Union Baptist bids pastor farewell

Published 8:32 pm Friday, February 22, 2013

Stepping down: Melvin Hunter has pastored Union Baptist Church in Clanton for 25 years.

Stepping down: Melvin Hunter has pastored Union Baptist Church in Clanton for 25 years.

Ask anybody who travels for a living, and they’ll tell you the road will quietly take a lot out of you.

Which is why after 25 years of pastoral service to Union Baptist Church in Clanton, Dr. Melvin Hunter will be retiring in April; he wants to stop to enjoy the scenery for a little while.

“I’m 84, and I’ll be 85 in August,” he said. “I’ve been up and down the road, and I think it’s time to stop. I [commuted] from Bessemer to Clanton for 20 years, and Millbrook to Clanton for five years.”

Hunter, who has been in the ministry for 44 years, 42 of which as an active pastor, took an unorthodox route to his position at Union.

According to Hunter, he was working in a real estate office when a customer whose uncle went to Union asked if he knew anyone who preached. He said he did, but had no resume. His secretary then went and typed one up, and he turned it into the church. He preached that Sunday, was asked to come back, and then was offered the job in April of 1988.

But now, as the miles and years have sped on, the decision to retire, albeit not an easy one, was one he knew he had to make.

To show their appreciation for his service, the congregation at Union will put on a series of programs in his honor, starting Feb. 23. and commencing with a main service in April.

“He has been a beacon of his community,” said Francine Lewis, organizer of the programs. “Anyone who has a problem, he wants to help.”

Lewis said Hunter’s outreach expanded to all areas, especially youth.

“We’ve [grown] into 30 children for Bible study,” she said. “He’s allowed for us to have a music [ministry] and a drama [ministry].”

Lewis said Hunter’s impact can be felt not only by the congregation as a whole, but on an individual level as well.

“He’s a very loved man,” she said. “He’s very focused on the youth; he feels they’re not just the future, they’re the now. He has a relationship with everyone; he wants you to have a relationship with God. He’s made Philippians 4:13 [states ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’] our motto.”

Lewis also said she spent 16 years living in Indiana, but considered Hunter her spiritual advisor the entire time.

In addition to Union honoring him, other area churches will be coming together to celebrate the influence that Hunter has had on them as well. The week leading up to his final sermon will feature a revival with preachers that have been personally impacted by him.

While he will be stepping down from the pulpit full-time, Hunter will be logging miles again, albeit at his own pace.

“Not that I’ll stop preaching,” he said. “But I’ll take some time to relax and do what I want to do, travel a little and enjoy the rest of my life.”

Lewis said she wasn’t surprised he planned to keep ministering to those in need.

“He goes to the sick, he goes to the jailhouse, he’ll even go to court with you,” she said. “He’s the last of the old-school preachers.”