First Baptist Church in Blanchard celebrated a rare milestone over the weekend - the Rev. James Hill has been pastor for 25 years.
We do have several pastors in the area that have served their churches for decades, but in general, pastors tend to move fairly frequently to bigger churches or new opportunities. Unfortunately, in the craziness that was last week, I left out the notice of the service in the religion briefs. The church historian was kind enough to send a list of Hill's accomplishments, so I hope to recognize him in this space.
Hill came to the church in 1983, and started a campaign to pay off the church debt. That began a series of building projects resulting in a remodeled sanctuary, education building, recreation complex, and in 2003 a new sanctuary. The church also launched new efforts to reach children through children's worship and a child development center.
All the efforts are reflected in church growth. Membership now stands at 1211, and requires two worship services on Sundays. Hill also added four full-time staff positions.
Under his leadership, the church has fearlessly promoted its beliefs in public. In Januaries past, the church has erected white crosses representing abortions conducted. In 2005, it erected a 6-foot-tall, 2-ton monument of the 10 Commandments during the height of the controversy over public displays of the Biblical laws. Hill conducted a 10-week sermon series to go with it.
Hill also presided over tragedy in the church. In 2003, Julian Brandon, minister of senior adults, was murdered. Brandon was remembered during the dedication of the new sanctuary, and at that time Hill told me: "We learned to depend on (God) and love each other," he said. "I wouldn't wish this on anybody, but it helped us draw closer to the Lord that we would have otherwise."
Clearly, his congregation feels close to him as well. Congratulations to Rev. Hill, and apologies for not recognizing the achievement sooner.
Photo: Hill with 370 crosses in front of his church in 1998. Each represented 100,000 abortions. From Times archives