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Departing pastor pledges, ‘A part of me will stay’
The Rev. William Shackleford Sr. addresses more than 300 people at a reception in his honor Saturday afternoon at the Dutch Inn. He assured them that although he is retiring and leaving the area, “I will leave a part of myself here.” (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
When the Rev. William Shackleford Sr. retires and moves from the area, a part of him will remain in Martinsville and Henry County.
“Literally, I will leave a part of myself here. A part of me will stay,” said Shackleford, who has been the pastor at St. Paul High Street Baptist Church for 27 years.
“We love you. We thank God for the privilege of being here, and ... you will always be in my heart, a special place in my heart,” he added.
Shackleford, 65, is retiring today and plans to move back to Hampton, where he was raised.
“But I’m not going back to sit down,” he assured more than 300 people who attended a reception in his honor at the Dutch Inn in Collinsville on Saturday. He added that he will stay busy promoting the two books he has written: “The Sin That Will Keep Many People Out of Heaven” and “Replacing the Fallen Angels.”
Shackleford has been active throughout the community. He is a member of the Boys and Girls Club of the Blue Ridge Board and is chairman of its Planning and Programs subcommittee. He is an Advisory Council member of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministries, a past president and current chairman of the board of the Baptist Sunday School and B.T.U. Congress of Virginia, where he is a staff instructor. He also is past president of the Virginia One Church One Child Minority Adoption Program, and he served on the Martinsville School Board and was its first black chairman.
His wife, Rebecca Shackleford, was secretary at the church, said, “when I look around this room after 27 years, everyone in this room I think” could be called a friend. “God has allowed us to get to know you personally.”
“It’s been a blessing for me to have been a part of this community. We will be leaving friends” when they leave the area, she said.
The Shacklefords’ daughter, Minister Kristal Shackleford, said her father’s retirement is “bittersweet for the family. ... When we came to Martinsville 27 years ago, I was but a mere chap.”
At the time, “I didn’t even know what chaps were,” she quipped, and added that she later learned chaps were children.
Often Kristal Shackleford said she wondered “what in the world is this place” after moving to Martinsville. “But soon we began to get that warm, fuzzy feeling” after meeting members of the congregation of St. Paul High Street Baptist Church, she said.
Now, she said she is nearing age 40 and her brother, William Shackleford Jr., is 35.
“Has it always been easy? No, it has not,” she said. “My father and my mother have always been there for the people” of the church. “God’s work was what” her father “was all about.”
The Rev. Thurman Echols of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church was the guest speaker at the event.
“It is good when a pastor and a people can work harmoniously together” as Shackleford and his congregation have done, Echols said.
Echols recalled reading an opinion written about the leadership exemplified by Pope Benedict and his upcoming retirement.
“Too many of us stay too long” in a position, Echols said. “We think the position belongs to us” but “God always has someone to lead his people.”
“Life is like a play. There are different acts and different scenes,” he said. “We have got to know when our time” in a position is over.
He cautioned Shackleford not to look back.
“Look to the future. There is no where in the holy word that says God has a retirement plan,” Echols said. Rather, God “has something else in store for” Shackleford.
“Be faithful to the end,” Echols told Shackleford. “Thank God for these 27 years. Nobody has kept you but the Lord ... Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”