06/22/14 — Leader of the flock

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Leader of the flock

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 22, 2014 1:50 AM

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Pastor Dann Patrick of Faith Free Will Baptist Church finishes up some paperwork in his office. He recently retired from the church after 33 years and will now serve as adjunct professor, traveling evangelist and revival speaker.

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Pastor Dann Patrick stands in the pulpit of Faith Free Will Baptist Church. Next weekend, he will be retiring and handing over the mantle to Christian Powell.

Pastor Dann Patrick put much thought and prayer into his departure date from Faith Free Will Baptist Church, where he has served for 33 years.

"Someone said there are three ways to leave -- one, you can die; two, they can get rid of you; three, you can leave on your own. I prefer the third," he said, a large smile breaking out across his face.

That sense of humor has become well-known among his congregation. But the decision to retire is also tinged with a bittersweet thoughtfulness.

"Certainly I feel it's something the Lord put on my heart," he said. "But I think the timing, the man that I felt like needed to follow in my footsteps has been on staff some 20 years. We hired him right out of college and he and his wife married the first year he was here."

His successor will be Christian Powell, 42.

"A lot of churches have tried to get him to come," Patrick said. "It was time for me to say, you need to accept one of those, but I felt the church would be far better off to step down.

"I'm 66. It's a little more challenging than it used to be, the load, the burden. I still have the same zeal. I just don't have the same zip."

There might have also been a bit of divine intervention at play, he mused.

"When I reached the age of 60, I started thinking about the future, started reading some books on transition, attended some seminars," he said. "And I think probably the 33 years and the fact that that's how long Jesus stayed here on Earth, that was something that was in the mix.

"I have tried to keep the church in mind and the future of the church over my own feelings. I would like to stay. I enjoy what I do. But I don't think that's fair to the church."

Reflecting on his lengthy pastorate at the church, the Ohio native admits he could not have envisioned serving that long at the outset.

"I'm certainly proud of it, glad of it, thank the Lord for it," he said. "God's just given me a good flock. When I first came here, the average (for a pastor) was about five or six years tenure."

Reflecting on his ministry at the church near the intersection of U.S. 70 and the I-795 bypass, Patrick had nothing but praise to share.

"God's been very good to us. Our congregation's growing. We have seen a number of people reached for the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "We have seen a lot of lives impacted and so on. We have built some buildings and had a good infrastructure, 33 years that God's allowed us to have an impact on Goldsboro and Wayne County."

The church also boasts a Christian school on-site, in the form of Faith Christian Academy, which has produced between 70 and 75 who have gone into the ministry.

But it is the relationships within the church body that remain a special blessing, the pastor said, citing the unity and harmony as special highlights.

"No knock-down-drag-out business meetings, deacon's meetings. There's just a unanimity of heart and our goals," he said. "I think that I have been able to lead the church to become somewhat of a model church. We have got a great staff, minister of music, assistant pastors, youth ministry. We're a multi-ministry organization. We're able to make an impact through other churches and ministries as a result of that."

With seven full-time serving in pastoral roles, the membership currently hovers around 1,250. And yet Patrick has focused on creating a "little church" atmosphere through such efforts as Sunday school classes where smaller groups can become acquainted.

Patrick admits there are many things he'll miss when he retires -- the routine, the preaching, even the late-night calls to visit someone in the hospital.

He has been able to do it all, though, with not only the help of the Lord and a faithful congregation, but the woman he met while attending college in Nashville, Tenn., who would become his wife.

"I have a wonderful helpmeet in my wife (Brenda), who's my biggest fan, my partner, my confidante. She's a great lady," he said. "She has worked in the ministry -- in the Christian school in our library part-time, she works with the kids, helping with our fine arts competition."

The couple have two sons, Lange, a minister of music in Louisville, Ky., and Lee, senior pastor at a church in Florence, S.C., and six grandchildren.

"Pastor Dann" might be retiring from Faith FWB, but he will continue working, as an adjunct professor at Southeastern FWB College in Wendell, along with his wife, and also preaching revivals and attending conferences.

As for his legacy at Faith, he pondered a moment.

"That the church goes on and prospers," he said. "I think that's the true mark of a legacy is how does it do 10 years from now? So we won't know for a little while. And then to be able to impact it into other people's lives, what they do when they leave here."