Gilreath spoke of his love for people and how he enjoys watching them grow in their relationship with God. He relies on weekly and daily scripture reading, prayer, fasting, worship, Holy Communion, spiritual friendships and service to deepen his relationship and commitment to Christ and the church.
"The goal, or better yet, the mission of my ministry is reflected in the Great Commission and mission of the United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," said the senior pastor.
Concerned for families touched by the economic crisis, Gilreath emphasizes the importance of being disciplined and faithful in stewardship.
"I believe that the greatest lesson we have learned in these thin times is that many of us were living beyond our means," he said. "Now is the time to deepen our resolve to be attentive to our needs, not our wants."
Thompson added this advice, "Make wise decisions on spending, charging and saving. Surround yourself with sound financial counsel. Above all, trust that God loves you and wants what's best - hang tough, don't give up, the best is yet to come."
Gilreath's call to the ministry came during an extremely challenging and difficult time of his life. He was in his early twenties and thought he had discovered the direction for his life. However, after several unfortunate and unfulfilling events, God gently called him to serve and minister.
"In order to be a good pastor in our world today, I believe we have to be authentic," said Gilreath. "People want to know that we live what we believe, teach and preach. For the most part, the church has been greatly damaged by those playing at and pretending to be something they are not. I try to be as real as I possibly can."
A native of Azle, Texas, Gilreath moved to Kennesaw and graduated from North Cobb High School in 1982. He earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1988 from Kennesaw State College and University. He was ordained as a deacon in 1991 and as an elder in 1994. After completing studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, he earned a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Spirituality from the Columbia School of Theology in 2004. He served the Mountain Valley Circuit in Cleveland and most recently at Locust Grove UMC.
Gilreath praised the support, understanding, love, forgiveness and patience of his wife Lynn and their three children: Hannah Marie, Hayden Levi, and Adeline Grace.
Returning to her roots, Thompson has fond memories of her elementary years in Covington and was taught by wonderful Christian leaders in Sunday school, particularly, Mrs. Mary Frances Ramsey.
"The people of Covington FUMC have been so gracious and loving and have overwhelmed me with tangible demonstrations of that love," said Thompson.
A people-person who rarely meets a stranger, she hopes to find ways to serve the members of the FUMC and the Covington community, such as, helping others to feel God's call to sacrificial discipleship.
"My most exciting ministry experiences have been around youth and women's ministries," says Thompson who loves watching long-time believers ‘get it' and know that it is God who truly directs their lives.
Thompson says she has had the largest impact on young people, as well as, young adults who struggle with raising their families, because she has walked in their shoes.
Thompson serves in response to all that God has done in her life. "A grateful response to God's grace," she says humbly. Thompson was called to ministry in mid-life while in a career in the business world. God used her own life experiences, both good and bad, to bring her closer to full-time ministry.
Thompson graduated Magna Cum Laude from Candler School of Theology in 1998 and is an elder in the North Georgia Conference. She served as pastor-in-charge at the Lawrenceville Road UMC; pastor of Suwannee FUMC; associate pastor at Mountain Park UMC, McKendree UMC and East Point FUMC. In the Conference, she serves as a mentor to those preparing for the ministry and was a long-time member of the Conference Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns Committee. She has held membership on several district committees in the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford, Atlanta-Emory and Atlanta College.
Thompson is actively involved in the spiritual leadership of the Walk to Emmaus community, with a particular love and passion for the Youth Division of WTE. She is a Stephen Leader and a big believer in small group ministry. Thompson says her favorite word is joy, because it comes from the Lord and no circumstance can determine it.
The Covington FUMC is located at 1113 Conyers Street. The community is invited to attend worship services at 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. with Sunday school for all ages at 9:45 a.m. For information, call 770-786-7305.