BY GALEN HOLLEY
NEW ALBANY – The Rev. Bill Everett today celebrates 30 years as pastor of New Albany Presbyterian Church (ARP).
Everett, 59, a native of Memphis, assumed duties on the first Sunday in March, 1978. He came to New Albany from his first and only previous charge in Monticello, Ark.
Everett recalled arriving as a young man at a church that was emerging from tumultuous times. He said that the people, however, were optimistic and eager to move forward amicably.
Milton Campbell was one of those people. Campbell, a member of the church since 1968, said that Campbell quickly established himself as a beloved presence in the community. “Folks from other churches think highly of him (Everett). He does a lot of outreach in the community of which people aren’t even aware.”
Everett and his wife, Linda, who recently retired from teaching in the New Albany public school district, have raised four children. “This has been a great place to raise a family,” he said.
Over the past 30 years Everett has watched affectionately as the church ebbed and flowed to the rhythm of life: Members were born, grew up, moved on and passed away. “There hasn’t been any huge growth in numbers to speak of,” said Everett. “But, we’ve remained a strong, faithful community that supports one another.” He joked that his current administrative assistant was a child when he arrived.
Campbell said that his son, Al, has sometimes accompanied Everett in his favorite pastime: hunting. Said Campbell: “He (Everett) has helped teach my son about being a good sportsman and a person of integrity.”
Everett said that, over the years, he’s “mellowed” from the hard-charging enthusiasm of his youth. “Things that once upset me don’t bother me as much,” he said, adding, “But my belief in the essentials hasn’t changed – things like the infallibility of scripture.”
He said that, like most members, he’s recently been concerned about controversies in other Presbyterian denominations over issues like homosexuality. “We’re all sinners,” he said. He added that the turbulence, however, as it has throughout his ministry, only reminds him of the value of wise counsel. “From the moment I arrived here, I’ve been blessed with a great group of people,” said Everett.
Today Everett and his wife enjoy the familiarity of their surroundings and their five grandchildren. “It’s not exactly Mayberry – but it’s close,” said Everett. He isn’t averse to the idea of retirement – just not immediately.
Members of the church are certainly in no hurry to see him go. “He’s just the ideal pastor,” said Campbell. “A peace-keeper, gentle, conscientious, humble. The length of time he’s been here speaks for itself.”
Everett said that he anticipates – “Lord willing” – finishing his career in New Albany, then, perhaps, pursuing his interest in writing.
Whatever comes to pass, just as he credits the grace of God for his unusually long tenure, Everett remains open. “The Lord brought me here for a reason,” he said. “I just try and follow his will.”