Dear Friends,

Some of you have heard me mention her, Mrs. Ann Howell, who turned 100 years old a couple of weeks ago. We were invited to her birthday party, and happily went and celebrated with her and her family.

She attends worship frequently; her daughter Sandy brings her at least once a month. So at 100, she is still a very active part of Southport United Methodist Church. In fact, Ann has been active here for all of those 100 years. She grew up in the church and was confirmed and joined as a member in 1934 at the age of 12. She has been a member here for 88 years! I've never had a member of any of my churches come anywhere close to being a member for that length of time.

I've gotten to know Ann pretty well, but I didn't know until her birthday party that she has had a best friend for over 84 years. This friend's name is Fern, and they met in 1938 when Fern's father, F.T. Taylor, became the pastor of the Southport church. Rev. Taylor served for nine years in the 1930s and 40s, and had one of the longest pastorates of any of our senior ministers. And now his daughter Fern, at 99 -- she'll be 100 next year! - was at Ann's birthday party. They have remained close and faithful to each other and best friends for all these years!

I realize I've used a lot of exclamation points in this email (many more than usual, and in re-reading it I realized that I could've used a lot more!). But I think it's so important to place an emphasis and value on friendship, whether just for a short period, or 84 years, or longer.

I love those words from that old Michael W. Smith song: "And friends are friend forever if the Lord's the lord of them. And a friend will not say never 'cause the welcome will not end. Though it's hard to let you go, in the Father's hands we know that a lifetime's not too long to live as friends."

May your friendships grow and deepen and strengthen and lengthen in the days ahead.

Grace and Hope to you,

Pastor Duane