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By Matt Overing
Clellan Hays remembers his first sermon.
"Mother's Day. May 13, 1984," Hays said.
That was more than 30 years ago, and Hays, 63, is still preaching. He was a founding member of Grace Baptist Church, and he says his message hasn't changed over the years.
"I'm a biblical preacher," Hays said. "I haven't changed my message and the message hasn't changed. It's still about Jesus Christ."
Hays said the church has stuck to its traditional roots, playing the piano and singing traditional hymns every Sunday. He said the methods may change, but the message remains the same.
"I've been very lucky, my congregation has supported me throughout the years," Hays said. "Behind every successful pastor and ministry there is a good wife, a good family and a good congregation."
Hays said it's unique being at a church for so long, and said he benefits from knowing the families well.
"I've seen people that have gotten saved when they were 10 years old, now 30 years later, their kids are 10 years old and getting baptized," Hays said. "Not long ago I baptized a girl and remembered that I baptized her mother."
In 2009, Hays retired as the postmaster in Gravel Switch. He said he has been able to focus more time on being a pastor since.
"Being a pastor isn't 8-4 work," Hays said. "You can get called to the hospital whenever. You can't pick the time for a funeral, they just happen. Ministry is a 24/7 job."
Hays said Sundays are draining, as are funerals. But he loves what he does.
"I've done about 250-300 funerals," Hays said. That seems like quite a few, but all of it is joyful work. You hate to do a funeral because of the occasion, but it's ministry to that family."
Hays said he doesn't have any plans for ending his ministry. He still enjoys what he does.
"I've been lucky. I've never been asked to resign," Hays said. "Someone told me, 'They either love you or you're a dictator.' As long as they want me to be here, I'll be here. I've been blessed with this congregation, staying with me for all these years."