MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – After more than half a century, a northest Arkansas pastor has finally decided to give up preaching the word and focus on retirement; however, retirement came well beyond his "golden years."
Dr. Rev. Grover C. Simpson retired March 4 at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Marked Tree at 103-years-old. Simpson said the decision was difficult, but necessary due to his physical health.
"My health and my age prohibit me from doing the work of a pastor," said Simpson, whose mind hasn't waned. "I dreamed I went to my own funeral. God was telling me I was going to have a long life. I'm sitting here today 103 plus about 4, 5, 6 months. And you know what, I feel pretty good. I feel pretty good."
Today, Simpson is confined to his home in Marked Tree, where he lives with his wife, Ruth, a retired school teacher. Simpson said his long life in the ministry has enabled him to touch many lives and develop a relationship with his savior.
"I feel kind of fun after pastoring one church 66 years and another one 56. I feel kind of fun," said Simpson. "I did like Paul. I looked back over my past life. I came to a conclusion. I built three churches under my pastoral era, paid for them. I've taken in thousands of people at church, and when I looked over my past life, I came to a conclusion. I fought a good fight. I'm ready to retire."
Simpson said he started attending church in 1921 in Saulsberry, Tennessee. In 1940, he said he was called into the ministry.
"As a 13-year-old boy I could be walking the dusty roads of Tennessee, and just the word preach would pop in my mind so strong. I'd find myself standing looking up to see where the voice came from," recalled Simpson. "At the age of 34, I just got worried. I knew something was going to happen to me, but I didn't know what it was."
"I remember well that Tuesday night I went to bed. I asked God whatever it was going to happen to me to let me know in a way that I could understand."
Simpson paused, and stated an angel talked to him that night.
"(He said) you go tell them I have sent you to preach, and I jumped up in the bed. I said, Lord, what done happen to me?"
Simpson said he preached his first sermon in Jericho, Arkansas at Lake Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a small church in a thicket of farmland.
"It is such a blessing to be born in God's family. To be able to talk to God like you would talk to your earthly father," said Simpson.
Simpson said he would advise leaders of his church family on what to do until he passes on. He said ministering was one of the great joys of his life.
"The church needs advise and (they can) come to me. I'll give them that, and that's all. I know God. I know what God desires," said Simpson. "I advised the church now, each church goes full time every Sunday. Get full time preachers and give God full time."
Parishioners Remember Simpson's Sermons
Oscar Grant was a wide-eyed college student when he first met Dr. Simpson. Grant, a longtime member of St. John Missionary Baptist, said his whole family was raised in the church under Simpson's leadership.
"I met Dr. Simpson about 1956. At the time, I was in college and I came home. Of course, he was pastor when I came home from college," said Grant. "He's been a firm visionary leader of not only this church, but the entire community. That's what stands out most of all in my mind."
Grant said he hopes to have Simpson back at the altar when he feels physically able to speak.
"We wish him well in his retirement and going to get him back once in a while when he feels like bringing us one of those dynamic messages that he brings," said Grant.
"He is a person who can talk to any age level and my being a teenager, I really felt a fatherly figure," said Martha Ann Swift. "He could quote scriptures that were to your understanding of what your problem (was) or your happenings (or) whatever was. He could just come out with a scripture."
Swift said she was a little girl when she met Simpson. She said he stood out among the various preachers in her neighborhood.
"It's been inspiring all the way. I guess it's because I know no other minister that's very close to me. I loved his speaking, his truthfulness and his strength," said Swift. "He was concerned about us. He called (us) the St. John family and we felt like family."