Natchez man elected First Baptist pastor
By Melanie B. Smith
A Mississippi native, most recently pastor in Natchez, is the new pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur.
The congregation elected the Rev. Judson W. “Bill” Hurt, 46, after he preached in its Sunday morning worship service. The church also greeted him and heard him speak at a reception Saturday.
Hurt has served First Baptist Church, Natchez, for 61/2 years and was flying back to resign Sunday evening. He grew up in Cleveland, Miss., where his father was a pastor for 26 years.
He and his wife, Tommi Jo, have two daughters, Laura Jo, 19, a sophomore at Mississippi College, and Melanie, 16, a high school junior
Hurt earned a doctor of ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1999. He also earned a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a bachelor’s degree in education from Mississippi College in Clinton.
Hurt said he believes God opened doors for the position because he had no interest in moving, especially with a daughter in high school. His mother recently moved into a nursing home in Natchez. He said he had not even heard of Decatur before.
“I believe the only reason I’m here is the will of God,” he said.
He said the church’s former pastor, the Rev. Buddy Champion, and other staff have done a great job, and First Baptist is “vibrant and alive.”
He said his first Sunday is likely to be July 8.
First Baptist, which has stayed in its original neighborhood in Old Decatur and expanded there, is one of the city’s largest churches.
It added 1,000 people and had 385 baptisms during Champion’s nine years, reaching a membership of 1,879. Champion left in August to become pastor of Trussville First Baptist Church. The Rev. Charles Carter has been interim pastor.
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