The Importance of Ceremony

First UMC holds meaningful service as one pastor retires, another takes the helm

By Rhonda Singleton

Throughout its the 103 years of ministry, First United Methodist Church of Myrtle Beach has had 25 senior ministers and 17 associate ministers, the earliest being circuit riders.

These servants of our Lord had many gifts—some being excellent orators, others skilled at nurturing the membership, while others flourished as teachers and supporters. No matter the gift, the length of service or the flair with which the gospel was proclaimed, all these ministers had one thing in common: They were appointed. They cared for our people, loved Christ and encouraged our church to grow.

Much like the milestones of human growth and development’s first tooth and first steps, or Christian faith’s milestones such as baptism or first communion, a minister’s progression through ministry has several special events.

June 5 was a “big moment” kind of day at First UMC. Similar to Elijah passing the mantle and transferring responsibility of leadership to Elisha, the mantle at First was given from retiring pastor Dr. George Howle to the Rev. Joel McMakin.

In a beautiful ceremony led by Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, responsibility for guidance and leadership of First UMC was relinquished by Howle and transferred to newly appointed McMakin.

Frequently we allow big moments to rush by, not really being able to take in the magnitude of the present. The symbolism of Howle removing his stole to drape it onto the shoulders of McMakin was deeply moving and affirming to both men and the congregation. Holston then laid hands on these ministers, praying for them and the future of the church and the church universal.

Continuity of ministry in any church can be disrupted by ministerial transfers, but much like the very beginning of Christianity, telling the stories of Jesus, sharing faith, teaching people and training disciples is not just the job of the minister. The importance of a service in which we acknowledge a change in leadership helps guide our congregation to continue the preparation and building of the ministry established by the previous pastor.

The ceremony reminds us that we all are called to one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one God and Father of us all who is above all, through all and in all (Ephesians 4: 4-6). In Corinthians, the apostle Paul further reminds us that we are to share the stories of Jesus, live a life of example and do the work of Christ’s kingdom.

While Paul mentored others in preparation for leading their own congregations, he made certain those in his influence knew the truth and spoke with authority and clarity. Much like Paul’s oversight process, our conference leaders teach and lead ministers along the way, preparing them for each subsequent step. Some of those steps are particularly significant.

We at First UMC are able to worship and know Christ because of people like Howle and McMakin, who heard the story, believed in its truth and passed it along to others. We are able to know him because of people who would not allow the message of Christ to die. We share the same truths and promises; we share the same sacraments and rituals; we share the same baptism.

As we reflect on and accept the passing of this mantle of leadership, we pray that Howle will find rest from his work and experience a wonderful, fruitful retirement. We pray for his health and well-being as he enters a new chapter of life. We pray for McMakin that he lives a life worthy of his calling; be humble, gentle and patient, bearing up others in love; making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4: 1-3).

We are eager to work alongside McMakin and our associate pastor the Rev. Michelle Louk as they continue the work of being the church at First UMC in Myrtle Beach.

May your transition to Myrtle Beach be filled with immeasurable blessings as we serve together.

Singleton is the church’s volunteer coordinator.

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