Reflections on 25 years of pastoring
a Gwinnett County church
the Rev. John Roark
Special to GwinnettForum
(Editor's note: Retiring recently after 25 years
at the Buford Presbyterian Church, we asked John Roark to give
us his thoughts on his tenure in Gwinnett. Here is the result.
BUFORD, Ga., Oct. 31, 2008 -- All my childhood I came north on
the Buford Highway to my grandmother's house at Flowery Branch.
Little did I know how the property at 1242 Buford Highway would
be such a big part of my life. Later on, when I came to be pastor
at Buford Presbyterian Church in July, 1989, I had no idea what
was ahead of me. I had been reared in the City of Atlanta and then
in south DeKalb County, but I knew little about Gwinnett other than
some town names: Duluth, Suwanee, Norcross, etc.
I had been a Presbyterian minister for 25 years when I came to
Buford; I had been a pastor in some big churches. Buford was a small
congregation with fewer than 100 members; I thought it would grow
somewhat, but I really thought I'd grow old and retire here, and
sit and rock much of that time. I have grown older, and I have retired
here, but there's been precious little rocking-chair time!
1989, Gwinnett County already was in the throes of its explosive
growth that has continued until the present. Buford and Sugar Hill
still were small and mostly rural; traffic didn't back up on Georgia
Highway 20 at Buford Highway. Highway 20 toward Lawrenceville was
still a two-lane road past the four lane to Gainesville, and the
Mall of Georgia was unheard of. Sundays and Wednesday evenings still
belonged to the church (no more!); Buford and Sugar Hill as mere
Atlanta suburbs hadn't been imagined; there was almost no immigrant
population. It was surely a quite-different world from what it is
Within six months of when I arrived, the congregation had doubled
in size; new people came every Sunday; the church facility began
to be too small and inadequate for what we saw was coming. In 1997,
we completed a renovation, which provided a gorgeous Tudor-style
sanctuary, which looks like an English village church. It is a small
cathedral style shaped like a cross and "looks like a church
ought to look," people say. In 2004 we completed a new gymnasium-type
building with fellowship hall, kitchen, and new classrooms, all
of which are much used. It contains a basement with five prepared-for
classrooms waiting to be completed.
Nearly 500 members from all over the country and several members
from other countries make up a lively, thriving membership today.
The church has a pre-school program with more than 100 children
participating. It does all the things lively churches have always
done, that is, meaningful traditional worship, Sunday School classes
for all ages, a music program with choirs for all ages, youth and
adult activities of all kinds, community and world outreach (including
extensive participation in the caring programs of North Gwinnett
Cooperative Ministry), along with fellowship activities and pastoral
care for its people.
* * * * *
Now even in retirement, which began October 1, I won't do too much
rocking, for I already have been invited to preach twice in the
next few weeks, and I'll soon have opportunities to reclaim some
of my earlier career as a church musician by serving as a substitute
organist when asked. Before those things begin we have had a trip
to New England during the height of the fall leaf season.
Being a Presbyterian minister has been a joyous privilege in my
life, and Buford Presbyterian Church has been the crowning jewel
of my whole career. I have found to be true the Bible's promising
words, "The lines have fallen on pleasant places," in
my life. Gwinnett County is one of those pleasant places.
A little background on the somewhat misunderstood
Editor and Publisher
OCT. 31, 2008 -- Today is Halloween, a day especially eventful
for me, and one of the oldest holidays in the Western European tradition.
We like it for many reasons, but find that many people do not understand
how it got started, and why. Perhaps this, which I found mostly
(with slight editing) on the Internet last year at Garrison Keillor's
site, gives a good background for the time.
In recent years, Halloween has become much misunderstood. Perhaps
this will give you a better understanding of this unusual celebration.
Today, 70 percent of American households will open their doors
and offer candy to strangers, most of them children, 50 percent
of Americans will take photographs of family or friends in costume,
and the nation as a whole will spend more than $6 billion. In terms
of dollars spent, it is the second most popular holiday of the year
in this country, after Christmas.
