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Fenton celebrates 20 years as pastor of Dawsoncomment (0)

March 3, 2011

Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, is celebrating 20 years with Senior Pastor Gary Fenton.

The son of a bivocational Nazarene pastor in Aurora, Mo., Fenton felt the call to ministry when he was a junior in high school. He chuckled as he recalled originally thinking there were only two paths of calling to the ministry: a pastor or a missionary. Even after learning there were many other paths from which to choose, he determined he was, indeed, called to be a pastor.

Fenton attended Bethany Nazarene University (now Southern Nazarene University) in Bethany, Okla. He became a Southern Baptist during his senior year, a direct result of meeting and learning from Herschel Hobbs, author of the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message.

Fenton went on to earn his master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and led a small congregation of mostly cotton and peanut farmers in Leon, Okla., during his studies. From 1972 to 1991, he served as pastor of churches in Branson and Windsor, Mo.; Stillwater, Okla.; and Tyler, Texas. He then earned his doctor of ministry degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

In the fall of 1990, Fenton, who had previously never lived east of the Mississippi River, was contacted by Dawson Memorial Baptist’s search committee. He felt called to lead the Birmingham Baptist Association church and began serving there March 3, 1991.

After 20 years at Dawson and more than 40 years in the ministry, Fenton said he has learned about the leadership and the body of Christ.

“Leadership is a process. I had to learn how to be a leader and have realized that a pastor is called to lead, not just to comfort and to preach,” Fenton said. “I’ve also learned the value of church as a community of faith and not just a place where people listen to preaching. … We need the connection to other believers before we grow spiritually.”

Dawson’s more than 8,000 members will celebrate his anniversary with him and his wife, Alta Faye, on March 6.

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