When Dr. John Hedgepeth came to Northwood Temple in 1968, it was only supposed to a two-year appointment by the local conference of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. And Northwood Temple is where he’s remained for 50 years. On Sunday, Aug. 12, the church will hold a day of celebration in recognition of Hedgepeth’s years of service.
“Like the old song said, just one day at a time,’’ Hedgepeth said. “That’s where I’ve been all my life since August of 1968.’’
There will be no Sunday School that morning, just a 10:30 a.m. worship service honoring Hedgepeth’s unprecedented tenure at the church.
The guest speaker will be Dr. A.D. Beecham Jr., general superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The celebration will continue at
5 p.m. with a banquet in the church’s Family Life Center gymnasium. Hedgepeth said he never dreamed in the summer of 1968 he’d stay at Northwood for 50 years.
He said the congregation is made up of really great people.
“You go to a place and you minister with all your heart to the people that are there,’’ he said. “If you have a ministry, that is your testament, it doesn’t stay static. It always keeps changing. Like it says in Acts, the Lord added daily to the church.’’
Hedgepeth said a focus of his ministry from the start has been reaching out to people in time of need, especially when they are facing problems with their health.
“They are looking for someone to love them and care for them,’’ he said, “someone that will lay hands on them and go to the hospital when they are sick, rather than saying if you need me, call me.’’
Under Hedgepeth’s leadership, Northwood has also become a focal point for mission work. He describes what the church has done by paraphrasing the scripture passage Acts 1:8, which called on the apostles of Jesus Christ to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
“Jerusalem is your local people,’’ Hedgepeth said. “Judea, that’s your counties and state.’’
He said Samaria referred to Samaritans, an unwanted people in the time of Christ. “We reached out to everybody,’’ he said.
If you visit Northwood today, you will see flags of 54 nations displayed. They represent the countries around the world where the church’s members call home.
“My people have always had a heart to reach out to every race,’’ he said.
And they’ve done it in ways other than just welcoming people to the congregation. Northwood’s Church On The Street program delivers meals to the local homeless.
The church has sent mission teams to Mexico, Africa, the Dominican Republic and the Kuna Islands off Panama. They’ve been to Nicaragua over 20 times.
“We helped build schools, built churches,’’ Hedgepeth said. “People got saved and healed. We can’t stop.’’
Hedgepeth gives much of the credit for the success of his ministry at Northwood to his wife of 55 years, the former Fay Bullard.
“I owe her everything,’’ he said. “She settled me down and made me think right. She taught me ways to do things I didn’t know because of her brilliance.’’
He also praised the staff at Northwood, especially minister of music Buck Hodge, who has been with Hedgepeth almost 50 years.
Hedgepeth is willing to talk at length about almost any subject, but there are two areas where he’s not that vocal. One is his age and the other is the subject of retirement.
“I never tell anybody my age,’’ he said. “Age puts limits on you now.’’
Hedgepeth is a firm believer in the philosophy of motivation. Nothing stands still, he said. It either goes backward or forward.
He said he’s never read of anyone in the Bible that retired, not even Moses.
“I really believe when you come to a place in life when you don’t want any more souls, when you don’t want to go to any more hospitals, when you don’t want to do any more weddings or attend a funeral, when you don’t have to worry about any more mountains to conquer, you don’t have to worry about being dead,’’ he said. “You’re already dead.
“I really believe you’ve got to go get them. I might not get them as much as I used to, but man, I’m moving forward.’’
Seating is limited for the event, and tickets are available at $8 a person. For reservations, call 910-488-7474.
Photo: Rev. John Hedgepeth and wife Fay