Thanks to one of God's servants
"Well done, good and faithful servant."-Matthew 25:25
By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.
I"m not one of those people who find it easy to say goodbye. That reluctance can be detrimental to a United Methodist minister who has moved all over the place for 35 years.
In the words of a longtime pastor: "There are only two kinds of preachers in our denomination: those who are moving this year and the ones who haven't moved yet."
Simply put, moving on to the next place, to the next challenge, is synonymous with being a United Methodist pastor. Yet, when it's my turn to move, that's not No. 1 on my top 10 list of things I want to do.
In the span of my years as a United Methodist minister, I've had to say farewell to countless thousands of people I've loved and to dear friends I've admired. First, I said goodbye as a pastor to three congregations across the years; then, as a district superintendent with 50 churches and 35,000 members; and, lastly, as a treasurer who served an annual conference with nearly 300,000 people.
I've said goodbye many times.
What all of this leads up to is the realization I must say goodbye to a person who has meant much to me over the past 19 months. When I arrived in Oklahoma as bishop, this person stood out as one of my loyal supporters. She was invaluable in helping me navigate the turbulent waters of a first-year bishop. Over the past year-and-a-half, we have developed a great working relationship, and I know our friendship will last a lifetime.
This person to whom I bid a reluctant goodbye is our Oklahoma Conference treasurer, Jo Ann McNaught.
The end of a journey
As of June 1, Jo Ann will retire. For the past 20 years or so, she has been a steady presence at the United Methodist Ministry Center, most recently as the person who oversees the finances of this vast annual conference. As a former conference treasurer myself, I can tell you firsthand that is one of those jobs where you have to translate the dollars and cents into ministry, and that's not always an easy thing to do.
Jo Ann literally worked her way up the professional ladder, while moving in and out of United Methodist parsonages and supporting her husband, Rev. Burrel McNaught. As the wife of a United Methodist clergyman who was also a district superintendent, I can only imagine the balancing act she maintained as she sought to find her own purpose, first as a teacher and then as an accountant. Jo Ann even chose to go back to school in her 40s and earn a degree in accounting, so she would be better qualified for whatever the future held for her.
I could write several pages on all the things I most admire about Jo Ann, but because of limited space, I'll share only a few highlights about this gifted person.
One thing I deeply appreciate is her strong Christian witness and her support of our United Methodist system. Not only is she keenly aware of the trust given to her as the treasurer, but also she models her responsibilities through the ministry of all her life. In other words, her life is a reflection of her generous stewardship to all those around her. From actively participating at Wesley United Methodist Church in El Reno, to traveling thousands of miles yearly to train and teach leaders in local churches, she has given herself unselfishly to the cause of Christ and the building of the Kingdom.
Yet another aspect of her service that will stay with me is Jo Ann's attitude about her job and the personality that complements it. Always positive, always concerned, she is a joy to work alongside. I can't count the many laughs we've had, the number of tears we've shared, and the countless prayers we've uttered.
When someone such as a Jo Ann McNaught crosses your life path, the footprints left behind simply don't blow away in the wind.
However, the highest tribute I can give my friend is based on the way she goes about serving others. It all boils down to the caring, compassion, and love she has demonstrated for the people called United Methodists, and to her willingness to take on tasks that required her to go the extra mile.
The position of treasurer has been more than a job it has been a ministry for Jo Ann. The people of Oklahoma Conference have been extremely blessed to have had one among us who has embraced doing whatever was necessary to bring God's Kingdom closer.
When you add all that up, the bottom line (pardon the pun, Jo Ann) equals a well deserved pronouncement of "Well done, good and faithful servant."
We love you, and we thank you so much for sharing yourself with us.