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55 years later, Carter returns to Pleasant Grove to serve church where his ministry begancomment (0)

October 11, 2007

By Leigh Pritchett

In 1952, Charles T. Carter was starting out in the ministry at 16 and serving as the assistant pastor of Harmony Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove.

Fifty-five years later, his ministry has come full circle as he has returned to that church — now called First Baptist Church, Pleasant Grove, in Birmingham Baptist Association — to serve as interim pastor.

In between, Carter — who lives in Vestavia Hills — finished high school and college, taught at Helena Junior High School, earned a seminary degree, married Janice Young and brought up two daughters. He also received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Samford University in Birmingham and served as pastor of five churches in Kentucky and Alabama, staying 26 years at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, in Birmingham Association.

He was president twice of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, saw many foreign lands through International Mission Board opportunities and, since retiring from Shades Mountain Baptist in 1998, served in eight other interim positions before First, Pleasant Grove.

While at Harmony Baptist, Carter preached for a year after the departure of Pastor Harper Shannon. At 19, Carter left Harmony to lead revivals, which he did for 13 straight weeks.

Then he was called as pastor of Providence Baptist Church, Montevallo, in Chilton Baptist Association, which was the first church where he had led those revivals.

His ministry started at a time when churches had no air conditioning or nurseries, offered only one style of worship and held revivals and Vacation Bible School for two weeks each. Churches then were seen as the center of community activities, Carter noted.

While times have changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is that personal witnessing continues to be the most effective way of telling people about Christ, he said. “I believe God will still bless that no-fanfare way (of reaching people).”

Though Carter may be more polished by decades of experience, he is the same person he was all those years ago when he first served at Harmony, noted Bobby Patrick, a member of then Harmony and now First, Pleasant Grove, since 1951.

Carter was enthusiastic, energetic and an ardent believer in visitation, Patrick recalled. He said the congregation loved Carter then and loves him now.

Even though First, Pleasant Grove, is in an interim phase, it is still growing with Carter’s guidance, said Patrick, a deacon. “We’re very fortunate to have him as interim pastor today.”

Not only is the 71-year-old Carter serving at First, Pleasant Grove, but he is also pastor emeritus of Shades Mountain Baptist, a Samford trustee and the James H. Chapman Fellow of Pastoral Ministry at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School.

Teaching young pastors has, indeed, been an important part of his ministry, said Dale Huff, director of the office of LeaderCare and church administration for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “His counsel and encouragement has been and is there for the young (ministers) and for those who are hurting,” he said. “On several occasions, he has contacted me to make sure that I knew of a pastor in special need. Charles would have already talked with them, and he was trying to build a larger network of support for them.”

Huff called Carter “the most widely respected Southern Baptist minister in Alabama. If one were looking for a Southern Baptist statesman of our day, Charles would be that in Alabama.”

Carter, who came to know Christ at age 7 after a teenage neighbor invited him to church, sees himself as doing exactly what he was called to do at 12 and what he has been doing ever since his first sermon at 14. “Preaching is my life,” Carter said. “That’s what I like to do.”

And he said as long as he is able, he will.

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