By Cary Shuman
The congregation at the First Church of Winthrop United Methodist, 217 Winthrop St., held a luncheon Sunday in honor of its pastor, the Rev. Jeremy Smith, who is leaving the church to take a full-time position as pastor of a United Methodist Church in Oklahoma.
The praise for Rev. Smith’s service to the church was universal. It was clear that this was a 29-year-old man who brought joy and spiritual energy to so many Winthrop residents during his three years of leadership at the church. Mr. Smith was appointed as pastor of First Church in 2006, following his three years of study and graduation from the Boston University School of Theology.
“Pastor Jeremy Smith brings renewed vitality and a sense of encompassing inclusivity into the church and he has really made First Church foremost in the community by opening up the building to all kinds of groups in the town,” said Wendy Millar-Page, a lifelong member of the church and district lay leader for the church in New England.
“His leaving is sad for a lot of the congregation,” added Millar-Page (who is not related to professional baseball player Kevin Millar). “His youth has lent a lot to the younger people here in town, feeling like they have a place to go and reflect in one another. But his new position represents a great opportunity for him. He’s going to a full-time pastorate in Oklahoma, and we’re excited for him.”
Eve Millar, church secretary, also lauded Rev. Smith’s contributions to the church and the community.
“He is truly going to be missed, not only in the church, but to everybody else in Winthrop or anybody he has been in contact with,” said Millar.
As he accepted wishes of good luck from his congregants, Rev. Smith talked about his service in Winthrop.
“Winthrop is a beautiful town – a beautiful community full of people,” said Rev. Smith. “It was a big change for this Oklahoman to live on the coast, but it’s a really good town, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Rev. Smith said he didn’t drive a lot, so he would often walk from his home near the Cottage Park Yacht Club through Winthrop Center and Metcalf Square.
“I would stop at people’s houses and businesses and I got to know a lot of people and I met business men and women through the Chamber of Commerce, and I got to meet a lot of people through the Cottage Park Yacht Club as well,” said Smith.
Rev. Smith delivered his final sermon Sunday morning at the church. “I gave the congregation a farewell speech, inviting them to remember – not to remember me or the particular things that I did, but remember how do we live together as a community, how do we take care of each other, how do we offer grace to each other – I don’t do therapeutic worship where you go to church, you feel good for a day and the rest of the week you feel terrible.
“I do life-giving worship with some deep lessons that give people something to get through the whole day,” said Rev. Smith. “Even though I’ve only been a pastor here for a short time, I know the lessons we’ve learned together will continue. They’re a faithful, grace-filled congregation with plenty of hospitality to go around to all the new faces who come to our church.”