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FUMC says goodbye to beloved pastor

By By Adam Prestridge
The congregation of Atmore First United Methodist Church said their goodbyes to beloved pastor, Dr. Doug Newton, Sunday during a reception held at First Baptist Church of Atmore.
Newton, more commonly referred to as Dr. Doug, has served the church for five years and has become extremely involved throughout the community. He served as chairman of the Atmore Christian Care Ministries board and was president of the Atmore Ministerial Association.
"I have truly enjoyed the community," Newton said Monday afternoon, his final day in Atmore. "We love Atmore. We really, really do love Atmore."
First United Methodist, under Newton's leadership, also directed 163 work teams since Hurricane Ivan from 31 states and Canada that have worked on more than 100 homes in Atmore.
The reception honoring Dr. Doug was held following a choir festival featuring choir members from Atmore First United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Atmore, First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church.
"He has been a real friend to our church especially during the time the church was without a pastor," Rev. Arnold Hendrix of First Baptist Church of Atmore said. "Our people could rely on him and they did. He just has a wider view of Christianity than the Methodist denomination."
Dr. Doug's departure from First United is due to the Methodist Church's mandatory retirement at the age of 70. Although he will miss Atmore, Dr. Doug said he leaves with a lot of memories.
"This is a wonderful church," Newton said. "We've enjoyed the congregation, we love them. We've really had a great time here. Everyone here has been so affirming and hospitable."
Despite his retirement, Dr. Doug is taking over as pastor of Choctaw Beach United Methodist Church in Choctaw Beach, Fla. near Niceville, Fla.
"This little church is small and we didn't want to cease serving the Lord," Newton said of his new church. "We will enjoy it."
Prior to Atmore, Dr. Doug had served as pastor of First United Methodist Church of Niceville.
"We're sort of going home," Dr. Doug's wife, Gaynelle, said.
Rev. Dan Rhodes took over as pastor of First United Methodist Church on Tuesday. Dr. Doug said he is confident Rev. Rhodes will serve the church well.
"We really feel good about Dan Rhodes and his wife, Cheryl," Newton said. "They are delightful people and are excited about moving to Atmore. It means a lot when the people that follow you feel good about coming to the church you've been serving. Atmore's all about meeting new friends and new beginnings."