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'God had other plans'

Mt. Bethel UMC pastor retires

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June 09, 2010 - Groveland Twp.- Perseverance.

For 173 years the Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, 3209 Jossman Road, has endured storms, fires and a host of struggles for a congregation of about 50. However, the quaint rural church has endured—a tribute to the generations of families that have passed through.

Church Pastor Pat Harton was perhaps a perfect match for such a steadfast institution of worship.

Harton, who will retire July 1 after five years as Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church pastor, simplified her time in a letter to church members.

"The last few years have been filled with some of our most joyous moments and some of our most sorrowful times."

During her time as pastor she lost her father, her older brother is recovering from an illness that paralyzed him from the neck down and she was diagnosed with pre-breast cancer in 2006. After receive-ing a low dose of chemo for almost three years, she had a bilateral breast mastectomy last August followed by reconstructive surgery.

Now cancer-free, Harton said she looks forward to serving God and God's people wherever life takes her.

"The people at Mt. Bethel have been so warm and gracious—while I'll miss this church, God will open other doors for me."

The ministry has been a second career for Harton.

A 1962 Holly High School graduate, she attended Michigan State University and earned a degree in mathematics in 1966.

After working as a business consultant for Compuware for more than 40 years Pat, along with husband Bruce, retired in 1999 purchasing 80 acres near Farwell, Mich.

"God had other plans," laughed Harton. "I was called to the ministry."

Harton, enrolled in online classes from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and spent a few months during 2003 on campus.

"When I look back at my secular career, I can see how God grew me. Honestly, I was a math geek. I was just so far from theology."

However, Harton admits that during her time in the corporate world she crossed paths with Christians.

"It seems my co-workers would witness to me and I stepped out of my comfort zone for God. He had provided those more experienced Christians at work. There were more mature Christians whom I encountered."

In 2005 Harton was appointed to Mt. Bethel as a quarter-time pastor.

"I believe I have been in the ministry all my life," she said. "I know that God's timing is perfect and that God is not through with us yet."

Pat has been married to Bruce for 44 years. The couple have two sons, Dan (Elizabeth) and Jeff, along with five grandsons.

Mt Bethel will host a retirement party for Harton at 2 p.m., June 20.

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