PALMETTO -- After four months at the helm of First Baptist Church of Palmetto, senior Pastor Phillip Hamm is impressed by his new surroundings.
Living just minutes from the beach is big with his family.
The eight years Hamm pastored in Garner, N.C., they loved vacationing on North Carolina’s eastern shore.
Hamm digs the fishing here, too.
“It’s incredible,” said the 36-year-old father of three. “Up there it was freshwater, here it’s saltwater. If it bites, I want to catch it.”
The Colonial Heights, Va., native is taken as well by his new ministry as senior pastor of a church whose roots reach back to 1892.
“There’s a lot of history here and this church is moving in the right direction,” Hamm said. “I’m joining what God is already doing.”
The First Baptist Church of Palmetto and its congregation of 2,300 had been without a senior pastor for three years and its 25th emerged after an exhaustive search.
“We feel a man is called to the position and he came forth like God’s man for the job,” said Deacon Louis Thomas, 74, a lifelong member. “It took us three years to be in position to welcome a pastor. We went through some changes and we grew spiritually because of the issues.
“I look forward to ministering under his leadership.”
Hamm is fully aware of that responsibility.
Not only as it applies to him, but to his family.
Moving them was not easy.
Hamm and wife Christy’s three children are 11, 9 and 5.
“I didn’t want to take them away from the only life they’d ever known,” he said. “I wanted to be sure this is exactly what God wanted us to do.
“I want to be here for a long time. I don’t want to uproot my family and in two years do this all over again. I want to send my kids to college from this church.”
Trust is the central to that commitment.
“People let you lead as long as you earn their trust,” Hamm said. “As long as I can be sensitive to their concerns and needs, show them I love them, show them I’m doing things the way the Bible says to do them, be consistent with my word, I think I can continue to earn their trust and they’ll continue to let me lead.”
That the First Baptist Church of Palmetto has a legacy of missionary work -- i.e., Brazil, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy -- dovetails with his passion for spreading God’s word.
Especially in the community.
“When we think of missionaries we think of somebody across the ocean -- starting hospitals, feeding the poor, taking care of orphans, taking care of their community with the hope of earning the right to share the gospel with them,” Hamm said. “Why do we live any differently here?
“Jesus said let’s take care of people. Let’s meet their needs where they are. If they’re hungry, feed them. If they’re thirsty, give them something to drink. If they’re naked, give them something to wear. If they’re in prison, go see them.
“That’s what my life and the church is about.”
Hamm being a young family man also resonates with congregants such as Erin and Jake Paris.
“He brings a young perspective and he’s easy to relate to because we have children the same age,” said the 33-year-old mother of two. “We have things in common.”
She can also relate to his aspirations for First Baptist Church of Palmetto.
“His intentions and focus are on God, the church and its missions,” Paris said. “His heart is for the church to get out there, involve the community and share the love of God.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.