The Rev. DeFoor marks 25th year as pastor at Harrodsburg Baptist

May 07, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - The Rev. Robert DeFoor marked his 25th year as pastor of Harrodsburg Baptist Church last month, a fairly unusual achievement as Baptist ministers go.

"We tend to be more mobile." DeFoor said last week. "It's just a personal choice of churches and individuals."

Congregations and ministers have the choice of who serves as a church's pastor. "There is no denominational hierarchy that says you have to move," he said. Ministers usually leave a church when they have been called to serve by another congregation.

DeFoor, 62, is senior pastor to the Baptist church with the largest congregation in Mercer County. While attendance has grown at the Sunday morning service, Sunday School attendance has dropped since DeFoor began his ministry.

The growth has not been as large as he would like to see it.

Recently, the church faced both achievements and controversy.

"You deal with controversial issues as they come," DeFoor said. "The main thing is staying true to our purpose."


Controversy came in the form of elections about the sale of alcohol in the city and county. Both an achievement and some controversy came when property owned by St. Andrew's Catholic Church came up for sale and Harrodsburg Baptist bought it. It is just across Chiles Street from the back of the church building.

Gymnasium building completed last year

A large gymnasium building was completed last year and dedicated Dec. 14. "It's been a great thing," DeFoor said. "It's our gift to the community as well as to our own ministry. We've had a lot of people use it over the first four months." Before the gymnasium building could be built, a historic white house once used as a hat factory had to be dealt with.

A committee at the church which oversaw the construction on the property gave historical organizations a great deal of time to come up with the money needed to preserve the building and move it to another location. When that did not happen, the small building was torn down to make way for the new building.

"At it's peak, in the wintertime, we had 300 walkers a day," DeFoor said about the new building. Not all of those are members of Harrodsburg Baptist or any Baptist church, for that matter. The building that housed St. Andrew's sanctuary originally was used as a walking track, but that building now takes on overflow from the gymnasium.

During weekdays, the old Catholic church building is used by the church's pre-school class. During the next school year, the classroom building will be used by the pre-school and an after-school program. The classroom building also houses Bridges, a Christian teen organization.

The Rev. Larry D. Camic joined the ministerial staff in December to oversee the activities center, but other members of the ministerial staff have been there for several years. Music minister, the Rev. Eddie Russell, has been on the staff for 17 years and the youth minister, the Rev. Rick Snyder, has been at the church for 12 years.

With the activities center completed, DeFoor looks to a more basic tenet of his religion as his biggest challenge.

"The most challenging thing is the basic thing the church is here for, to reach people and to care for them in the ... 21st century," he said.

As a couple, Robert and Sandy DeFoor have watched their children grow up in Harrodsburg.

Only Stephanie DeFoor Rogers, their youngest child, still lives with her family in Mercer County. She is executive director of Mercer Chamber of Commerce.

The couple's son, Robert, is a medical doctor in Cincinnati and an older daughter, Jennifer DeFoor Newcomer, is a full-time mom who lives in Louisville.

Early on, he decided to stay with one church

While a minister and his family never know how long they will be in one place, DeFoor adopted a plan soon after he began his ministry.

"Early in my ministry, I had the idea you should serve a church as if you were going to be there the rest of your life, and I've had that commitment from the first day we were here," he said.

"It looks like we'll do that in Harrodsburg. Every time you go somewhere, it's a step of faith. The church made a step of faith and time has proven it has been the right thing." DeFoor has made no retirement plans. There is one thing he's sure he won't do.

"I know I'm not going to be a pastor when I'm 75," he said. "It's not healthy for the church. It's my goal to retire before many other people want me to." He also takes a serious philosophical look at his tenure here.

"I think one of the things about hanging around is you get to see people grow and mature and that's been a blessing."

Not all of the experiences here have been happy ones, but they are not the majority, DeFoor added.

"Sometimes there are disappointments, but there are so many good people. Life is about God and people and relationships and I think (the people here) have helped me grow in my relationship with the lord and I can't ask for more than that."

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