Brooks continues service to church as retired pastorcomment (0)
April 4, 2002
By Greg Heyman
Otis Brooks may be a product of Georgia, but his roots as a minister grow deep in Alabama.
Brooks grew up in Decatur, Ga., and was baptized, ordained and married at First Baptist Church, Decatur. While he served two churches in Georgia, he has been in Alabama since the early ’60s.
Currently serving as minister to senior adults at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in the Birmingham area, Brooks previously served as the church’s second pastor 1969–1988.
Serving as an associate at a church where he once was referred to as “boss” hasn’t presented a problem, however, with Brooks and current pastor Gary Furr approaching their roles as a team.
“Otis has a very pastoral heart,” Furr said.
Furr went on to characterize Brooks as someone who is “a walking history” of Vestavia Hills’ congregation as a result of his lengthy pastorate there.
“It seemed like a natural thing for him to work with our senior adults and he’s doing a wonderful job,” Furr said.
Crawford Taylor said the 33 years he has been at Vestavia Hills have included the times both Brooks and Furr have served as pastor. For Taylor, who is a deacon at the church, the relationship between the two pastors is a model for others.
“That’s a tribute to both men,” Taylor said. “They’re not in competition and they don’t try to be.”
When Brooks, now 79, stepped down from the pulpit at Vestavia Hills at the age of 65, he planned to slow down in his ministry. “I was retiring,” he said.
Or so he thought.
Now his ministries include teaching a Sunday School class, along with organizing outings for senior adults and coordinating a ministry of visiting shut-ins and those in nursing homes.
Ministering to older Christians at Vestavia Hills during the past four years is a responsibility Brooks says is exciting, noting there are some 250 senior adults at the church.
“It says to these people the church still cares for you,” Brooks said.
He added that many of those past 65 are in nursing homes or confined to their own homes.
“And what we’re trying to say is that they are still a part of this fellowship.”
Brooks began his ministerial career at First Baptist Church in Eatonton, Ga., after graduating from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He served there 1951–1956, followed by five years at First Baptist Church in Swainsboro.
Following his time at the two Georgia churches, he began his ministerial career in Alabama. Except for brief service in Louisiana and Hong Kong, Brooks would remain here for the next 50-plus years.
Serving at First Baptist Church in Florence for six years beginning in 1961, Brooks also was pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Monroe, La., for 14 months.
His pastorate at Vestavia Hills was followed by six months in Hong Kong with his late wife, Olive, where he served as interim pastor for the Kowloon Baptist Church, an English-speaking church that ministered to approximately 16 different nationalities.
After his time overseas, Brooks returned to Birmingham in 1969 and was asked to serve as Samford University’s first minister to students, a position he held for 14 months.
Brooks remained at Samford after Paul Basden succeeded him, working with students in church-related vocations. He again was asked to serve as Samford’s minister to students when Basden left Samford in the mid-’70s, serving a total of six years.
Prior to beginning his second tenure at Vestavia Hills, Brooks served as interim pastor of South Roebuck Baptist Church and Baptist Church of the Covenant, both in Birmingham, along with Union Town Baptist Church in south Alabama.
And what advice would someone with so much experience offer to young pastors?
“I think I would tell them to be sure of their calling,” he said.
Brooks says he would encourage aspiring pastors to talk about their vocation, perhaps with an older pastor. He added that pastors need to take it easy at new churches before attempting too many changes.
“Get to know the people — know where they are, what their interests are and how their Christian experiences have manifested themselves in their lifestyles,” Brooks says.
“Once you get to know the people, then you can begin to minister to them,” he added. “I don’t know how you can minister to folks you don’t know very well.”
Taylor described Brooks as one who loves people, even those who made the pastor’s life difficult at times. “He’s been totally selfless in the ways he’s given to us over the years,” Taylor said.
Brooks says he hopes people will remember him for the work he has done as a pastor.
“I had opportunities to do other things, but felt like my calling was as a pastor and I’ve stayed with that ever since,” Brooks said.
The key to his longevity in the ministry is obvious to Otis Brooks.
“I like people,” he said. “I think if you’re in the ministry that’s very important.”