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Longtime methodist pastor remembered as gift from God
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The Rev. Dr. James (Jim) Newton Thompson
A local man who touched the lives of people across the state and around the globe died Wednesday following an extended illness.The Rev. Dr. James (Jim) Newton Thompson, 79, died early Wednesday morning at his home.During more than 50 years of ministry in the Methodist Church, Thompson served as pastor of Gainesville First United Methodist Church for 14 years.While he was there in the 1970s, most Methodist pastors were often appointed to a location one year at a time.“So for him to stay, in those days, 14 years was really quite unusual,” said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor at the church.Thompson served during a historic time as the church was relocating from downtown Gainesville to its present site on Thompson Bridge Road.Willis McLemore, a member of the Gainesville church and a longtime friend of Thompson, said the pastor was “most definitely led to the (present) site.”“When he passed that location where the church is now he said this voice just spoke to him and said this is where we want to build a church,” McLemore said.Thompson then inquired about the property with its owner, who said he wouldn’t be willing to sell it to anyone except for a church.Thompson gained some experience with moving and the construction of new churches during his second appointment at Belvedere United Methodist Church. His experience proved invaluable as the Gainesville church made the transition to the new location.Walton said that Thompson’s vision and wisdom helped the church through its growing pains.Thompson started the lakeside service that occurs every summer on the church grounds.“He was just interested in what would be best for the congregation,” McLemore said.During more than half a century of ministry, Thompson made an impact on hundreds of clergy members.“That just tells you a little bit about his compassion and leadership skills and wisdom,” Walton said.In the early 1980s, Thompson was appointed district superintendent of the Griffin, Atlanta-Emory and Athens-Elberton district of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. After his retirement he returned to Gainesville and joined the congregation of the church he helped build.Walton said having his mentor in the congregation was a joy.“He was the kind of guy you knew was always on your side.