By Kelcey Caulder
Members of Calvary Baptist Church and the community of Madison gathered together for a celebratory dinner on Sunday, August 2 to thank Reverend Hoke Smith for his twenty-seven years of service to Christ. Mary Winder, a long-time member at Calvary Baptist and friend of Reverend Smith for twenty-six years, said that the church owed much of what they have accomplished over the years to his service and dedication.
“He has really empowered me in my life in so many ways – with his teaching, prayers, and love. He is just a great man. I am sick now, on walkers, and he always comes to see me at the hospital and at my house,” Winder said. “He always prays for me and brings me things that I need. He is just a great man.” “I admire him for being such an honest person. He tells you what you need to know. He doesn’t care if it makes you feel good. He tells you the truth about yourself. He don’t get up there and say things to keep you from getting mad. He tells you the truth,” she continued. “I admire that so very much about him. He will let you know exactly how it is. He isn’t going to uphold you in your wrongdoing. He will let you know you’re doing wrong. He won’t sugar coat it. I really admire that about him. He’s a very honest pastor. We are lucky to have him.”
Before becoming pastor at the church Smith attended school at Emory University where he was selected as a Future Leader of Georgia in the School of Theology. It was because of this honor that he was able to take a journey through the Biblical areas of the Middle East – a trip that Smith says was very inspiring. “My experience was so profound during my sabbatical as a Future Leader of Georgia that I wanted to go everywhere in the Biblical Middle East. I complete my travels across those areas in 2006,” he said. “Basically, if you have read about it I have walked in the vicinity of that area – Italy, Greece, Rome, Turkey… I’ve been where the seven churches were and I’ve seen areas from Paul’s journey.” It was a year after returning from this trip that Smith was called to Calvary. “I was working for Pattillo Construction and when the church had a vacancy the people I was working for told me to go and see if I could get the position. I interviewed after preaching twice and they called me to be the pastor after that,” Smith said.
As pastor of the church Smith has implemented many changes including the starting of Wednesday night Bible studies, tithing, weekly Sunday services, and has even overseen the construction of the church’s educational building. Many members of the church feel that this has greatly changed their lives. “I have learned so much about the Bible from him. I have learned so much about how to really live. Before him, we never had a Bible class. He started that Wednesday night class and I’ve learned so much from him during those classes. I’ve learned more than I ever have about the Bible from him. He has really changed my life. There was so much I didn’t know that I know that I know now,” Winder said. “We are all so thankful for him.”
Despite these many accomplishments, Smith says it is not those successes that make him the happiest. Instead, he is most proud of the lives he has been able to help lead to Christ and the successes of the many young people who have met God under his guidance. “I guess one of the things I am the proudest of would be the youth. Out of that, we have seen so many successful people become doctors, air traffic control personnel, teachers… One year, we had the Valedictorian of the high school in our group. I’m definitely proud of that. They are all people who have really implanted the Word of God into their hearts and minds,” Smith said. “They’ve moved onto higher purposes in life. I’m so proud… seeing people that my wife and I taught succeed and become so successful. So many beautiful success stories.” Smith, who seems excited about the anniversary gathering as a time to have fellowship with his church, wanted to give thanks to the community for their help during his time in Madison.
“I thank everybody for the love and community that they’ve shown me – in the church and in the county. Morgan and Madison for the support they have given me and the church,” he said. “I want them to know from the bottom of my heart that I love them.”