Saturday marked the end of more than 40 years of church leadership for Rev Anthony Walker (65), pastor of Spalding Baptist Church.
Mr Walker and his wife Doreen have spent almost 25 years of that time in Spalding and to celebrate their retirement, family, friends, church members and other church leaders from the town jolned in with a day of events at the Baptist church in Swan Street.
“We came to Spalding with fresh ideas and enthusiasm which were gently introduced,” Mr Walker said.
“But we didn’t expect to be here so long and when we stand back and look from where things were to where they are now, there’s been quite a dramatic change.
“I always remember someone saying ‘run to the tape’ and there hasn’t been any opportunity for us to slow down because the church has been at full pelt.
“We both feel like we’re jumping off a moving train but Spalding Baptist Church is a church very much geared up for anything and everything.”
The Walkers, who have three children and two granddchildren, joined Spalding Baptist Church in April 1990 and during their ministry, the church underwent a £173,000 modernisation in 2005 and initiatives such as Messy Church were introduced.
Mrs Walker said: “It’s been 25 years since Anthony first came to preach at Spalding Baptist Church and we’ve had a fantastic time living here.
“We came to Spalding with a young family and the Lord has been so awesome in His kindness and love towards us.
“Now we have a grown family, rather than a young one, so life has been really good to us.”
There was a surprise for the Walkers during Sunday’s farewell service when the church organised a live link-up with their younger son Grahame and daughter-in-law Nicole in Perth, Australia.
The Walkers plan to move to Birmingham to be nearer to their daughter Melissa and other son Stephen as well as being able to enjoy concerts by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company based in Stratford-upon Avon.
Mr Walker said: “A big chunk of our lives has been spent in Spalding, so we’re very excited about the prospect of going to Birmingham.
“But it’ll be a wrench to leave because there’s something enduring about this area, the churches working together, a sympathetic MP (John Hayes), the community feel and gentleness of the area.
“I’ve also been involved in some of the deepest experiences of a person’s life - the death of a loved one, the birth of a baby, weddings and other moments that bond you very tightly to the church family.
“There’ll always be the fondest of memories for us of Spalding, but it’s right to pass the baton to younger men and we feel that Spalding Baptist Church is in a good place to go forward into all that the future holds.”
Rev Dianne Tidball, regional minister for the East Midlands Baptist Association and a guest at Spalding Baptist Church on Sunday, said: “It was my pleasure to be involved in the celebrations at Spalding Baptist Church and the conclusion of the fruitful and happy ministry of Rev Anthony Walker and his wife Doreen.
“It is to Anthony credit that for over 24 years, under God, he has steered the church through the choppy waters of social change and different perspectives.
“Anthony has been a loving and kind pastor, with a clear leadership that has not compromised on things that matter.
“His ministry has been fruitful with a growing church, many baptisms and new members.
“Both Anthony and Doreen will be greatly missed as they have served with kindness and love all who have crossed their paths.”
Rev John Bennett, vicar of St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, said: “I have enjoyed working with Rev Anthony Walker and I have especially appreciated the depth of his knowledge and wisdom.
“I pray that Anthony and Doreen will enjoy being part of a church near their new home where, with fewer responsibilities, their gifts can continue to be valued.”