For the Celtic people of northeastern Europe, November 1 was New
Year's Day and October 31 was the last night of the year. Celts
believed it was the night that spirits, ghosts, faeries, and goblins
freely walked the earth. It was Pope Gregory III in the eighth century
A.D. who tried to turn Halloween into a Christian holiday. Christians
had been celebrating All Saints Day on May 13. Pope Gregory III
decided to move the holiday to November 1 to divert Northern Europeans
from celebrating an old pagan ritual. Instead of providing food
and drink to the spirits, Christians were encouraged to provide
food and drink to the poor. And instead of dressing up like animals
and ghosts, Christians were encouraged to dress up like their favorite
In the United States, Puritans tried to outlaw Halloween, in part
because of its association with Catholicism. So it was the Irish
Catholics who brought Halloween to this country, when they immigrated
here in great numbers after the potato famine in the 1840s. By the
late 1800s, Victorian women's magazines began to offer suggestions
for celebrating Halloween in wholesome ways, with barn dancing and
apple bobbing. And by the early 20th century, it became a holiday
for children more than adults. In 1920, The Ladies' Home Journal
made the first known reference to children going door to door for
candy. By the 1950s, it was a universal practice in this country.
By the end of the 20th century, 92 percent of America's children
Halloween no longer has any real connection to the traditional
Christian festivals from which it came. It is not even recognized
as an official holiday by our government. Unlike most major celebrations
in this country, it is not a religious holiday, nor does it celebrate
an event in our nation's past. It also does not involve traveling
to visit family. It doesn't even give us a day off work or school.
But Halloween does give us the chance to masquerade in other identities.
For one day, people can feel free to dress crazily, as ghosts, or
spiders, or criminals, superheroes, celebrities, animals, or even
inanimate objects. The creativity in costume, for those unwilling
to pay big bucks for store-bought digs, is always a celebration
unto itself, and should be commended.
We hope you enjoy your Halloween!
The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com
to you at no cost to readers. Today's sponsor is the Gwinnett
Chamber of Commerce. From answering your questions and providing
a host of useful information, to promoting growth in our county,
there are people working every day to help make Gwinnett a place
where businesses thrive and success lives. For more detail, go to
of global workforce shows somewhat discouraging story
Editor, the Forum:
The results of Towers Perrin 2007-2008 Global Workforce Study are
both enlightening and discouraging. While 21percenet of the 90,000
respondents worldwide reported they are fully engaged and willing
to go the extra mile to help their organization succeed, more than
38 percent are partly or fully disengaged.
Much of responsibility for a workforce that is barely 60 percent
effective is laid at the feet of the organizational leadership.
Respondents gave leaders mediocre scorecards on these five behaviors
of leadership and influencing skills:
- Sincerely interested in employee well-being: 38 percent favorable;
- Communicates openly and honestly: 38 percent favorable;
- Visible and accessible: 44 percent favorable;
- Communicates reasons for business decisions: 40 percent favorable;
- Actions consistent with company values: 49 percent favorable.
In these difficult economic times, can we afford mediocre performance?
-- Patrick Malone, Snellville
Dear Patrick: Not very encouraging. While this
was a "global workforce study," it might be interesting
for you to break it down and analyze by countries. Got time to
do that for Forum readers? Also today's quote at the bottom from
Jim Dumond might apply to many of these employees. --eeb
Waiting in line was
Editor, the Forum:
For me, it was 4.75 hours waiting in line to vote at George Pierce
and worth every minute. It's amazing to see how many people have
chosen to be part of the process this year. It should be like this
-- Tony Rodriguez, Duluth
YouTube offers Wednesday's
30-minute program from Obama
Editor, the Forum:
For those who were unable to see the 30 minute program from Barack
Obama Wednesday night, it is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtREqAmLsoA.
-- Larry Zani, Kaiserslauten, Germany
that line for?
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
plan 40th birthday bash to benefit breast cancer
For over 20 years, the Gwinnett Players of the Northeast Atlanta
Metro Association of Realtors® (NAMAR) have been presenting
a slightly twisted original musical comedy and a silent auction
to benefit the American Cancer Society's Breast Cancer Research.
