Tag Archives: Vision

Has Gastonia Turned the Corner?

SEABROOK SAYS: Charles Gray is approaching the age of 80 and is consistently operating with tremendous energy.  One of the hard questions he asks is, “Have we (in Gaston County) turned the corner?” What is your answer? Are you ready to get involved in the same level as Charlie?  Why yes? Why no?  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In the past, I have expressed concern over Gastonia’s failure to grow in comparison to other cities in Metrolina.  I cited past reputation, missed opportunities, and unfavorable city regulations and inspections as reasons for our slow growth.  Recently, however, I have seen the following signs of hope (many of the facts have been furnished by Bill Seabrook):

  1. The Loray Mill and redevelopment of the Loray Mill.  The converted mill is now 96% occupied and we mill houses are scheduled for renovation and sale.


  2. The proposed sports center in West Gastonia.  The Sears building has already been purchased and the 15 million dollar project is scheduled for completion in 2019.

  3. The hotel in downtown Gastonia, with the first phase scheduled for opening in

    March of 2017.  


  4. The Harriss-Teeter shopping center and the new YMCA in South Gastonia. The 19

    million dollar YMCA project, headed by Tony Sigmon, has already been funded by local contributions and should be a showplace for the whole region.


  5. The formation of Gaston Outside (GO) under the leadership of Mark Cramer, who is working hard to improve Gaston’s image as a desirable place to live.


  6. A new attitude at city hall to make Gastonia more development friendly. The city

    council, under the direction of Mayor John Bridgeman, is providing strong leadership and the planning and inspections departments under the guidance of city manager Ed Munn and Flip Bombardier, are showing the much needed flexibility to encourage developers to come to Gastonia.


  7. The soon to be constructed artspace building will encourage the development of arts and culture in downtown Gastonia.


  9. Through the hard work of our local school officials and Carrie Meier, Chris Dobbins

     and Steve Eason at our health department, teen pregnancy is down more that 52.7% with a tax savings of 40 million dollars. Our school drop-out rate is down and the graduation rate is up.


  10. The advanced manufacturing facility is well under way adjacent to the campus of

     Gaston College and should be completed ny the Spring of 2017.  

There are other needed projects, such as the southern bridge over the Catawba River and the expansion of the water and sewer down Union and New Hope Roads, but I believe Gastonia has turned the corner.

The other day I was playing golf with a young, successful real estate developer in Charlotte.  When he found out I was from Gastonia, he said, “I sure wish I lived in Gastonia. The traffic in Charlotte is unbearable.”  This tells me that our questionable reputation is fading and that Gastonia can be an ideal place for people to live and work in this rapidly growing area.  Let’s don’t foul it up.


Charles Gray

Retired attorney


The Role of the Clergy in Community Leadership

We live in a time unprecedented in history. There is more information available to us than ever before, and for most of us it comes with the click of a button on our phone or computer. As has often been noted, we are busier than ever before and yet we have more time saving devices than ever before. What do these facts have to do with the role of clergy in community leadership? As far as I’m concerned: everything!

Never before has our society needed relationships with one another as badly as we do now. In spite of how much we as clergy may complain about the diminishing respect given to clergy, the truth is that people know for whom we stand and we can be advocates for relationships that matter. While we may bemoan our society and how impersonal everything has become, there has been no greater time to be in ministry than now.

The only advice my father ever gave me about being a minister (he spent 51 years in active ministry before his death) was that “a little bit of visiting makes up for a whole lot of bad preaching.” Besides being a bit of a slam on my preaching (!), that advice is a reminder that ministry isn’t rocket science. We are called to know the people and care for them and learn from them. It has always made sense to me to be involved a local civic club in the community where I live because it allows me to meet folks and be involved in the community. If all I offer as a minister are words without relationship, I feel that I am missing out on the greatest example Jesus Christ gave us of loving one another.

I believe that more and more churches are realizing that we must have a vision greater than the membership of the church. Our United Methodist Bishop in Western NC, Larry Goodpaster, is fond of saying to the over 1,100 clergy under his care, “You are appointed to a community where there just happens to be a church!” His obvious implication is that he expects those of us in ministry to be involved in the community. As clergy, we are missing great opportunities to serve our Lord if we do not get involved with the community.

I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the world because when I was appointed to First UMC in Gastonia, I was told that my three priorities were: (1) Preach, (2) Be involved in the community, and (3) Cast a vision for the church. What a gift I have been given to serve a church that knows we simply must be involved in the community where we are and that any vision of ministry for any church simply must involve caring for those in the immediate neighborhood.

An amazing theologian and story-teller, Tex Sample, shared about a membership drive for a downtown church where the community had changed over the years from affluence to poverty. Membership was rapidly declining and a new pastor had a vision to go out to the suburbs, “where the money was”, and advertise their church. Dr. Sample, hired as a consultant to the church, told that young preacher that he could finish that drive in Hell, because that’s where any church that doesn’t care for its neighbors will end up!  Jesus’ words were less harsh on the subject: “love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Much is changing in our world, but the command to love those around us never changes… we must, as clergy and laypersons, be involved in our communities!

We are blessed to live in a community where so many people care about the greater good, beginning with relationships with those around us. May we all see beyond the walls that surround us!

David Christy, Senior Pastor

First United Methodist Church