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Courtney retires from First, Pell Citycomment (0)

January 6, 2000

By Leigh Pritchett

Pastor A.L. Courtney Jr. doesn’t know why he was called in to the ministry. That is a question he said he has often pondered during the past 45 years. But regardless of whether he has understood the call, ha hasn’t run from it.

“I never fought the call,” he said. “It was very clear. It was made very clear to me by the Lord… AS soon as I realized that’s what God wanted me to do, that’s when I made my decision.”


Courtney’s last official day at First Baptist Church, Pell City, was Dec. 31 He ahs served as pastor there for 20 years. The church has a Sunday School attendance of about 350 and has had two morning worship services for three quarters of his time there.


This past February, Courtney took two weeks off to seek the Lord’s direction. He came away from that period with peace about retiring at the end of 1999. He turned 65 Dec. 15.


More than 300 people attended a retirement reception held in early December.


Courtney was treated to a child’s wading pool filled with banana pudding. He was barraged with jabs at his penchant for fishing, but a special gift quickly followed – money to go toward a bass boat. He and his wife, Myra, also received a silver platter and a significant monetary gesture.


And then, there were the priceless gifts: the photo collages gathered from former pastorates, as well as letters and cards from the couple’s many friends.


Courtney said it was gratifying to come to the end of his tenure and have “such closeness and love of church family.” That, he continued, gives “a real sense of completion.”


The father of two and grandfather of four look back on all the pastorates with the same closeness to the church family.


“Every church I’ve ever served was a delightful experience,” he said. Before First Baptist, Pell City, Courtney served at Eureka Baptist in Monroe County; Washington Baptist in Washington County; First Baptist, State Line, Miss.; First Baptist. Terry, Miss., and First Baptist, Demopolis.


Courtney attended East Mississippi Junior College on a football scholarship and later transferred to Samford University. After graduating, he went to New Orleans Seminary, finishing in 1961.


During his 20 years at First, Pell City, the church began a kindergarten and day care program, constructed a family ministry building and purchased additional property for parking. Courtney emphasized the importance of giving to the Cooperative Program and special missions, even during building campaigns.


Courtney, who has been active in the State Board of Missions and supportive of all levels of the Southern Baptist Convention, will continue his involvement in retirement. He and his wife intend to stay in Pell City, and Courtney plans to serve as a supply or interim pastor and to commit to short-term missions work. His dream is to teach in a seminary on the mission’s field.


And though he will still be about the Master’s work, he figures there will be time here and there for a little bit of fishing.

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