Completing the circlecomment (0)
January 13, 2005
By Susan Chaffin Goggins
Bobby Duck will again sit in the pew as a member of Fellowship Baptist Church, completing and continuing a 67-year circle of life in Tallapoosa Association.
Duck, who grew up as a member of the church near Dadeville, will retire after 40 years as pastor of the first and only church he has ever led.
His ministry there has included reaching his family, to the point that nearly half the congregation is made up of family members. And he will stay on in Fellowship Church as pastor emeritus. Jeff Hemmings is pastor.
Becoming a pastor was never part of Duck’s plans as a young man, he said.
Duck, who was born about two miles from Fellowship, described himself as the “son of a poor sharecropper with an inferiority complex because of his hand-me-down overalls.”
But Duck showed an early aptitude at the country school, and graduated at age 16. “As a teenager, I discovered I could pass for older and found that drinking [alcohol] seem to make me feel less inferior,” he recalled.
In spite of his mother’s godly influence and the fact he had joined Fellowship Church at age 14 and been baptized, he left home after graduation and continued to drink with no real direction for his future.
At 18, he joined the Air Force and considered making it his career but accepted a discharge after four years. The death of his mother drew him back to Alabama for a time.
But after being stationed with the Air Force in Texas, rural Alabama was boring to him.
A friend invited him to move to Atlanta, which he saw as much more lively.
While there, Duck met his wife of almost 43 years, Doris. She was divorced, the young mother of four children Duck quickly grew to love and call his own.
He credits the children’s desire to go to church with bringing him back to his mother’s teaching. Doris had been a member of a local church, but after their marriage, the family rarely went.
However, the children loved church and begged their parents to take them. They relented, and during the invitation following a Wednesday night service, Bobby and Doris Duck simultaneously responded.
Bobby Duck said, “After I finished praying, I looked up, and every member of my family was also at the altar. We all accepted Jesus Christ that night.”
Today, all four children are active members of Fellowship Church.
Duck described the difference Jesus made in his life. “I was tickled to death to have found what I had been looking for so long.”
He quickly threw himself into lay ministry. But soon, a feeling of dissatisfaction came over him. He prayed asking God to restore his joy.
“I heard the audible voice of God after I prayed,” Duck recalled, “He said, ‘I want you to preach.’”
Because Duck had never been comfortable speaking publicly, the calling surprised him, his wife and their pastor. His wife even asked, “Are you sure He didn’t say, ‘I want you to pray?’”
Soon after accepting his call to preach, Duck learned that the little church near his birthplace had shut its doors because it had no pastor.
“I always had a special place in my heart for young people,” he said, and he hated to think of the youth of the community without a church.
He asked permission to preach there and try to rebuild the congregation. The first Sunday’s congregation on Dec. 13, 1964, consisted of his wife, three daughters and an aunt.
Today, you can still find many of Duck’s relatives in the rural congregation that runs about 40 to 60 in Sunday School.
Duck’s ministry to his own family is the highlight of his 40 years at Fellowship Church. “I led my father to the Lord when he was 62,” he said. “I’ve baptized nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren.”
According to Denise Deason, family members make up much of the church leadership as well. Daughter Deborah Huff serves as organist, and son-in-law Richard Deason is the pianist. Duck’s grandson B.J. Smith leads the singing.
Duck’s sister, Adell Gregg, has been the church’s secretary and her husband, Chester Gregg, the church treasurer since 1966. Gregg said she has always enjoyed having her younger brother as her pastor.
Tallapoosa Director of Missions Larry Coats described Duck as “one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.”
He added that it is “almost unheard of” for a pastor to stay with the same church for as long as Duck has — especially a bivocational pastor.
Duck’s commitment does seem even more tremendous in light of the fact that he has been a bi-
vocational pastor all 40 years. “I’ve driven trucks, worked in service stations — whatever it took,” he noted. Currently, Duck sells insurance.
He also pursued his education while working and serving as pastor, earning doctorate degrees in divinity and theology.
When people express their surprise at Duck’s 40-year tenure in one church, he brushes it off, “I have done nothing except what God told me to do. He never told me to leave.”