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Goodbye to dear friends

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POSTED: November 9, 2009 9:53 a.m.
Our community has a friend. Our community has many friends. However, one friend really comes to mind this week. Perhaps the reason for this is that we will soon bid farewell to him and his wife.
Father Will Carter is the pastor at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Hinesville. He and his wife, Judy, are moving to Augusta where they will lead a church. I am excited for the community that will receive them because the Augusta church is about to experience a great benefit in embracing this wonderful couple.
I do not offer this tribute for the simple purpose of honoring dear friends who have poured a great deal of their lives into our community, although that honor is certainly merited. I offer it because I believe there is a greater tribute in reflecting upon the impact the Carters have made on our community.
The Bible teaches that man is known by his fruit. Further, it teaches that the fruit that one bears is the sign of life in man. More precisely, the fruit of a person serves as the litmus test for how much God’s love shines through that person.
I grew up with a father who pioneered churches, primarily in rural communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. As a result, I grew up in fairly small communities, which was beneficial. Everyone knew and related to each other. There was a certain freedom that was afforded us because relationships produce trust.
For instance, my parents did not have to be overly concerned about where I was in the community. The people around us were like-minded in how the community operated. We worked and lived in unity. This closeness is sometimes  taken for granted.
When I was older, we moved into the Baltimore-Washington corridor and the rules changed. People were not as close, less reliant on one another and less committed. The sense of community was not there.
In moving to Hinesville, I never truly considered the idea of community beyond a certain level. It was something of the past, like an episode of Andy Griffith — a different era. Until I met Father Carter.
Being raised in a pastor’s home and a minister myself, I understand the need for unity among churches and leaders.
A few years ago, my father moved to North Georgia and installed me into the pastorate of Bethesda Church. As he offered me fatherly and pastoral advice, he said, “Son, watch Will Carter because he knows how to love his community. He is parish-minded and is determined to make a difference in the people.”
I took that advice and observed my new friend. Not only did I see how he helped local groups and organizations like Manna House, the Rotary Club, Fort Stewart and the Fraser Center, I saw his genuine concern for the people in our neighborhoods. He and Judy have demonstrated their love for people in many ways. However, for me, the benefit is that Father Carter reminded me what it means to be community minded — to hold in your heart a genuine interests of the entire community.
If man is known by his fruit, the best fruit is the fruit that remains. This week, as we bid farewell to our friends, I hope the love of God, which they have so richly demonstrated, will remain in the hearts of all the people who have been blessed by their care.
Thank you, Will and Judy, for your lesson in love. May that lesson continue as your legacy in Hinesville. May we spend less time considering ourselves and more time helping others. If so, we will demonstrate the love God called us to share. We will again embrace our community as a part of our lives, becoming community minded.  

Byler is the pastor of Bethesda Church in Hinesville.
 

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