No age limit on ministry


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Dr. John McGowan loves people and loves to preach.

The nonagenarian, who turns 92 in November, officially retired in 1990 after 40 years of service in the South Georgia Conference, but he’s been preaching and pastoring ever since. He’s served at least 14 interim appointments in the past 27 years, and says he’ll serve again if called upon.

“I love to preach! Whenever someone would call me and ask me to preach I would go,” Dr. McGowan said. “I have enjoyed doing it in my retirement.”

Whether serving an interim appointment in Alaska – one of his favorite locales – or closer to his Valdosta, Ga. hometown – Dr. McGowan is enthusiastic, dedicated, and hard-working, said South Central District Superintendent Rev. Henry Bass, who last year called upon Dr. McGowan to serve Wright’s Chapel United Methodist Church.

“He loves the Lord and loves the Church,” Rev. Bass said. “He draws people to his ministry through his preaching and his relationships. He’s a willing servant for the Lord.”

From June 2016 until June 11, 2017, Dr. McGowan served as pastor of Wright’s Chapel UMC in Lake Park. The church held a surprise country church dinner for him and his wife, Eleanor, on his final Sunday, June 11.

It’s been 66 years since Dr. McGowan first served Wright’s Chapel. He was a student pastor then, and the church was on a charge with seven other churches and Dr. McGowan was one of two pastors appointed to it. Just a few members of that 1950s congregation are still there today.

Madeline Sanders was at Wright’s Chapel UMC when a 26-year-old preacher stood behind a pulpit for the first time, and was there June 11, too.

“He has not lost any of his enthusiasm to preach the word of God to his congregation,” she said. “He hugs everybody when they enter the service and makes comments that make you feel loved and special.”

Dr. McGowan’s love for people runs deep, and it’s evident in his conversations. He still makes hospital and home visits, caring for his flock each day.

“There are delightful people out here in this rural church,” Dr. McGowan said.

Sanders sees his devotion to the congregation.

“He is amazing with his dedication and commitment to His God and God’s people, and we at Wright’s Chapel have been truly blessed,” Sanders said. “His wife, Eleanor, was a gracious, vital, loving partner in his ministry this past year.”

At 91, Dr. McGowan has proven that ministry and serving knows no age limit. And though it’s impossible to summarize 67 years of ministry, Dr. McGowan said, he’ll continue preaching and pastoring as long as he’s able.

“This has been a very rewarding experience and I’ve been delighted with it,” he said. “I’m going to have some more fun and some more excitement, and I’m going to serve the Lord at the same time.”