By Riley Manning
TUPELO – The pastor of one of Tupelo’s largest congregations has announced his resignation.
The Rev. David Eldridge informed his 1,800-member Calvary Baptist Church congregation Sunday that he would be absent from the pulpit this Sunday to preach at First Baptist Church in Clinton in view of a call to become that church’s new senior pastor.
“Usually in the Baptist world, we don’t tell anyone we’re leaving. We’re just not there on Sunday,” Eldridge said. “But I love the Calvary congregation and wanted them to hear it from me before it got out on social media.”
Eldridge grew up in the Clinton church. He said it was the place where he was saved and attended through high school. He also is a graduate of Mississippi College in Clinton.
Ed Mitchell, chairman of deacons at Calvary, said the news was equal parts sorry and joy.
“Clearly it’s a loss for Calvary. The church’s reaction was one normal for a congregation who’s in love with its pastor,” Mitchell said. “But he’s been a wonderful blessing here, and it’s a blessing to see him excel and move on to greater things.”
Eldridge said he wasn’t planning to leave Calvary, where he has manned the pulpit since 2008. When FBC Clinton’s pastor resigned, he said, numerous people approached him to apply for the position.
“I wasn’t looking to leave, or sending out resumes,” he said. “When they reached out to me I was very hesitant.”
In his tenure as Calvary’s eighth and youngest senior pastor, the 34-year-old has overseen numerous mission outreaches, including the church’s donation of space on their West Main Street property to the Tree of Life Clinic, which provides basic medical care to Lee County’s uninsured.
“It’s been a time of prayer and discernment,” Eldridge said. “But my family and I felt like the Lord opened the door. We would be disobedient if we didn’t follow that.”
The congregation of FBC Clinton will vote on whether to accept Eldridge as its new pastor immediately after the service.
As for Calvary, Mitchell said the church would begin the search for a new leader as soon as possible.
“As Southern Baptists, we believe the Lord has already selected our next pastor. Now it’s just a matter of identifying him,” Mitchell said.