Village Chapel Calls New Associate Pastor
A standing ovation was given to Dr. Al Hill by members of The Village Chapel Sunday afternoon, April 13, when the overwhelming vote to officially call him as associate pastor was announced.
Hill preached at all three worship services Sunday and fielded questions later that afternoon from a "packed house" in the Chapel at a special called business meeting. The question-and-answer session was to be followed by a period of congregational discussion.
Instead, one member immediately moved to dispense with that formality and go directly to the vote -- a motion that was enthusiastically seconded by numerous attendees. The vote was taken, the result was overwhelmingly affirmative, and Hill was invited back in to the meeting for the announcement of the result by David Byles, Chair of the Board of Trustees. The congregation rose to its feet with applause while Dr. Larry Ellis, the Chapel's senior pastor, congratulated his new associate.
"In his many years as a Navy chaplain, Al developed a Corps-wide reputation for his integrity, godliness, forthrightness and superb skills as a preacher," says Ellis. "He served in six Navy chapels, including as senior chaplain at Little Creek Amphibious Base, one of the largest and most demanding chapel assignments in the Navy with a congregation in weekly attendance of 1,500. The Village Chapel is blessed that God has made Dr. Hill available and moved upon the hearts of our congregation to call him as our associate minister. I am delighted he has accepted the call."
Hill grew up in Gadsden, Ala., and entered the Naval Academy in 1971. However, after sensing a call to Christian ministry in his second year, he left Annapolis to complete his bachelor's degree near his home and then proceeded to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he earned a master of divinity degree and a doctoral degree in ministry.
While pastor of West Point Baptist Church in Matanzas, Ky., he began sensing that God was calling him to consider Navy chaplaincy as his ministry vocation. He applied for a commission and was accepted as a chaplain candidate in 1978. He and his wife, Joanne, went to Newport, R.I., where he attended the Navy Chaplain Basic Course, and then to Norfolk, Va., where he served as pastor of First View Baptist Church. In the fall of 1980, he accepted a call to active duty as a Navy chaplain. He will complete 28 years of service with his retirement this summer.
Hill says a number of things excite him about coming to the Chapel.
"I'm excited about the excitement the members feel and express about their church," he says. "I sense not only a great pride in its history, but a tremendous enthusiasm for what the Chapel is now and for what it is poised to become."
He also looks forward to working with Senior Pastor Larry Ellis, whose ministry he has been acquainted with for a number of years.
He says he is encouraged about leading worship for people "who take worship seriously, and about preaching and teaching God's word to those who are eager to learn what the Bible says and means, who are eager to grapple with the issues of faith and the Christian life."
Hill has a contagious sense of humor and self-effacing manner that have been evident on each of his visits to the Chapel. When the question-and-answer time was about to start, he smiled, pulled a small hour-glass egg timer out of his pocket and placed it on the podium to remind himself to keep his comments brief and to the point.
A move to Pinehurst will, he says, allow him to trade his daily (Tidewater Virginia) commute for ours, help him learn to play "a less embarrassing round of golf," and (as a retiring naval officer) "have the decision about what to wear each morning require some real thought for a change!"
A voracious reader of history, Bible commentaries, the sermons of great preachers and mystery novels, Hill also likes to listen to classical music, and sing religious and folk songs with friends. He enjoys British comedies and mysteries, classic movies and documentaries, but says he has to check the sports scores in the paper because he "gets too worked up to be good company if I watch sports on TV."
He also spends time doing genealogical research both on the Internet and on the road, visiting court houses and old cemeteries to add concrete detail and resolve conflicts in information.
Hill and his wife, Joanne, celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary in early April. They are the parents of one daughter, Meredith, who is married and living in Virginia Beach.
Joanne Hill has taught Sunday School classes for much of the last 20 years, including classes for teenagers, young adults, and older women.
She has served as a group discussion leader and class administrator for Bible Study Fellowship, a national interdenominational study program, which allowed her to work with and minister to women of all ages from various denominational backgrounds.
Hill will officially begin his ministry as associate pastor Sunday, June 1. He is also participating in worship leadership at the Chapel the last three Sundays in May while he and his wife are making their transition from Chesapeake, Va., to the Pinehurst area.
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