For the two new pastors at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, their appointments this year were somewhat of a homecoming.
The Revs. Scott Hearn and Jamey Prickett are the new senior and associate pastors, respectively, at Gainesville First UMC and both of them have ties to the Gainesville area.
Prickett and his wife graduated from North Hall High School in the mid-90s. And the majority of their family continues to live in the area.
“For me, it was good news to (come) back home, coming back to the Gainesville area,” Prickett said.
Hearn echoed his enthusiasm, especially since he worked as the youth director at Gainesville First UMC from 1982-85.
“To hear I was coming to Gainesville it was almost surreal,” Hearn said. “I didn’t grow up here but when ... I began seminary at Emory Candler School of Theology, I was hired as the youth director here.”
Both pastors preached their first services of this appointment Sunday at Gainesville First UMC.
“It was kind of a real unique situation because usually on Sunday mornings when you get up to preach in a new place you look out and go ‘I don’t know these people,’” Hearn said. “And it was very powerful to be able to look out and see a lot of familiar faces.”
Hearn preached his first sermon at the church’s lake area, which is a special place to him.
“The lakeside service (during the 1980s) was the second place I’d ever preached in my life,” he said.
Hearn also served at Antioch United Methodist Church in Gainesville. It was his second appointment, and he met his wife, Sandy, there. The couple has three daughters together: Sarah, who just began physical assistant school at the University of New England in Portland, Maine; Allison, a senior at Young Harris University; and Caroline, who will be a senior at North Hall High School.
While Hearn isn’t from the area himself, his wife is and graduated from North Hall High School.
“It is also very much a coming home,” Hearn said of his appointment in Gainesville.
He is looking forward to being close to the Appalachian Mountains since he enjoys backpacking. He also has section-hiked about 680 miles of the Appalachian Trail. As a gift, one of the Sunday school classes at his previous church gave him money to buy a kayak or paddleboard because of Gainesville First UMC’s proximity to Lake Lanier.
Before coming to Gainesville, Hearn served as the senior pastor at Grayson United Methodist Church in Gwinnett County for eight years.
Prickett was the lead pastor at his previous church, Liberty United Methodist Church in Canton, for seven years. Coming with him are his wife, Sharon, and their two sons, Jaden, 13, and Cohen, 10.
Both boys are involved in sports — Jaden plays football and Cohen runs cross country. When Jamey and Sharon Prickett aren’t supporting their sons at various sporting events, the couple enjoys taking road trips and traveling. Jamey said he also enjoys kayaking and trout fishing.
Hearn and Prickett replaced the Revs. Terry Walton and Wendy Cordova. Walton served as senior pastor at Gainesville First UMC for 12 years. Cordova, an associate pastor, was there for nine years. Walton was promoted to district superintendent of the Atlanta-Marietta District. Cordova was moved to Loganville to serve as pastor at The Orchard United Methodist Church.
Leaving a church you’ve spent years at can be hard, Hearn said.
“You get to know people really well and you do life with them, you baptize them, marry them and bury them,” he said. “Then just to be moved from there to another place, it’s really difficult at times.”
Hearn said he told the congregation at his previous church while he’ll no longer be their pastor, he’ll always be their friend.
“We go where we’re sent, which also means we leave where we’re from,” Prickett said.
In an effort to be fair and respectful to the new pastors who came in to fill their old positions, they try not to linger with the church.
Both preachers said the welcome they received in Gainesville has been positive.
“The warmth and the hospitality we’ve received has been overwhelming,” Prickett said. “It’s exciting to work with such talented people. They’re really great with what they do. The team that has been assembled here is wonderful.”
Hearn agreed, saying the support staff at Gainesville First UMC has been very helpful during the transition.
“That allows us to do what we do in preaching and being a pastor and being more effective,” he said. “So all the nerves that come with that first Sunday weren’t as bad, because you knew that team behind you had your back.”
Being back at Gainesville First UMC was moving for Hearn.
“It was overwhelming just to be back,” he said. “Dr. Jim Thompson is the minister that moved the church from the downtown location down to here. He hired me (in 1982) and he was a hero and a mentor to me. So the for the first time to step onto that pulpit where he stood was very overwhelming. It was a holy moment.”