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Reprinted with permission from the Sumter Item by Kareem Wilson
The Rev. Marion Newton received two surprises during the weekend.
The 82-year-old Jasper County native and longtime Sumter resident celebrated 39 years as senior pastor at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church and 50 years of ministering with a series of anniversary worship services and a celebration gala.
The pastoral anniversary celebration started on Friday evening with a worship service, continued Saturday evening with a celebration gala and ended Sunday morning during JMBC's church service.
Family, friends and church members gathered on Saturday for the gala, where Newton not only celebrated his anniversary, but was also presented with two awards: the Phi Beta Sigma J. Carlton Yeldell Service to Humanity award and the Order of the Palmetto, the highest honor given to a citizen in South Carolina.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank God for the journey," Newton said after receiving both awards. "When you've been called to this by God, He gives you what is needed to stay on the journey, and this has been a great journey."
Established in 1971, the Order of the Palmetto is given by the governor's office to South Carolinians who make contributions of statewide significance. Newton received this prestigious award for his years of service and contributions in South Sumter.
His journey started in 1970 when he was licensed by Bethel Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and was ordained at Rock Spring Baptist Church in Grays in 1971.
He first practiced at Brick Baptist Church in Frogmore and later became the pastor at Meadow Prong Baptist Church in Effingham. In 1981, he moved to Sumter to become the pastor at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church.
Rayne Owens, a JMBC congregant, said Newton is a "phenomenal pastor" who has done a great job in leading God's people at Jehovah.
"Pastor Newton answered the call to preach the Gospel of Peace and since then has been working glad tidings of good things," Owens said. "[Marion], Corine Newton and their family came to Sumter and has worked tirelessly to help develop the Sumter community with a constant, committed effort in South Sumter."
Newton had contributed to improving the church and surrounding community with his three-phase "vision" for the area. The first phase included renovations to the sanctuary to extend the lobby, adding the canopy on the back and the addition to the front of the fellowship hall.
In his second phase, the church built the Jehovah Child Development Center, now known as the Jehovah Christian and Academic School, and later added the Family Life Enrichment Center. To honor his leadership and dedication during the process, the congregation named the center the MH Newton Family Life Enrichment Center.
The third phase of his vision is still developing as the church works to construct a new state-of-the-art facility, which is expected to be completed in fall 2022.
Newton said his journey has been challenging at times but that God has helped him "stay on the dream" in ministering and serving. He said none of what he did would have been possible without the people in his life, including his wife of 63 years, Corine, who he called his rock. He also showed his appreciation toward his family, friends and congregation for bettering his life and their community.
"I want to thank the Sumter community and the Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church. All of the things that have been in Sumter, it has been done because the community and the church worked together," he said.
He hopes to keep preaching and insists his work in Sumter isn't done.
"Thirty-nine years [at Jehovah]. God has blessed me, this church and this community," he said. "I feel really good to make it this far."