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BRANDON (FBW)—Pete Vande Weghe, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Brandon, insists he’s not retiring.
Instead, he’s “redirecting” his ministry as he makes plans to end a 26-year tenure at Southside Baptist.
“We are too healthy and well to retire and we’re not ready to retire to a rocking chair,” the 70-year-old longtime pastor said.
The Southside congregation honored Vande Weghe Dec. 16 as part of Founders’ Day, and charter members and former staff members turned out to honor their pastor on the “joyful, not tearful” day, as Vande Weghe put it.
It was a milestone in a profession Vande Weghe said he did not foresee as a youngster, but became “part of a progression” as his life unfolded.
“God calls us one step at a time,” he said.
Vande Weghe moved from New Jersey to Riviera Beach with his father when he was 13, and soon headed down the wrong road, but his own account. He met a young woman in high school, however, and that meeting changed the course of his life. The former Lois Grate invited him to First Baptist Church in Riviera Beach.
“I had no use for church at the time, but I went to be with her. She had something in her life I did not have,” he said.
He travelled to Miami with her family in 1959 to attend a Billy Graham Crusade, and he made a profession of faith during the meeting.
He and Lois were married in 1962, one year after high school graduation. Within three years their son, Bob, was born and Vande Weghe was moving up the ranks in the electronic business while attending college at Palm Beach Junior College at night. And his life was to become more complicated.
While taking sermon notes on a Sunday morning, he wrote, “I think God is calling me to ministry.”
Hesitant to tell his wife about his call, but when she wasn’t surprised when he finally broached the subject. During the same sermon she had written in her notes, “I think God has called Pete to ministry.”
“What an incredible confirmation of my call,” he said with a catch in his voice.
Vande Weghe began attending Luther Rice Seminary, now located in Lithonia, Ga., as a career student at night while he continued selling semi-conductors for ITT.
After an 11-year career with ITT, he switching his day job to General Dynamics and continued studies while becoming corporate director of materials, and managed material in five plants in five states from his office in Tampa. From the beginning he told his company he would leave in five years when his seminary work was complete.
“I never felt like I had missed God’s calling. It has all been part of God’s plan. Being in the business world made me a better pastor. I understand the pressures of business, and what life is all about,” he said.
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