big group hug from the congregation s children, who also presented him with a handmade sign praising the many attributes of a man of God who inspired and loved them.
He is loved by all, King said.