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Pastor Hayes celebrates quarter century at helm of FBC Cullmancomment (0)

December 11, 2008

By Megan Norris Jones

When Edwin Hayes looks back on his 25 years as pastor of First Baptist Church, Cullman, he is most proud of the work he and the congregation have done to reach others for Christ, whether in their own community or abroad.

“I’ve always wanted and worked to have a membership that would share their faith,” Hayes said.

He has guided the West Cullman Baptist Association church in ministering to its neighbors through establishing a FAITH ministry to train church members in evangelism. The program has been going strong for a decade now.

Hayes led the church in starting a television ministry that broadcasts the church services and community events in the Cullman area. He is encouraging other churches to air their services as well.

Hayes also urges members to be active in missions. He has participated in missions trips to South Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela, Romania, Ukraine, Taiwan and Canada, and in the past year, missions teams from First, Cullman, have traveled to Taiwan, Venezuela, Romania, Alaska and New Mexico.

A graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Hayes went on to earn a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and doctor of ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Before joining the staff of First, Cullman, in 1983, he served as pastor of two other First Baptist churches — one in Centre and one in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

Although Hayes was raised in north Alabama in Oneonta, he said he was unfamiliar with Cullman before arriving 25 years ago but had a strong sense that God was leading him to that particular church.

“The church had an excellent reputation and a very strong staff,” Hayes said, noting he felt the decision to return to Alabama from Florida was confirmed in many ways, including a strong school system for his children.

During Hayes’ tenure, he has seen First, Cullman, through two building programs while a third is under way. The latest project is a $6.3 million multipurpose building and gym, which is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2009.

“One of the biggest challenges was the renovation of old and decaying facilities,” Hayes said. But he is proud of the church’s renovations and new buildings and its ability to acquire more land for parking, even in its tight downtown location.

For the past four years, Sunday School attendance has been growing steadily at 1.5 percent, and First, Cullman, is well on its way to its goal of 5 percent growth for this year, according to Jim O’Dillon, minister of education and outreach at the church.

“With more than 80 percent of the Southern Baptist churches in Alabama plateaued or declining, I’m grateful to God what He’s doing at FBC Cullman and so are our members,” O’Dillon said.

The church celebrated Hayes’ 25th anniversary Nov. 16 with David Starkey of Servants’ Quarters Fellowship, Edgewater, Fla., as the guest preacher and an afternoon reception in the fellowship hall. Starkey and Hayes worked together at both of Hayes’ previous churches.

“We just had a great day of celebration,” Hayes said of the anniversary events. “The church was very gracious and kind.”

He and his wife, Martha, have been married for 44 years. Hayes officiated the marriage ceremonies of all three of his children (two at First, Cullman) and now has six grandchildren.

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