When Gary Burton came to Pintlala Baptist Church in Hope Hull in January 1972, both he and the church were just getting started in ministry. The church was 12 years old, and Burton was just finishing his seminary work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Now he’s looking back over 50 years of pastoral ministry at Pintlala, and he said simply this — time flies.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long,” Burton said. “But I looked back through the church history that was published recently, and I was here for so much of it that it’s hard to deny.”
Burton grew up going to Berney Points Baptist Church in Birmingham, and there he felt the call to ministry. He said the church nurtured that call.
As he started his studies, he served two churches on a part-time basis along the way — Wilkes Baptist Church, Midfield, while he was at Samford University, and McCall Creek Baptist Church, Meadville, Mississippi, while he was in seminary.
Pintlala was Burton’s first full-time pastorate. He’s now baptizing some of the grandchildren of people he baptized in the 1970s.
Burton said there have been many highlights over the years, but for him, one is the fishing tournament that the church hosted for a while in the 1990s thanks to Ray Scott, a church member who served as head of Bassmaster. The tournament drew in notable people including former President George H.W. Bush. A crowd always gathered in the church parking lot for the weigh-in and in the sanctuary for the closing ceremony.
It helped put the church on the map for people in the county, Burton said. He was thankful for the opportunity to use the event as an outreach.
He also values the ongoing love he and the congregation have had for each other, which he says is the key to his longevity at the church.
“It’s been really humbling — I’ve appreciated the opportunity to have those long relationships,” he said. “The love is authentic; it’s not perfect, but we have plowed along side by side because we have a mutual devotion to each other. There are a lot of wonderful families here who for years have been doing their best to support the work.”
Burton has also spent decades building relationships in the community and investing in those friendships. One way he’s done that recently is by producing the Pintlala Ledger, a community publication. He plans to continue doing that in the years to come, in addition to working to make sure the church stays “on strong footing” going forward, he said.
The church will celebrate Burton’s 50th anniversary with a special service Jan. 9 at 10:45 a.m.
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