Several members of the Crystal River United Methodist Church traveled over to the First United Methodist Church in Bushnell to attend the Sunday morning worship service followed by the celebration of 41 years of appointed ministry honoring the Rev. Alan and Jo Jefferson upon his retirement from the Florida Conference. The Jeffersons served the Crystal River United Methodist Church for 18 years, which concluded with the call to serve as a district superintendent for the Florida Conference.

Bushnell United Methodist Church Pastor Marguerite Matthews’ sermon, “Anchoring our Souls in Faith,” spoke to the absolute supremacy of Jesus challenging us to anchor our souls in faith in the knowledge that God is always with us in all situations and circumstances. She said that as a reflection of God’s glory and with our faith as evidence of God’s love as a constant in our life seals our perception of how we can share as He shared.

She further stressed that it takes courage to provide for the needs of others and we have the opportunity to help change the world so it can be a place where people can live joyfully and that we are God’s conduit, accomplishing much for Him through us. In conclusion, she said that we can trust in Him in all things when we anchor our souls in faith and live each day fully in His grace.

At the top of the church bulletin and Order of Worship was this telling thought for us to ponder: “Before the service, we speak to God. During the service, God speaks to us. After the service, we speak to others.”

We sang “Through it All” for the call to worship. Rob Clark provided the piano prelude, “He Leadeth Me.” “Faith of Our Fathers” was our hymn of praise. Then the scriptural passages, Psalm 50:18 and 22-23, and Hebrews 11:1-3 and 8-16, were read from PowerPoint. Soloist Tiffany Jefferson provided the special music, “Oceans.” Following the Pastoral Prayer, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer and Pastor Matthews called the children up for their special sermon. Wyatt Lucas provided a trombone solo, “Air from Comus,” for the offertory. Our closing hymn was “I Know Whom I Have Believed.” Following the benediction, pianist Rob Clark provided the postlude, “It is Well With my Soul,” and then we were invited to the retirement celebration for the Jeffersons in the church’s fellowship hall, which was a covered-dish luncheon provided by all who were in attendance and hosted by the Bushnell United Methodist Church family.

The Rev. June Edwards, District Superintendent, gave the Words of Blessing following the luncheon. Hebrews 6:10 was at the top of the celebration program: “For God will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for others as you still do.” Words of remembering, words of thanksgiving and special presentations followed.

Pastor Jefferson’s ministry spanned Florida from coast to coast, including Miami, Bradenton, Ocala West, Bartow, Reddick, Orange Park and more. He was a gift to many. He was active in the community here, serving with the United Way, the Chamber of Commerce and appearing in the play, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat,” and he served as chaplain for the Crystal River Pirates football team.

I recall the Bible studies he taught at Crystal River United Methodist Church, the discipleship program, the Shepherding Program, the beginning of the Stephen Ministry, the establishment of our present church on North Citrus Avenue after selling the downtown church to the First Baptist Church, which houses the Christian school my grandson attends. I recall the baptisms at the Legion Beach, now Hunter Springs, acquiring the Bethel Chapel, and so much more.

The love and respect that he extended to others came back to him and his family on this celebration day as, one by one, many attending spoke of his ministry with deep love and appreciation.

Local humorist Flea Bit, with his overgrown poodle puppet, entertained with a bit of Pastor Jefferson’s legacy: Born in 1977 when gas was 55 cents, with the poodle asking, “What do pastors do?” “They teach, they are a shepherd with love sent from above.”

Other words of love from those attending:

-- He was an encourager.

-- His mantra: “God first, Jo second, the community third.”

-- His everyday life was his sermon.

-- He was a friend and a mentor.

The Bushnell United Methodist Women presented the Jeffersons with a commemorative quilt. When Psalm 91:1 and 4 was read — “Those who live in the shelter of the most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. ... He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection” — and Tom Smith provided a “Wind Beneath My Wings” soprano saxophone solo, it was a standing ovation for the Jefferson family.

The favors placed at each person’s place for the celebration said it all. They were mints with this message in red, white and blue:

To Pastor Alan and Jo,

Thank you

For your…

Achieve mint

Commit mint

Encourage mint

Involve mint

You are so very much appreciated.

Pastor Alan Jefferson thanked everyone who came to his retirement celebration with, “It was an experience of a lifetime.” Jo Jefferson stated, “We were blessed by the church family at each church we served.”

It was such a beautiful way to honor Pastor Alan Jefferson and Jo and their family.

Ruth Levins participates in a variety of projects around the community. Let her know about your group’s upcoming activities by writing to P.O. Box 803, Crystal River, FL 34423.

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