BROOKSVILLE — Six years ago, Ward Hall thought he would give retirement a try. Now the 69-year-old minister is back in the pulpit as the full-time pastor of Faith Fellowship Church, north of Brooksville.
"I don't think a preacher can ever retire," Hall said. "I tried and found out you sure can't."
Hall was unanimously called to the pastorate of the church in October, after the previous pastor, Tom Dickson, suffered a massive stroke, which paralyzed his right side and left him unable to speak.
When a board member at Faith found out that Hall was a retired pastor, he asked him to preach the Sunday morning sermons until Dickson recovered. When it was learned that Dickson, 88, was unlikely to preach again, the board asked Hall to stay.
Frank Bibber, president of the church board, has been happy with the decision.
"We felt the spirit in there the first time he came in and preached to us," Bibber said. "The church came alive."
Hall also bolstered the monthly gospel sings hosted by the church.
"Thelma (Hall's wife) plays the piano," Bibber said. "Pastor Hall plays the piano, the guitar, and they both sing. You just can feel the different spirit in there now."
Bibber said church attendance has increased, and, despite the sadness of losing Dickson, the congregation is happy with Hall.
Prior to his retirement, Hall pastored Forest Hills Church of the Nazarene in Tampa for 21 years.
Reared as a Quaker on two Pennsylvania dairy farms, Hall received his education at Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs, Colo. He began his ministry by serving as the music director at two churches. By then, Hall had married Thelma, and the couple had two small daughters.
After pastoring churches in Colorado and Ohio and serving as a chaplain for an Ohio police department — and receiving training as a law enforcement officer — Hall was called to a church in North Carolina. He pastored a church in Ohio for three years before moving his family to Florida in 1986 to accept the pastorate in Tampa. Hall continued his education in Tampa, receiving a master's degree in theology in 1997 from Faith Theological Seminary.
It wasn't long after he retired from his Tampa church and moved to Hernando County that Hall began looking again for places to minister. He served, and continues to serve, as a chaplain for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. He also preaches at assisted living facilities, nursing homes and the Hernando County Detention Center. He counsels police officers and teaches Bible studies.
"I'd been asking God to use me in a fuller sense, so when this came up, I said, 'Lord, you're going to have to give me a good vote if this is from you.' So I told them to go ahead and vote. They have 12 board members, and they gave me a unanimous call. So at that point I said I can't back out of this because that would be foolish. I asked God to prove the point, and he did."
Some of Hall's teachings are new to the church, which has been independent and not affiliated with any particular denomination.
"I just tell them I believe in all the gifts that God has given us and that they are essential," Hall said, noting that he also leans toward the Arminian teachings of John and Charles Wesley, who are credited with founding the Methodist movement.
His preaching, he said, is "anointed" and "comes straight from the Bible."
"I do not write my sermons," he explained. "I study very thoroughly every chance I get, and then I commit it to the Lord. When I preach under the anointing, I feel like I've worked an eight-hour job by the time I'm done. Sometimes I break out in a sweat."
Hall has worked up a sweat with the physical labor he has put into the church as well. He and other men have cut down about 20 trees, raked leaves and planted grass. They have cleaned debris from the roof in anticipation of putting on a new one and pressure washed the buildings. He hopes they will soon have the money to rent a bucket truck to rid the property of dead trees.
He also wants to make changes within the church.
"I told them our church is not healthy because we don't have the teenagers and children that we need," Hall said, noting that the congregation is mainly seniors. "That's what we need to be working at because that's tomorrow's church."