This year the Gwinnett Realtor® Players will be paying tribute
to NAMAR as it enters its 40th year of serving Realtors®. NAMAR
became chartered in 1969 with 31 members and has grown to the second
largest REALTOR® Association in the state of Georgia.
The production will be held at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.
There will be a silent auction beginning at 6:30 p.m. on November
13, with the production beginning 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and
may be purchased at the Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors®,
(770) 495-7300. Proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society
for Breast Cancer Research.
GGC students now can
get federal financial aid
Georgia Gwinnett College President Daniel J. Kaufman announced
today that students at Georgia's newest institution of higher learning
will now qualify to receive federal financial aid, including the
Pell Grant and the Stafford Loan, among others.
GGC became eligible to apply for federal financial aid from the
U.S. Department of Education earlier this year when the college
was granted candidacy status toward its accreditation by the Southern
Association of Colleges and Schools. The two-year old school is
seeking its initial accreditation.
GGC students will continue to be eligible to receive the HOPE scholarship
to assist them in paying for college tuition and fees, but these
additional grants and loans also will aid them in paying for living
expenses in addition to tuition.
Library to host Digital
Bookmobile at Five Forks Nov. 1
Gwinnett County Public Library will host the Digital Bookmobile,
an immersive download experience inside a 74-foot, high-tech tractor-trailer,
on Saturday, November 1 from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the Five Forks
branch at 2780 Five Forks Trickum Road.
Readers of all ages are invited to engage in digital downloading
through interactive demonstrations at this free event. Attendees
will be able to experience the library's audiobook, eBook, music
and video download service. Library card holders can also check
out and download digital titles anytime, anywhere by visiting www.gwinnettpl.org.
Nancy Stanbery-Kellam, executive director of Gwinnett County Public
Library, says: "Visiting the Digital Bookmobile is a great
way to experience how easy it is to download audiobooks, e-books,
music and videos. There is a wonderful list of titles just waiting
to be discovered by new readers, viewers and listeners!"
The Digital Bookmobile is housed inside an 18-wheel tractor-trailer.
This vehicle is a high-tech update of the traditional bookmobile
that has served communities for decades. The vehicle is equipped
with broadband Internet-connected PCs, high definition monitors,
premium sound systems, and a variety of portable media players,
all of which help visitors explore Gwinnett County Public Library's
download service. Interactive learning stations give visitors an
opportunity to search the digital media collection, use supported
mobile devices, and download and enjoy E-Books, audiobooks, music,
and video from the library.
Patrons can take advantage of the download service 24/7 when they
visit the library's website. From there, they can browse the growing
collection of best-selling, new release, and classic titles, and
check out a digital title with a valid library card. Once downloaded,
digital titles can be enjoyed on a computer or transferred to supported
mobile devices. Many audio titles can also be burned to audio CD.
At the end of the 21 day lending period, titles will automatically
expire and are returned to the digital collection. There are never
late fees or damaged items.
Duluth's Glancy Rehab
Center marks 20th anniversary
Lea Bay, senior vice president/administrator, of Gwinnett Medical
Center, Duluth, was among speakers at Glancy Rehabilitation Center's
20th Anniversary Reception on October 22. Other speakers at the
event included Mona Lippitt, Glancy Rehab Center director; and Jeff
Nowlin, COO of Gwinnett Medical Center.
The Center opened in 1988 on the campus of the now-closed Joan
Glancy Memorial Hospital. The Center recruited Dr. Sunil Bnhole,
a physiatrist from Emory, to advance the practice. into a comprehensive
inpatient program. Dr. Bnhole's commitment to excellence in rehabilitative
care has earned the facility CARF (Commission on Accreditation of
Rehabilitation Facilities) Accreditation and the Gold Seal of Approval
for Stroke Care from the Joint Commission. Under his leadership,
Glancy Rehab Center is the only rehab center in Georgia to receive
these prestigious recognitions. For two decades, his leadership
has enabled the facility to continue to help survivors of illness
and injury return to their daily lives.
