After shepherding the flock at historic New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale for 27 years, the Rev. Dr. Mack King Carter will put down his staff and head to a different pasture.
``I don't like to say I am retiring,'' Carter, 62, said. ``I am just moving on.''
Carter, who began his pastoring days 43 years ago at Calvary Baptist Church near his birthplace in Ocala, will preach his last sermon Sept. 27. He'll greet a church family that has grown from 2,829 members in August 1981, when he came to Mount Olive, to nearly 10,000 members today.
Considered one of the leading African-American pulpiteers and biblical scholars in the U.S., Carter decided to step down after recent battles with cancer and a heart condition.
``I need a time of respite, a time to be healed,'' Carter said.
But the senior pastor, a Davie resident, said he will not retire to such typical activities as fishing, boating or golfing. Instead, the author of four ministerial books including A Catechism for Baptist and To Calvary and Beyond, will spend more time writing and guest speaking.
Carter also looks forward to spending more time with Patricia, his wife of 36 years, and the couple's two daughters and two grandchildren.
Eddie A. Robinson, head of the 91-year-old church's music ministry, said Carter will be missed.
``People have been blessed, lives have been changed since Dr. Carter took the helm 27 years ago,'' Robinson said.
Carter recruited Robinson a decade ago to lead the 130-member church choir, The Voices of Mount Olive. The group has recorded three CDs, travels out of state to perform for other churches, and stages a popular yearly holiday show called A Black Noel.
But Robinson said the community is most blessed by Carter's outreach beyond the church pews.
In 1993, Carter laid out plans for revitalizing African-American communities in his book A Quest for Freedom. Mount Olive Development Corporation, called MODCO, was born from those ideas a year later.
The nonprofit program has since served 41,000 low-income families with needs that range from one-time-only utility payments to housing for families affected by HIV/AIDS.
Job training for former prison inmates, rehabilitation programs for drug and alcohol addicts, food for the hungry, after-school tutoring for kids and activities for the elderly stemmed from Carter's model, said Rosalind Osgood, who heads the Mount Olive Development Corporation.
Nearly $1 million in college scholarships has been distributed to help high school seniors and adult students improve their lives. The program currently has 100 clients, some formerly homeless, approved for new home loans through a partnership with a local bank.
``Our target population is whoever no one else wants to serve,'' Osgood said. ``People who are deemed marginalized.
Osgood said she is proof that Carter's plan works.
While living a life of drug and alcohol abuse during the 1990s, she would occasionally attend Sunday services at New Mount Olive. She said Carter moved her spirit through powerful preaching.
``There is something contagious about Dr. Carter's academic achievement and faith. God used him to speak to me,'' said Osgood, who in 2005, became the church's first ordained female minister to preach in the church pulpit. She now holds five degrees, including a master's of divinity.
Carter said he became aware at age 6 that he was called to minister.
Supported, but not pressured by his parents, he started preaching at 19. His church office wall is filled with honorary and earned degrees, including a doctorate of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Carter said he will miss the congregation, especially the young people.
``I emphasize Christian education through Bible study and help people be literate in faith,'' said Carter. ``We can always look back and say we could have done more. But it's good to also look back and be able to say we've done well.''
Source: Eileen Soler, Miami Herald