BRANDON (FBC)—As Florida Baptists gathered at the State Convention meeting in Brandon Nov. 9-8, time was given in the Monday night session to recognize men who have given their lives to the Gospel ministry, following the call of God throughout their lifetime.
According to Convention President John Cross, 90 percent of the men who enter ministry do not retire from the ministry.
“In planning for this annual meeting, I felt that there was a need to recognize those men of the ministry who have stayed the course, remained committed to their calling and have benefitted God’s Kingdom here in Florida,” he said.
About two dozen men responded when asked to stand if they had served in the ministry for 40 years. About half of those continued standing at the 50-year mark.
Five ministers in attendance received special recognition for having more than six decades of ministry service: Paul Camichael, St. Augustine, 64 years; Billy Dickerson, Mango, 63 years; Marion Dunham, Naples, 80 years; Grover (Bud) Henley, Jacksonville, 60 years; and Charles Swartz, Bartow, 60 years.
Carmichael held his first pastorate while still a student at Stetson University and then continued his education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as pastor of churches in North Florida and Georgia. While serving as pastor of Ancient City Baptist Church in St. Augustine, he helped start Anastasia Baptist Church in two store fronts, a congregation that has grown to over 3,000 members. Carmichael continues to preach the church’s Sunday night worship.
To this day, Dickerson serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Mango, where he has been for the past 43 “wonderful” years, he said. “It doesn’t seem very long.” A graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dickerson served several Tampa-area churches in his ministry.
Dunham began preaching soon after he became a Christian at 16 years of age. As he looks back over the years, he said “I could almost cry when I think about the goodness of the Lord.” Raised in Louisiana, Dunham pastored churches in Baton Rouge and Shreveport before starting the first Southern Baptist church in Colorado Springs and a church in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Having served in the pastorate for the past six decades, Henley was a college student when he felt called to the ministry. He pastored seven Florida Baptist churches and still preaches every chance he gets.
Charles Swartz of Bartow has served in the ministry since he preached his first sermon in 1950. He is a graduate of Baptist Bible Institute, (now The Baptist College of Florida) when it was still located in Lakeland, and served churches in Georgia and the Lakeland area. He now serves as director of the Retired Minister’s Fellowship for the South Florida Baptist Association.
Each minister was presented with a crystal cross to signify “Soldier of the Cross” and received a standing ovation to honor their years of service.
A dessert fellowship provided by South Biscayne Baptist Church in North Port followed the evening
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