Thomas finishes 24 years as a Yorkville pastor | News, Sports, Jobs
YORKVILLE — Tom Thomas is retiring Sunday after 24 years as pastor of the Yorkville United Methodist Church.
He began preaching in Yorkville in 1999.
“Which is very unusual in the Methodist Church. It’s usually three years, four years, five years and they take you further, so I’ve been very blessed to stay in one place for that long,” he said.
Thomas said his wife, Rosie Thomas, is a teacher in the Martins Ferry City Schools District, which helped persuade church leaders to keep him.
“The church took us in,” he said, adding he decided to remain pastor at Yorkville Church on his first day. “I stood up there and looked out and I knew all the people. … They know everything about me, and that will work.”
Thomas, a Tiltonsville resident, said he shares the same issues as the community and community.
“We’re locals,” he said. “These are people I’ve known almost all my life. … I’m like them, I’m just a normal person. Everyone in my two churches is like me, just normal, average, everyday people. … I don’t remember any friction. … We’ve done things, we agree on what we’re going to do, and then we do it.”
He added that his mother, Betty Thomas, goes to church every week.
“My time here has been very satisfying, very enjoyable, very meaningful,” he said. “It’s a city where we’ve worked together and done a lot of good.”
He has also preached at the Rayland United Methodist Church for the past 15 years. He previously preached in Presbyterian, Baptist, and Church of God congregations and attended a Jewish wedding service.
“I’m very ecumenical,” he said. “I graduated from Franciscan University and my grandparents were Orthodox. My wife is Presbyterian.”
Thomas began ministry while he was a school counselor at St. Clairsville Elementary School. Thomas said he started developing skills in working with people at a young age and has continued to work as a teacher and consultant.
“I would say that getting along with people is my best quality, and that’s what I’m about as a pastor,” Thomas said. “Get things done, be organized. I used to work in school and work in the ministry at the same time, and if you’re not organized, you’re out of luck.”
Thomas recalled the first time he preached when the pastor was on vacation and the parishioners were taking turns.
“The first time I ever preached was in high school. … I got up there and I was able to do it,” he said. He preached sermons in other churches as needed. “I had to think: Maybe God is calling me to do this full-time.”
Thomas has had a memorable two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last few years have been the most challenging. I don’t think our church has changed, I think society has changed,” he said. “We streamed for a few months and opened in June. We were closed for two months. … I didn’t like being in front of a camera without people, it’s not good. Being with people is the key.”
He said his final sermon will be titled My Journey.
“I’m going to talk to people about where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going because my journey isn’t over yet. I still have work to do,” he said.
He thanked his wife for her support.
Craig Closser, lay leader, said the church has been at the Third Street site for 116 years and during that time has had 36 ministers with an average tenure of 2.5 years each, with the longest except Thomas preaching for eight years.
Thomas said church accomplishments over the past 24 years have included pantries and food distribution, community events in partnership with other churches in the Tiltonsville and Rayland areas and the Buckeye School District, and the construction of a new church building to replace the 98-year-old one Furnishings.
“We had 92 families that we ministered to with monthly food donations,” Closser said. “That’s probably around 300 people. The need is great, or greater than ever, to help those who are least able to help themselves, which is why this program has been running for 10 years.”
“We were able to work together, and that’s what it’s all about: working together in the name of God,” Thomas said.
“If you measure what one man could help, lead and work, you go back 25 years, we didn’t have a minister, the building was … 98 years old and didn’t have much maintenance,” Closser said. “Even during the pandemic, we never closed.”
Instead, the church let people drive up in their cars.
“If you measure a man by where an organization bottomed out and where it is now, I think one day Tom will hear, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’ The Lord has blessed us abundantly, and to whom much is given, much is asked.”
Going forward, Thomas plans to continue preaching part-time, as well as serving as chairman of the board of the Sedgwick House Museum in Martins Ferry and vice president of the Lions Club.
Pastor Jim Monogioudis will take over the Yorkville flock.