The fourth quarter begins: Longtime pastor at Highland Baptist Church retiring

Published 10:19 am Friday, May 10, 2024

Pastor Brian Ivey’s office is filled with boxes, preparing for his move into a new phase of life: retirement. After 29 years at Highland Baptist Church, Ivey feels it’s time to move into a period of life that he likens to a football game.

“It’s the fourth quarter of life,” he said.

In the beginning, Ivey, whose father was also a pastor, resisted the call to the ministry.

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“I was a very shy person,” he said. “The thought of speaking in public terrified me.”

That fear almost kept him out of the ministry, but God’s call was persistent, so he put his trust in God and pushed forward.

Ivey, who entered the ministry in 1979, received a BA in Religion at Mobile College (now University of Mobile), and a Master of Divinity in Biblical studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. During his studies, he was asked to begin student preaching. The first time he was expected to preach, his fear of public speaking was so strong he became physically ill. He considered opting out of his first preaching experience, but prayed and powered through.

“It was like a spiritual battle. I was terrified. But I was determined.”

He knew if he didn’t go through with that first time preaching, he might never do it.

“I still get nervous,” Ivey said. “But it’s God’s way of saying ‘you still need Me. You can’t do this without Me.’ God’s presence fills me and calms me. I think that’s the way God wants it to be every time.”

After serving a church in Alabama, Ivey pastored at churches in Hattiesburg and Collins, Miss. He and his wife, Carla, have been married for 43 years. They settled in Vicksburg 29 years ago and raised two sons, Joseph and Daniel. Their sons are grown and have families of their own. Now that he is retiring, both he and Carla look forward to spending more time with their grandchildren, two of whom live in Madison, Miss., and four who live with their missionary parents in Dubai. They also look forward to traveling, going on mission trips and spending time outdoors. They will be relocating to Gluckstadt, Miss.

Leaving a lifetime of pastoring is bittersweet for Ivey. Although he looks forward to the new chapter in his life, he said he will miss the congregation at Highland Baptist Church.

“They’ve become my family,” he said.

Ivey plans on returning for special services as requested and filling in at other churches when needed.

A search committee at the church has been organized and will soon begin the hunt for a new pastor. It can take six months to two years to find a replacement. Ivey is the longest serving pastor at Highland and will not be easily replaced.

May 30 will mark the beginning of the fourth quarter for Ivey. The church is hosting a retirement reception to celebrate Ivey’s long tenure.

“They had to twist my arm,” Ivey said. He said he envisioned riding off into the sunset much like a cowboy in an old Western with no fuss and no bother. However, he realized the importance of being able to say good-bye and agreed to the reception.

“There will be a lot of tears,” he said. “We’ve become close to a lot of people here.”

Ivey’s retirement reception will take place on Sunday, May 19, from 2 until 4 p.m. at Highland Baptist Church, located at 3518 Halls Ferry Rd.