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St. Albans minister ready for retirement ... sort of

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Jerry Alderson was 29 when he inquired about the position of preacher at Park Avenue Church of Christ.

At the time, the St. Albans native was serving a church in Memphis, Tenn., and working on a graduate degree.

When he learned the post in Charleston was his, he figured he would be there a short time, just as he had been at other churches he served in Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Franklin, Ky.

Alderson ended up spending 42 years in the same spot.

"I never thought I would be here that long," said Alderson, 72. "I was excited when I had been here three years. I just kept going. It seemed natural to me. A time or two someone inquired if I would be interested in moving. I was comfortable here."

Alderson is going to retire from his post of minister, but will remain part of the church family serving as an elder and continuing with his talk radio show at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday on WCHS. His best friend, Steve Fox, will take his place - in this denomination, the church leader is known as minister or preacher. Fox, a former associate at Park Avenue Church of Christ, recently served as minister at Kanawha City Church of Christ.

Alderson said it's been a role he knew he wanted to fill since he was a teenager.

"I grew up in St. Albans," he said. "My dad left my mother when I was very young. My mother and I lived with my grandparents. My aunt lived there, too. There were five of us."

His grandmother cleaned the church next to their home. He was in junior high when he would go along with her and spend his time reading books in the church library.

"From that time on, I never thought I would do anything else," he said of going into the ministry.

After graduating from St. Albans High, he earned an undergraduate degree from Lipscomb University in Nashville and a master's from Harding School of Theology in Memphis.

In 1962, he married Sandra Ellis Alderson, who was also a graduate of St. Albans High.

"I was 21 and she was 20," he said. "We just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. We've always been content."

They have two grown children and three grandchildren with a fourth on the way.  

Their daughter and son-in-law, Deborah and Larry Butler of Atlanta, are the parents of Jean-Ann, 24, and 20-month-old twins, Beau and Belle. Their son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Rachel Alderson, live in Nashville, and have a baby girl on the way.

Alderson figures that during his time in ministry, he has delivered more than 3,800 sermons. He has lost track of the number of baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Moving away from the role of full-time ministry means he and his wife will have more time to visit family and to pursue her interest of traveling the state to do historical research on the Church of Christ.

Alderson, who concedes he has not done the best job of staying fit, said he and his wife have also joined a gym.

He figures he can also spend some time with that model railroad collection in his garage.

And when church is in session, he will be in the congregation.

"I'm very comfortable listening to Steve preach," he said. "I will be around here doing stuff, not because I have to, but because it has become a natural part of me."

Park Avenue Church of Christ is located at the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street on Charleston's West Side. Sunday worship is 9:45 a.m. followed by Bible study. Evening service is 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Bible study is 7 p.m. Wednesday. The telephone number at the church is 304-343-8240.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@daily or 304-348-1246.


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