Pastor Morris to retire from First Baptist Church
After nearly 20 years of serving as the senior pastor at New Richmond's First Baptist Church, pastor Kevin Morris will be celebrated on Sunday, June 25, as he enters retirement.
"My time here has been very good. I have had a tremendously supportive congregation," Morris said. "Like any church family, we have gone through many things over our 20 years. There have been many national crises and transitions in our community, including a lot of people who have passed away....I've gone through many personal challenges myself in that time and the church has been very supportive through all of it."
Morris came to New Richmond at the beginning of 1998, following 13 years of service at the Old Bridge Baptist Church in East Brunswick, N.J.
"It came to a point where I felt like I had done what I could there with my talents and gifts, and it would be better for that church to find new leadership to take them in whatever direction that new leader would feel they needed to go," Morris said. "I sent out my resumes and had a couple interviews with a few churches out East, but they were looking for more of a CEO-type pastor and, although I think I have a few management skills, that isn't my wheelhouse. I've always been most comfortable with the idea, or concept, of a pastor being a shepherd."
All church members, as well as the community, are invited to celebrate Morris' retirement starting with a 9 a.m. morning worship service on June 25, which will include a special celebration and remembrance of his ministry at First Baptist. An open house reception for family, friends and the community will be held from 2-5 p.m. with light refreshments provided.
"I still plan to live in New Richmond after retirement. I really like the community and I certainly identify this community as my home," Morris said. "The volunteer work I do is something I'm going to keep doing after I retire."
Morris is active in the community, volunteering at Five Loaves Food Shelf and serving on the Salvation Army advisory board. But the volunteer work he enjoys most is working as part of the Chaplain Corps for the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department and Highway Patrol.
"I really enjoy the police chaplaincy work a lot. I would like to become as available to deputies and officers as I can be, maybe even a little more so," Morris said. "I've learned that there are a lot of similarities, as strange as it may sound, between dynamics of police work and pastoral work. The frequency of being in the middle of crisis. The frequency of being with people who have suffered loss. The inevitable challenge to avoid burnout. Police experience those things, obviously in a much more high pressure environment, but there are a lot of similar things that pastors experience, too.
"It just seemed that some of the things that pastors learn over the years can end up providing, or being an asset, to law enforcement personnel as well. Both assisting with the general public and also assisting with how law enforcement personnel cope with their jobs as well."
Another opportunity Morris will be looking into is working with an author who is part of the First Baptist congregation on putting some of his sermon series together into book form.
"That would be very different for me. There are similarities between writing sermons and writing a book, but it is still very different," Morris said. "I am looking forward to working with her on the concept. She will have to be very patient with me, because as familiar as I am with research and putting together sermons, the idea of working on a book is new territory for me."
The thing that Morris will miss the most is studying the Bible and trying to present to the congregation, in a teaching or preaching format, the things it seems God is trying to say in His word. And although he will no longer be the senior pastor at First Baptist, Morris knows that the friendships he has made over the last two decades will continue after he retires.
"When you have been in a place for 20 years, the folks in the congregation become your good friends," Morris said. "I'm leaving my active involvement here, but I'm not leaving the community or saying goodbye to all these friendships. I'm looking forward to having a new relationship with the First Baptist Church."
Like father, like son
Although Morris will be leaving First Baptist Church, that doesn't mean a Morris won't be leading the congregation going forward. According to Morris, his son, Craig Morris, will be taking over for his father starting July 1.
"Who would have ever guessed that my son would end up being the next pastor here, " Morris said. "The whole journey with the Lord has been a bit of a big mystery to me. I've never been able to figure out anything. I'm confident in what I believe about Him and the scriptures, but the twists and the turns and the way that He works has always been much more known to him than to me. "
About a year and a half ago, Morris let the church know that he was looking to retire.
"I just really felt that the Lord was giving me a sense of release from this senior pastor ministry and a personal sense of completing what He wanted me to do," Morris said. "I thought, at that time, that it would be good for the church to begin a search for new leadership."
Early in the process, Craig — who was serving a church in Florida at the time — put his name in for the position. However, after some initial conversations, Craig felt like, at that point, the position wasn't something the Lord wanted him to pursue.
"The search committee went through many resumes and candidates, and had some second or third interviews with folks, but God just didn't bring anything together," Morris said. "Just a few months ago, my son felt like God prompted him to re-submit his interest for the position and things just seemed to come together very quickly from there.
"Although I will still be living in the area, I want to make sure I'm giving Craig enough space to chart his own course. I look forward to supporting him."