Ministry of 64 years to close with a simple suggestion for last sermon

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 8, 2011 

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The Rev. John McCreight's sermon on Sunday will be No. 2,743 in a ministry spanning 64 years.

And he says, Lord willing, it will be his last.

McCreight, 88, retired to Hilton Head Island 25 years ago. Within six months, the Rev. Frank Sells asked him to join the staff at First Presbyterian Church in Beaufort. Then the Rev. John Miller asked him to help out for six months at First Presbyterian on Hilton Head. And in 1995, McCreight was asked to help out at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton for three months. He resigned that post last February.

McCreight has never known a life outside the church. His grandfather, father, father-in-law, brother-in-law and two cousins all were ministers. His son, Bob, is now interim pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian. McCreight's late wife, Joann, was an elder and deacon at First Presbyterian on Hilton Head and often called a perfect, long-suffering preacher's wife.

The McCreights were blessed with four children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren with another due this week. They traveled the globe together, visiting 82 countries and all 50 states.

McCreight played high school football with John Glenn, the astronaut and senator who made their small hometown of New Concord, Ohio, famous. He went to the hometown college, then divinity school. He holds a doctorate. He led Presbyterian churches of all sizes in six states. In addition to all those sermons, he married 400 couples, baptized 804 people and led 475 funerals.

His last sermon will be called "This I Know." It will be delivered with his deep, booming voice and clear diction at John Miller's Chapel Without Walls, which meets at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the Congregation Beth Yam synagogue on Hilton Head.

What will he say?

"God is gracious," McCreight said. "The essence is that God accepts us when we are unacceptable. Since God has been gracious to us, we should be gracious to others."

He said grace to others is not always instantly rewarded. McCreight got a letter last week from a man thanking him for helping him through his teenage years -- in the mid-1960s.

"People are probably the same and have the same needs," McCreight said. "But certainly the church has changed radically. We have lost contact with the culture in which the church lives. We have been preoccupied with the survival of the church rather than changing the world."

He said divisiveness in the church is worse than it used to be. Much of it, he said, involves splits over issues "that really don't matter that much."

McCreight's closing words will be: "God is gracious! It is our turn to love Him back."

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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