Alphonse J. Campbell, vice president of the UMC Board, presents a proclamation from Mayor Ernest Strada and members of the Westbury Village Board declaring Sunday, June 4, 2000 as Rev. Robert E. Rhodes Day in the Village of Westbury. Photo By James Burton
A retirement celebration was given by members and friends of the Westbury United Methodist Church (UMC) June 4 in honor of Reverend Robert E. Rhodes Jr.'s retirement.
Rev. Rhodes was appointed pastor of the Westbury UMC in August of 1996. After four years of pastoral service and outreach to the community, he announced his retirement to the congregation last year.
"He is a scholarly person, well-organized, very caring, and a man of high integrity," said Alphonse Campbell, a member of UMC for 25 years. "He was always reaching out to the parishioners and the community, always willing to help out in their time of need. He visited me at least a dozen times during my three operations."
Rev. Rhodes is the 21st pastor of UMC, which was organized almost 100 years ago in 1901. He will formally retire July 1, when he and his wife, Nancy, will join their three daughters in Wolcott, CT, for some much needed rest and relaxation. "There is something going on at UMC seven days a week, which can tire a person out," said Rev. Rhodes. "Especially since I live next door to the church. I'm going to welcome a little quiet." Rev. Rhodes is currently battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The pastorship will be handed over to Adrienne Brewington, a lawyer who resides in Freeport.
Rev. Rhodes praised the fact that UMC is culturally diverse, saying, "Perhaps that is the way the church should be." He called the youth group, under the direction of Charlene Berry, "outstanding," and commended the music program, and active nursery and mothers' center.
Rev. Rhodes spoke of the strides he made to improve the church during the four years he served. "When I came here, I think the organizations, the committees, needed strengthening. The youth group was fairly small at that time. Financially, there were a lot of problems, and, although no church is in great shape, we are in a lot better shape than we were. The building had kind of been left in disrepair, so we painted the sanctuary and the exterior."
His only complaint was the lack of ecumenical activity at UMC. "I miss the support of other clergy, and that is a shame," said Rev. Rhodes. "We can't operate in isolation. Although I got to know Father Gaeta from St. Brigid's well, we were never able to achieve ecumenical solidarity. There are about 60 churches in Westbury. Perhaps this is a goal that will be reached in the future."
"He has a marvelous sense of humor, which he incorporates into his sermons," said Campbell. "I am one of those people who don't attend church for the messenger. I'm there for the message. But Rev. Rhodes is the kind of person where you enjoy the messenger almost as much as the message he delivers."
The following UMC Staff/Parish Relations members helped organize Rev. Rhodes' retirement celebration: Tom Berry, Mary Campbell, Brian Fletcher, Marilyn Hicks, Betty Maddison, Eldorado McNair, Carol Stuben, and Susan Wickey.