Jay Huddleston, First Baptist Church of New Port Richey's new pastor, remembers the moment God confirmed his call to ministry.
As a dentistry school student torn between healing and preaching, Huddleston observed a dental surgery.
"I fainted in the middle of the procedure," Huddleston said. "When I came to from the smelling salts, a dentist I'd been talking to about my interests said, 'Ladies and gentleman, I think we've just ordained a Baptist preacher.' "
Huddleston hung up his white coat, enrolled in the seminary and never looked back.
Huddleston, 57, comes to New Port Richey from First Baptist of Cary in North Carolina. Prior to his service there, he and his wife, Shirley, led a church they planted in Jacksonville for 20 years.
First Baptist of New Port Richey spent nearly two years searching for its new pastor. The congregation accepted resumes and held multiple interviews. The search committee welcomed Huddleston, who follows a Scripture-based preaching style, on July 2.
"I think there is a real vacuum in American worship and at the pulpits today as it pertains to simply proclaiming the word of God," Huddleston said. "I take the simple stories of Jesus and the writers of the Bible and exalt them without losing the focus."
Huddleston said he appreciates efforts by churches to do new things, but thinks the cultural shift sometimes results in missing the point. He values evangelism, discipleship and missions most in his ministry. He has preached throughout the United States and in Southeast Asia, Africa and Puerto Rico. Wherever he travels and whomever he speaks to, the message remains the same, he said.
The congregation of First Baptist of New Port Richey includes many mutli-generational and extended families. The church offers children's and youth ministries, adult study groups and a full music ministry. At 5 p.m. each Wednesday, the church serves a $5 dinner.
"The congregation is full of the most gracious and loving people," Huddleston said. "They have made us feel so welcome and showered us with love. They have offered to help us in any way they can."
Huddleston invites everyone to check out the church. Services times are at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays. Wednesday night services are at 6, after the $5 dinner.
The church is at 6800 Trouble Creek Road, New Port Richey. For information, visit fbcnpr.com.