I was ordained to the gospel ministry by Calvin C. Inman and the Sardis Springs Baptist Church is August of 1970. I was licensed to preach in March of 1969. I am 66 years old and have preached on one “Trial Sermon” [what we call it with a preacher auditions for a job]. It was way back in 1975 at the Harris Chapel Baptist Church in Cherokee, Alabama. I preached on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. I remember it well because the power went off during the night service. In terms of getting a call to a church: I have only dealt with two pulpit committees. Two of my sons in the ministry was on the first. Samuel Franklin Wallace was the chairman of the first if my memory served me correctly. Hugh Fitzgerald was the chairman of the committee at Danville where I have served for some 37 plus years.
Two or three committees had expressed some interest in me just after Seminary but none of them were really serious. An old preacher friend, Charlie Thompson had recommended me to a church in Florence but they said I was too young; I was 24 at the time. When Sam called me a couple of months later, I was discouraged and one of the first things I told him was…”Mr. Wallace, I am only 24 years old, I’ll be 25 next month.” He said, “We know how old you are.”
The Danville Committee came to Cherokee on the day that I had planned to resign but when I saw visitors, I did not resign that morning; I waited until the evening service. Hugh and committee waited for all my folks to leave and then he ask be if we could talk. I think I said something like, “It will not do any good but we can talk.” I was very direct and a little shocked when I realized that Hugh was more direct. He said, “You act like you are mad, what are you mad about?” I said, “Well for one thing, I planned to resign this morning and then you all showed up.” Hey it was a sparing match. Hugh finally said, “It is pretty clear that you don’t want to be our pastor but would you consider filling in for us until we can get one?” I agreed to come on Sundays and preach Sunday morning and Sunday night. He agreed that they would take care of Wednesday night.
On the first Sunday in April, 1979, the family and I rolled into Danville in that old Chevelle Station Wagon with the woodgrain paneling on the side; it was one sharp buggy. My kids would love that old car. Hannah was almost five, Joe David had just turned three and Hope was about to be one. I never preached a so called trial sermon at Danville. We kept coming each week to fill in until June got tired of living with her mother. That is when we really got serious about doing something one way or the other. I told the LORD that Danville was not the right fit for me and I really did not want to come. I don’t think anyone would have grieved in Danville I had not come. Only two people really encouraged me and one of them didn’t last long. He left a few years after I came. It took me a few years to realize that God knew what He was doing and that He had called me to pastor rural churches. Once I accepted His will, things got a lot better.
Danville is a very settled community. They don’t get stirred up easily. I tell people that I have been able to stay here because the people are so tolerant. That coupled with the grace of God. When folks ask Hugh why they had kept me so long, he would say: “We never expected much and Bro. Jack is the closet thing to nothing that we’ve ever found so we decided to keep him.” I miss Hugh, the way we argued in the early days, who would have dreamed that we could become close friends.