When Dr. Bob Kretzu leaves Hope Mills United Methodist Church in June, the town of Hope Mills will be losing more than a pastor.
At least that’s the opinion of Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner, who’s a member of Kretzu’s congregation at the church.
“He has been an asset to the town of Hope Mills,’’ Warner said. “He went out and helped organize events during the lake festival. He was very involved not only at the church but in the arts and cultural events.
“That was the other plus, his willingness to serve. He will be sorely missed.’’
Kretzu, 66, is planning to retire from congregational ministry and relocate his family to the Asheville area. This did not come about suddenly, he said, adding he has been thinking about it as far as 10 years back.
A father of four, with children ranging in age from 43 to 33, Kretzu said he’s ready to spend more time with his extended family while still being active in the United Methodist Church in the Asheville area.
From his earliest days at Hope Mills, Kretzu felt the need to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Rev. Dennis Sheppard, who followed the teachings of Methodism’s founders by stressing something called social holiness.
“I think most Methodist ministers feel responsible for relating to the other Christian churches in the area and being involved in the community,’’ Kretzu said. “Dennis had done a great job of that, being involved in the community, reaching out to other pastors. He headed the clergy association and asked if I wanted to continue that, and I said absolutely.’’
Kretzu took things a few steps further by getting involved in the Lake Festival Committee and helping organize activities, including Church at the Lake and Jazz and Art at the Lake.
“Because of my art background, they invited me to provide leadership in Jazz and Art at the Lake,’’ Kretzu said. “I had been involved in arts councils before in different communities. I really enjoyed that.’’
Kretzu said he will miss the small-town atmosphere in Hope Mills and its trademark events like the annual Fourth of July and Christmas parades.
“That’s wonderful,’’ he said. “That’s wholesome North Carolina.’’
Something else he said he will miss is the area’s large military presence, the largest he’d ever ministered to as a pastor.
He encourages whoever follows him at Hope Mills to get involved with community leadership and the lives of other pastors in the community.
“This church has been involved in the ALMSHOUSE from the beginning,’’ he said. “That’s a wonderful local cooperative ministry.
“You need to be intentional about blocking time for devotions and getting out in the community, getting to know the neighbors, serving the community. I see a lot of pastors who don’t seem to have time for that.’’
As for his retirement plans, Kretzu said he loves being a pastor and there are specific areas of ministry he’d like to focus on. Those include discipleship, small group work, evangelism, mission work and teaching.
“The bishop in the western conference is a former district superintendent of mine,’’ Kretzu said. “I feel like I’ve got connections there. We’ll see what doors the Lord opens up.’’
Photo: Bob Kretzu