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Longtime Montgomery Hill pastor retirescomment (0)

May 15, 2008

By Dan Rutledge

As "trial sermons" go, the one Sherod C. Matheney preached at Montgomery Hill Baptist Church, Tensaw, the first Sunday in April 1959 has to be considered a success. That sermon was taken from Joel 3 — the same text from which his final sermon as pastor of the Baldwin Baptist Association church April 6, 2008, was taken just more than 49 years later.

"Oh yes, I remember it well," said Matheney when asked if he recalled the first time he preached at Montgomery Hill Baptist. "Brother Spain, who was director of missions (for Baldwin Association) at the time, called and asked me to go to Montgomery Hill and preach a trial sermon. The minute I stepped into the pulpit, I knew it was the place God wanted me. I went right home and called Brother Spain and told him that it hadn’t been a trial."

Matheney, who worked during his pastoral career as an air conditioning contractor, traveled every Sunday from his home in Saraland to Tensaw. This once 150-mile round trip was reduced to about 75 miles due to new roads and the completion of Interstate 65 in the 1980s.

When he answered the church’s call, Matheney told the congregation he would be there every Sunday, and "I’ve only missed a few," he said.

Lois Smith, former church treasurer, said Matheney has "always been faithful to help us in all situations through the years. Even in the early years when his air conditioning business was going strong, he always put the church first."

And while Matheney continued to preach through May 4, Montgomery Hill’s homecoming Sunday, he celebrated his official retirement April 12 with the congregation.

"It will seem strange, for sure, to not see him up there (in the pulpit) on Sundays," said June Slaughter, longtime church secretary who was baptized by Matheney in 1976. "He has always been there for our family and friends when we’ve needed him through the years. He’s been a faithful and dedicated pastor."

"Dedicated" is also a word that Baldwin Association Director of Missions Larry Patterson would use to describe Matheney.

"When I think of Brother Matheney, I think of a true man of God," Patterson said. "His tenure, 49 years, at Montgomery Hill is amazing — almost unprecedented."

Martin and Edith McGuire have been a part of the church since Matheney came. Martin McGuire serves as a deacon and minister of music at Montgomery Hill, while his wife has served as church organist since 1953. She is also church pianist and church clerk. They said it will not be the same without him. "We hate to see him go. (We) can’t really imagine him not being here," Martin McGuire said.

He added that Matheney became "like a brother to us old folks and a father to the younger ones."

"He was always available and ready to help when you called with a problem," especially electrical and air conditioning problems, he said. "And he never charged anybody a cent for his services either."

In fact, Matheney never charged for his pastoral services either — never taking a salary. And if someone tried to provide a gratuity for his conducting a funeral or wedding, the money became an offering.

"The checks I get for those services go right back into the collection plate or straight to the (Alabama) Baptist Children’s Homes," he said.

In 2000, Matheney was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery. When he went back to the doctor for post-surgical care, all remains of the cancer had disappeared.

"Prayers do get answered," Matheney said. "When the doctor said I had cancer, I told him to get on with whatever he had to do. I didn’t worry about it a minute, because I know only God decides when I leave this earth."

During his tenure at Montgomery Hill, the sanctuary was refurbished, an education building was constructed, air conditioning was installed and the foundation was replaced.

"And all that was accomplished without any bake sales, car washes or fund-raising events of any kind," he said proudly.

"When I came here, I told them I wasn’t called to beg or sell — only to preach the gospel."

Matheney said the church has been "one of the greatest blessings to me you can imagine."

"And even though I won’t be here every Sunday, Montgomery Hill will always be with me. You can’t spend 49 years with anything and not get attached to it," he said.

Matheney, who is now a member of First Baptist Church, North Mobile, in Saraland, said he will pray every day for Montgomery Hill and every person who attends services there.

"I am fortunate to have pastored a church with a small enough congregation that I can pray for each and every one individually," he noted.

Matheney was ordained in 1954 at Ninth Street Baptist Church, Prichard. Before his pastorate at Montgomery Hill, he served as pastor of McCullough Baptist Church, Gulf Crest Baptist Church and Creighton Baptist Church.

Matheney and his wife, Helen, have three grown children.

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