OCALA (FBW)—For Frank Grant, pastor of Oak-Griner Baptist Church in Ocala for 33 years, retirement is all about family. He said his relationship with his church during his long pastorate was always connected to family—and it will stay that way.
“I’ve been at Oak-Griner so long that church members seem like extended family. All my children are here, and most of the grandchildren. I know it’s hard to retire and still go to the church, but my family is here,” he said.
Frank and Barbara Grant moved to Ocala from Gainesville in 1980, when he was 37 and their family
included two teenagers and two
preschoolers. Their children married into Ocala families, and all their
families attend Oak-Griner Baptist, except two grandsons and a daughter-in law who live in Jacksonville and in Raleigh, N.C.
Twenty-two of the 175 members at Oak-Griner Baptist are Grant family members.
The clan, including Frank Grant’s mother, Dorothy Bright, who lives in an apartment over the garage, gathers at the Grant home every Sunday after church. They eat lunch, “lay around all afternoon,” and then return to church for the evening service, Grant said.
The family also has the tradition of spending the last week of the year together in a mountain cabin.
“The cabins have grown over the years. Last year we needed eight bedrooms,” he said.
The pattern will be altered this year to accommodate a grandson’s wedding in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Dec. 31. “A beach house will have to do,” said the proud grandfather, who will perform the wedding.
Frank is the oldest of six children, and Barbara, the youngest of seven. They met in elementary school in North Fort Myers, where he and Barbara’s older sister, Dorothy, were in the same class. They have been sweethearts since junior high school, and they will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary Sept. 1.
“I’ve never had another sweetheart. She is it,” he said.
Each member of the couple gives the other credit for their family traditions. She says her “family man” never neglected her or the children in his work, and he says she “has the gift of hospitality and is largely responsible for the long tradition of Sunday dinners.”
One of the most popular ministries of Oak-Griner grew out of the Grant children’s involvement in baseball and softball, and his observation of “excessive competition.” The ministry is called the Oak-Griner Re-Creation Center with the slogan, “Let’s re-create the game and make it for kids.”
“When I moved here, the church had a lot of gray heads, and they wanted me to put an emphasis on ministry to children. Baseball was a way to do that,” he said.
Today their son, Wes, is Oak-Griner’s minister of recreation, overseeing a community-wide youth baseball program that began in 1981. The church owns eight lighted baseball fields that bring hundreds of children to one of the largest kids’ baseball/softball programs in Marion County.
However Grant sees his legacy as more than baseball. In 33 years he has baptized several generations of families and officiated at weddings for those he baptized. Along the way, he baptized all his children and grandchildren.
“Oak-Griner has suited me real well,” he said.
About 10 years into his pastorate at Oak-Griner Baptist, several people in the church opposed his leadership, he said. He and Barbara prayed that the conflict would not affect his children’s love for church.
“I didn’t want the kids to have a sour taste in their mouths about church. I explained to them that ‘this kind of thing happens in life,’ and they stayed out of the debate,” he said. “I thought, though, that we would need to move. I certainly never expected to be here another 23 years.”
He said he would tell young pastors in the midst of conflict to carefully evaluate the truth of the situation.
“The opposition comes from fewer people than you realize,” he said.
Grant said he promised his wife he would “really rest” in retirement that began May 31, although he said he is “catching up on work around the house” that they built with their own hands. They continue to attend Oak-Griner, and he looks forward to the church calling a new pastor.
“I’ve told them that when they get a new pastor to imagine that Frank and Barbara have moved to Alaska,” he said.
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