SPRING HILL — When the Rev. Emery Ailes received his doctorate from Drew University in New Jersey in 2012, he thought he was poised to pastor a large church in New York City. Two years later, he found himself preaching under a tent in Spring Hill.
"We did not have Spring Hill, Fla., on our radar at all," Ailes said. "We were led here by the spirit of God."
Ailes and his wife, Regina, had served in churches in New York and New Jersey. When the pastor of a church they attended in Harlem died, Ailes was ready to become the new pastor.
"I had my eyes and my heart set on it," he said. "I was a member of that Baptist association and thought my path had been blazed for me."
But all that was to change when the couple visited Orlando with their granddaughter after Ailes' graduation. They felt a "pull" toward ministering in Florida, Ailes said. After six visits to Florida, they believed God was telling them to settle in Spring Hill and start Pristine Spring Hill Baptist Church as part of the Florida Baptist Convention and the Nature Coast Baptist Association.
"We found a house and closed on it on Oct. 7, 2013," Ailes said. "By the end of that month the Lord had delivered to us a list of 50 children in this area, whose parents were incarcerated, through a program called Angel Tree. It was through that first list of families that God started to lay the foundation of love and charity for Pristine Spring Hill Baptist Church."
The church's first meeting was a joint service with Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church. Gifts were given to the children and their families.
After a month of holding services in a parking lot along Spring Hill Drive, the church began meeting in the conference room of a local restaurant. Later, it meet in the youth center at Hope Community Bible Church.
A year ago, the church "kind of picked up steam," Ailes said, and several families joined. A service at 10:30 a.m. Sunday will celebrate the first anniversary of the church; another at 5 p.m. will be a pastoral installation service.
"It's a good time to celebrate all the Lord has done," Ailes said. "Also, now that we are a church that's been meeting regularly, the installation is the opportunity for pastor and people to publicly covenant that they are coming together as one, similar to a wedding ceremony."
The Rev. Stan Stewart, senior pastor of North Oak Baptist Church in Citrus Springs, a sponsor for the new church, will speak at the morning service.
Ailes is a "pretty cool guy", Stewart said.
"Emery really felt the need to sponsor a new work in the Spring Hill area, because it's such a growing area," he said. "It's a multicultural church, which is good. They reach out to anybody. He has a great desire to preach the Gospel and make Jesus known to people."
The Rev. Jesse T. Williams Jr., senior pastor of the historic Convent Avenue Baptist Church of Harlem in New York City, and the Rev. Fred Hinson, senior pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Hudson, will speak at the installation service.
The church already has been ministering to the community with pancake breakfasts that benefited children and the needy, backpack drives, arts and craft days and a movie night. The next scheduled community event will be a free block party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 21 at Anderson Snow Park, 1360 Anderson Snow Road, Spring Hill.
"We'll come out and bless the community with food and music and a message," Ailes said.
Ailes wants the church to go beyond sharing the Gospel.
"We are here to redeem children and families in crisis for the sake of Jesus Christ," he said. "But we not only want to be a church in the community, but a church of the community. We want to be that anchor, that safe place, that strong tower, that place where people can really find sanctuary and peace. And if there are physical needs, we want to meet those."
In addition to his pastoral duties, Ailes teaches humanities at Pasco-Hernando State College. Regina Ailes volunteers at the Dawn Center, the county's shelter for victims of domestic violence, and oversees the church's women's ministry. She is the proprietor of Traveling Mercies travel agency.
Pristine Spring Hill Baptist has a service at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday in the youth center at Hope Community Bible Church, 13241 Spring Hill Drive. There is Bible study and a prayer meeting at 7 p.m. each Wednesday.