Glancy Rehabilitation Center provides progressive rehabilitation
care. In the last two decades, the rehabilitation industry has seen
patients' length of stay decrease from months to weeks. Patients
are returning to their lives faster and more equipped, largely due
to the care exhibited by Glancy's dedicated staff and the revolutionary
Glancy recently expanded to occupy two floors and now includes:
- All private patient rooms with wheelchair accessible baths.
- Innovative rehab therapy featuring the Nintendo(r) WiiTM.
- Fully-equipped 4,000 square foot therapy gym with skylights.
- The latest equipment to provide a comfortable and healing environment.
- Healing garden, putting green, day room and chapel.
- Therapeutic recreation clinic.
- Grocery store that allows patients to practice independent living
- Activities of daily living suite that allows patients to practice
cooking, washing, bed making, etc.
Train, by Graham Greene
There's something compelling about a train to Istanbul. In his
first breakthrough novel, Graham Greene's Stanboul Train
(1932) produced a suspenseful story aboard the train from Ostend
to Istanbul, introducing unforgettable characters at a time when
intrigue filled Europe with new dilemmas, from socialism, to nationalism,
and bringing in more modern subjects as lesbianism and discrimination.
Later on, in 1934, Agatha Christie would take this same rail backdrop
and create the thriller, Murder on the Orient Express, which
came to the movies in 1974. But the Greene book remains as our first
peek inside an international train bound for a far different world,
clicking along rapidly, and keeping the reader involved. ---eeb
- An invitation: What
Web sites, books or restaurants have you enjoyed? Send us your
best recent visit to a restaurant or most recent book you have
read along with a short paragraph as to why you liked it, plus
what book you plan to read next. --eeb
Here's part of
what Encyclopedia says about Gwinnett County
Gwinnett County, in the Atlanta metropolitan area, has been one
of the fastest growing counties in the United States since the 1970s.
According to the 2000 U.S. census, its population was 588,448. The
population has nearly doubled each decade since 1960, when it was
Gwinnett County's close proximity to downtown Atlanta, along with
its commitment to expansion of both economic and civic infrastructures,
has contributed to its rapid growth. Interstates 85 and 985 go through
the county, as do numerous highways. Major financial service companies
are nearby, as are excellent schools and a growing housing market.
Gwinnett County has numerous parks and libraries, and the Gwinnett
County Public Library was named Library of the Year in 2000 by Library
Journal/Gale Group. Manufacturing and high-tech companies from around
the country and the world are relocating to Gwinnett.
Created from land ceded by the Cherokee and Creek Indians, Gwinnett
County was established on December 15, 1818. By 1820 Georgia's forty-fourth
county had a population of 4,589. Lawrenceville, the county seat,
was incorporated on December 15, 1821, and it is the second-oldest
city in the Atlanta area.
The county was named for Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia's three
signers of the Declaration of Independence. Farming, particularly
cotton, was the main industry, with slave labor contributing to
the wealth of the area. The Civil War (1861-65) destroyed much of
that economic prosperity but actually caused little physical damage
in the county.
With the completion of the Southern Railroad in 1871, and the Seaboard
Air Line Railroad in 1892, Dacula, Lilburn, and other new towns
began to spring up. By 1900 the population had more than doubled
to 25,585 people. In the early twentieth century the boll weevil
and falling cotton prices, along with a population boom in Atlanta,
led to a large-scale switch from cotton to dairy farming. In 1957
the Buford Dam was completed. It blocks the Chattahoochee River
(which forms the northwest border of the county) to form Lake Lanier,
thereby occasioning the rise in tourism as a significant industry
for Gwinnett County.
To read the entire article in the Encyclopedia about Gwinnett,
President Lincoln on
elections in the United States
From someone who should know: "Elections in this country were
like 'big boils.' They caused a great deal of pain before they came
to a head, but after the trouble was over, the body was in better
health than before."
-- Abraham Lincoln, via the November, 2008 issue of Smithsonian.
Send your thoughts, 55-word short stories, pet peeves
or comments on any issue to Gwinnett
Forum for future publication.
MORE: Contact Gwinnett Forum at: email@example.com
© 2008, Gwinnett Forum.com. Gwinnett Forum
is an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible
social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett
County, Ga. USA.