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New UMC pastor talks faith, love and grace

Reverend Martha "Marti" Swords-Horrell first fell in love with theology in her freshman year attending Colgate University. A required course in philosophy and religion forced her to rethink her beliefs as an adult and ultimately led her to question, "What do you believe?"

"I had some wonderful professors," she recalled. "They weren't proselytizing at all. They were Christians but they didn't ever come from that point of view. They came from here's the tradition. Here's the Bible. Here are the great thinkers of the faith. And they just helped me wrestle with that. It was very life changing."

Fast forward to 2008 and Swords-Horrell is celebrating her 25th year of ordination. Asked why she chose a life in ministry, she replied, "I guess the bottom line is that I love God and I love people."

On June 13, the United Methodist Church in Fayetteville officially welcomed Swords-Horrell as their new pastor. She came from serving four years at Trinity United Methodist Church in Clay, and follows Rev. Nancyreh Kugler who recently retired from UMC.

Swords-Horrell chose one of her favorite scriptures for her first service, which comes from Isaiah 55 and talks about God's will.

"Basically what [Isaiah] is saying is the word of God always accomplishes what God purposes for it," she said. "I'm just the instrument of it and that's what all of us are. I think that as long as I keep that in front of me, that we'll go forward in the direction that God wants us to go."

Her beloved scripture has also evolved into a mantra Swords-Horrell tries to live by daily.

"Every morning I just get up and say, 'You're in charge, God -- let me be a channel of your peace,'" she said. "That's really the way I try to live. I'm certainly extremely fallible and fall short of that many days but it's wonderful to know that God always forgives us and every morning is a new beginning."

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