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Coffee Baptist Association church’s pastor retires after 40 years’ servicecomment (0)

October 30, 2008

Before Bernard Strickland took the post as pastor of Eanon Baptist Church, Jack, the average tenure of a preacher there was only about one year.

That was 1969. 

When Strickland retired in September at the age of 88, he had served the Coffee Baptist Association church faithfully for nearly 40 years.

“Everything was good about him. He came when we were in need of a pastor,” said Reiva Tindol, who has been church clerk at Eanon Baptist off and on since she gave her life to Christ in 1954.

“Our church was small, mostly women and children, but he went out into the community and brought the people who needed transportation.”

Tindol remembers Strickland’s compassion and support during illness in her family and his willingness to do whatever work was at hand, whether it meant mowing the church lawn or helping widows in the community with their yard work.

“It’ll take us a long time to get over him,” Tindol said.

Eanon currently has a rotation of three interim preachers but has not yet started the search for a new pastor.

After Strickland’s retirement Sept. 7, the congregation surprised him with a celebration of his ministry Sept. 21, when he returned for a wedding.

“He didn’t want to leave. We didn’t want him to leave, but it was because of his health,” said Strickland’s daughter Peggy Love.

Strickland literally preached until he could no longer stand at the pulpit because of his problems with congestive heart failure. He was so dedicated to Eanon that even after his health dictated that he live with his daughters outside of Fairhope, he returned every weekend to preach.

Even now, he returns every other weekend to attend the service.

“I enjoyed the whole time,” Strickland said of his years at Eanon. “It was 40 years of joy. I fell in love with those people, and I didn’t want to leave.”

When he first came to the church, it was a one-room building that didn’t even have a bathroom.

After building the congregation back up, Strickland began working on the building itself.

The church didn’t have much money, but through the work and donations of people across the community and even from other churches, it was able to improve its facilities and add a fellowship hall.

This sense of community is present in all Strickland’s reminiscences of his time as pastor.

“When one of us was hurt, we all hurt, and when one of us rejoiced, we all rejoiced,” he said.

Strickland’s was a bivocational ministry.

In addition to his pastoral work, he also owned a furniture store in nearby Enterprise that supported his family.

“It was not the money. He wanted to preach and bring people to the Lord,” Love explained about her father’s devotion to his ministry.

Tindol agreed. “He didn’t miss many Sundays all those 40 years. He was there. He was always there.”

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