By Riley Manning
TUPELO – Congregants of Calvary Baptist Church said their tearful goodbyes to their pastor, the Rev. David Eldridge, and his family Sunday evening.
Head pastor for the past six years, Eldridge announced last month that he intended to guest preach at First Baptist Church in Clinton, his home church, to explore the possibility of filling the head pastor role there. Soon after, the congregation voted in favor of offering Eldridge the position, which he accepted.
While the change is bittersweet, Calvary’s associate pastor, the Rev. Jim Yates, said Eldridge’s leadership has prepared the congregation to make the transition smoothly.
“He’s led this church in a truly beautiful way,” Yates said. “The congregation is in really good shape, in a spiritual sense.”
As church leaders prepare to begin the search for their new pastor, the Calvary faithful say they will miss their “little preacher,” as Margaret Stewart and others refer to him.
“He’s wise beyond his years,” said Stewart of the 34-year-old Eldridge.
Her husband, Neill Stewart, agreed.
The couple has attended Calvary since 1977.
“His sermons really make you think,” he said. “He will certainly be missed, but I think he’ll go on to do wonderful things.”
Sherry Vance, a 34-year Calvary member, said Eldridge is a true family man.
“If you look in the dictionary next to ‘pastor’s wife,’ you’ll see a picture of his wife Danielle,” Vance said. “They are precious, wonderful, kind, and good people. He’s God’s man, and he’s going to do what God wants him to do.”
Calvary members Greg Pirkle and Liz Krason said Eldridge will leave a legacy of community not only at Calvary, but outside the walls as well.
“David brought and brings unity to our church,” Pirkle said. “He’s helped the work of Calvary reach the real needs of the community.”
“He identifies himself with everyone else, and has really tried to bridge different denominations of churches in Tupelo together,” Krason said.
Parting words for Eldridge ranged from sincere to jovial, but at their heart, Krason said, their sentiments were the same.
“I think if we could leave him with one thing,” she said, “We’d say, ‘Thank you.’”