PERRY -- In 1905, a dozen or so people gathered under the leadership of Rev. R.N. Howard to form Greater Union Baptist Church, originally known simply as Union Baptist Church.
The group met in a wooden structure at its current location on Marion Street until a fire destroyed it and led to its replacement with the brick sanctuary now in use.
For almost five years, the Rev. Otha L. Everett has been pastor.
The church has a rich history, Everett said. It sits in the central part of Perry and has always been a growing, progressive church. Were accessible and have members from Perry, Houston County and Middle Georgia. Weve had many people from here do great things in the community and for Gods kingdom.
Everett said Councilman Willie King grew up in Greater Union Baptist and that the Rev. Walther Glover, current moderator of the 52-church Union Baptist Missionary Education Association, was once the churchs pastor.
Everett said after being without a pastor before his arrival, the church is again experiencing growth. He said he and members are in a process of revitalizing the church within and looking to expand ministries and outreach.
Though he said his emphasis is on people, the process has included efforts to refurbish and redecorate the churchs buildings.
Ive enjoyed helping build back up members and leadership, Everett said. Im goal-based and the first few years was about building up infra- and inner-structure, such as leaders and choirs, as well as making the buildings more appealing. The goal is to help people grow so we can all move forward and move outside of these walls to help others. Its about building a foundation in ministry where people can grow and take Gods love and grace to others in the name of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Were a church for all people and not just a certain segment.
Everett said his own growth as a minister came out of a unique mentoring situation.
Im from Macon, and my grandfather, Rev. Matthew Brown, was pastor of Beulah Baptist Church for more than 30 years, he said. He was my mentor. Ill be honest; I wish everyone who desired to go into ministry had a mentor like I did who could work with them on how to do things, how to teach the Bible teaching, preach, organize and how to love people. I attended seminary, but I learned more from my grandfather. A lot of what Ive accomplished comes from that, and I think he would be proud today.
Everett said his grandfathers advice on how to love people began with understanding his own relationship with God and knowing who he was in Christ. He said knowing Gods love helps you love others, and following Christs examples shows you how to treat them and show them love and respect.
He said as a pastor, its important to show care for members and having their best interest at heart. In that light, Everett initiated a new member class at the church that includes sitting down and getting to know members as well as teaching them doctrines and practices.
Other innovative ideas Everett brought to the church include moving youth meetings from busy weeknights to typically not busy Sunday afternoons. Everett said he hopes church members opportunities to minister to others widens in the future through such things as a community center.
Everett, 41, is a bi-vocational pastor. His other job is teaching graduate level courses in rehabilitation counseling at Fort Valley State University, primarily evening classes at the schools Warner Robins branch.
He has a criminal science degree from Valdosta State University, a masters in rehabilitation counselling from Fort Valley State University and a doctorate in psychology and counseling from Argosy University in Sarasota, Fla. He attended seminary but said he didnt sit for a degree but simply took classes for knowledges sake.
His wife, Tina, and he have been married for 16 years and have two sons. She is a kindergarten teacher in Houston County public schools and serves as first lady of Greater Union Baptist.
I love her so, he said. Shes a beautiful woman on the inside and the outside. Shes my best friend, my greatest encourager. If I say my grandfather has been the greatest inspiration in my life and ministry, she is certainly the second greatest.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.