Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:32

Begin Your New Ending

Written by  Rev. Tony McCullough, Prattville's First UMC
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My family recently received the exciting news that beginning in July we would have the opportunity to experience a “new beginning” and return to the River Region to serve Prattville’s First United Methodist Church.  What a true joy to return to a place that has been so formational in our spiritual and family journeys, but a transition that has caused us to lean even deeper into the love and provision of God in our lives.


One of my favorite stories of hope and new beginnings comes from Dick and Rick Hoyt (Team Hoyt) who have faced many challenges in life with a total dependence on God’s grace and mercy when the going got tough.  You see, when Rick was born, he sustained significant brain damage at birth from his cerebral cord being wrapped around his throat.  His parents were told that his injuries were so severe that he would never be able to participate in “mainstream society.”


“They said, ‘Forget Rick, put him away, put him in an institution, he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life,’” recalled Rick’s father, Dick Hoyt. Recently Dick recalled that diagnosis from over 50 years ago and said, “We still haven’t figured out what kind of vegetable he is — and guess what? That vegetable has been turned into a bronze statue!”


Rick’s parents never listened to the advice about institutionalizing their son. Even though Rick couldn’t speak or use his arms or legs, his mom and dad decided to raise him just like any other child. They took him camping, cross-country skiing and swimming at the beach with his two younger brothers, and they also enrolled him in public schools. With the help of the HOPE machine he could speak at 12. 


Rick went on to graduate not only from public high school but also from Boston University. Today, with the help of personal care attendants, he lives independently in his own apartment and enjoys a career as a celebrated athlete, having competed with his father, Dick, in over 1,000 races including marathons, duathlons and triathlons. Dick remembers after one of their first training runs in which he pushed Rick in his chair, his son writing these words, “Dad when I’m running, it feels like my disability disappears” — which was a very powerful message to me.  Some people didn’t understand what the Hoyts were up to when they first started doing this more than 30 years ago. Dick said, “I used to get letters and phone calls saying, ‘What are you doing dragging your son to all these races? Are you just looking for glory for yourself?’” Dick Hoyt recalled, “What they didn’t realize was that he was dragging me to all these races!”


What the Hoyts understand each day is what I, and maybe you, face when we rise and experience for ourselves God’s mercies which are new every day (Lamentations 3). I hear again these words of wisdom from an unknown author, “No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  As a believer in Christ, the conclusion is that we don’t start over, but we begin again right where we are, moving in a new direction with a renewed sense of hope for the future.


As we were making our final preparations for our move to Prattville and the beginning to embrace the opportunity to serve God in a new place, I was reminded once again of the wisdom found in the words of the Covenant Prayer written by John Wesley and our call to serve where God sends us:


I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.   And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.


I am excited about what God has for all of us and how I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in a powerful way in our homes, communities and churches, continuing to push us to take bold steps of faith for the Kingdom of God.  I invite you to make this journey as well, seeking to grow deeper in faith and to find healing and restoration through God along the way to start our “new endings.”  Have your way with us, Lord!   



Reverend Tony McCullough is the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Prattville, 100 East 4th Street in downtown Prattville. He and his wife Carmen have three children: Arden (16), Adeline (10) and Holt (8). First United Methodist is a vibrant, caring community of faith that seeks to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to both our community and our world. We invite you to join us on Sunday mornings and throughout the week as we grow deeper in faith together, worship the Living God, and extend our hearts in Christian love. For more information about the church check out their website at

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