More than 70 vehicles lined up, most displaying homemade signs and posters and filled with families and individuals wanting to bid their longtime pastor farewell Sunday, May 31.
Pastor Bob Hines and his wife, Pat, stood outside in front of Oakland Presbyterian Church for the goodbye parade, which took place in lieu of a proper retirement celebration because of social-distancing measures.
His goodbye message was delivered virtually.
For 19 years, Hines has shared the word of God from the pulpit and performed baptisms, weddings and funerals. He has been present for nearly 20 years of programs put on by the children of the church preschool, and he was there to witness the church celebrate its monumental 125th anniversary.
“That was a lot of fun,” Hines said. “We did a lot of things through the year to mark the occasion. We had a big dinner, but we did a few other things to mark the history of the church, which was founded in 1887.”
Hines said the church has grown tremendously under his leadership; about 350 people have become members of the church during his ministry.
He is proud of the preschool, which was started under his ministry. Other programs established during Hines’ leadership include the Upward basketball program, flag football and cheerleading.
The church’s gymnasium opened just as he arrived at the church, and one of his first tasks was to go through the punch list of last-minute issues that needed attention. Hines was pleased to announce the church was able to pay off the debt on the gym.
Some of Hines’ fondest memories are of the annual Boar’s Head Pageant the church hosted for five years at Christmastime. It took about 100 church members to make the elaborate dinner and show a reality.
In his final message last month, Hines gave a regular sermon with words of encouragement.
“In just a few words, I encouraged people to trust God — in the pandemic, in the change, on whatever’s going on in your life,” he said.
The church’s organist and music director performed a couple numbers Hines requested.
“Several people printed pictures of the members of the congregation and taped them to the pews so that I preached to a pretty full crowd that day,” he said. “We’ve been live since we shut down. We’ve been doing our regular church service but (with) nobody there. I’ve had to learn to preach into the camera.”
Following his final sermon, Hines and his wife walked outside to accept the well wishes of their church community.
Nineteen years at one church is quite an accomplishment, but Hines said he and his wife loved the community and the church so much they never thought of leaving.
“There was no reason; I wasn’t looking to move on to something bigger and better,” he said. “And we liked Oakland to finish our ministry.”
As rewarding as his nearly two decades of pastoring in Oakland were, Hines admitted he is enjoying having no responsibilities.
He does, however, have his retirement plans laid out. On his Facebook page, Hines posted a photo of some of his upcoming activities that will involve a paint brush, camera, harmonica, and “Hamilton” and “Birds of Florida” books.
The Hineses are eager to travel but are waiting until the pandemic settles down, he said. They want to visit family.
“In the meantime, we love living in Florida, because there’s so many things to do with the beaches and the theme parks,” he said.
The Hineses intend to remain in the home they built in Oakland.
“We loved our time here, and we know that God has good things in store for the church,” Hines said.
Paige McRight is serving as interim pastor until the congregation can elect a committee to begin the search for a new pastor.